Coach's Column - December '98

from Max Jones


In each event in the Track and Field, Road and Fell Running calendar there is one physical attribute which dominates; all the others one reads about in the running mags - and Coach's Columns - are of secondary or even of no importance, as follows:


Dominant Need for Major Success

Subsidiary Needs

Of no Importance

Track - 60m to 200m

Huge muscles in the relevant places


Oxygen supply;

Carbohydrate storage capacity

Field - all events

As above

As above

As above

Track -

400m to 3000m

Superior oxygen delivery i.e. big heart

Some muscle bulk;

Some elasticity;

Some carbo storage capacity

Huge muscles


5km to 42.2km

Superior oxygen delivery i.e. big heart

Carbohydrate storage capacity;

Some elasticity

Big muscles


50km to 200km

Carbohydrate replenishment availability

Big heart;

Weak brain ?!

Big muscles;


Yes, if you're interested in achieving success in races, by far the most important training task for a Strider or Spider is to grow a bigger heart. No-one can tell you how to do that, however, with your family, job and other priorities, so you have to find out for yourself. Start by discovering how big your heart is now : count your resting pulse rate for one minute, several times a day at first to find out when it's at its lowest. Write down all these counts and then record, once a day, your lowest resting pulse rate. Then, for at least six weeks, try out a training plan which you believe will bring down your resting pulse rate - i.e. enlarge your heart - significantly. To make your heart grow, you have to get it to react to a prolonged demand for more oxygen such as running a short distance quickly rather than by running a much longer distance at a slower pulse rate which your heart is already fully capable of sustaining. Virtually all the running mag articles on marathon training emphasise the need for plenty of long, slow, weekend runs up to 18 miles or even 22 miles : the only time I ever did that was before my first, and still slowest, of all the 79 marathons I've run.

So, when I've "lost" my big heart for any reason - my resting pulse rate was 34 a few days before I succumbed to bronchitis last June, I couldn't train at all for 3 weeks and it was another 9 weeks before my rate was back into the low 40's - I train by running as fast as I can for 2, 4 or 6 miles and entering as many races as I can the the 10k to half-marathon range. Because, I find, nothing is as good as a race for growing a heart.

All that quick, short distance, training didn't do my stamina any harm, though. Three months after the bronchitis had gone, I'd coaxed my heart into growing again so that my resting pulse rate was back down to 41, from 71(!), on a diet of just three races - one at 10k, one 1/2-marathon and one 10-miler - and 11 training runs every fortnight, all of which were less than 8 miles. I then ran 100km (62miles) in a new M70 Commonwealth record of 10:08:13, off an average of 25.8 miles per week!

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Created by Bob Jackson eMail
Created on 2 January 1999