Jim2's Running Page

Natural Assets and Weaknesses

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1998

Where should a runner place the greater emphasis in a training regimen? On inherent assets in order to maximize them? Or on the development of natural weaknesses?

I prefer to emphasize the area in which I can realize the most gain at the time and under the conditions that currently exist. That can be either an inherent (natural) asset or weakness. It depends on the purpose of the training program and current state of development.

I think there are three basic elements of training....speed, strength and endurance. (Some will argue that there is a fourth....economy. I think economy is an inherent characteristic that is optimized by working on the other three.) Also, there are two variables that determine how fast you run.....stride rate and stride length. And, there are three body "systems" that have to be developed to become the best one can be.....VO2max, AT/LT and cardio-respiratory.

Generally, I relate speed to stride rate and VO2max; strength to stride length and AT/LT; and endurance to the capacity and efficiency of the cardio-respiratory system. That's an over simplification and there are interrelations between all of these, but this "compartmentalization" gives me a framework of reference to use in my training programs.

Every training program should include a mix of all three categories. However, the emphasis of a training program should be placed where the greatest gain can be realized against current running and racing goals. For instance, I think that a person who has a "natural asset", like speed, should not spend a lot of time working on it in a training program, as long as bigger gains can be made by emphasizing the other areas. In this case, s/he should work more on strength and/or endurance to round out his/her development.

OTOH, I also think that there is a difference between "natural" and "current" assets and weaknesses. A natural asset might become a current weakness if it is ignored too much in training. For instance, we all have a fixed mix of fast and slow twitch fibers, which determines our "natural" speed. But, maintaining that asset at an optimum level requires some degree of appropriate work in training. So, a person with "inherent natural speed" can find there it has deteriorated and lack of speed has become a hindrance to optimum race performance because of insufficient attention in training.

To use myself as an example.....basically, speed is my limiting "natural weakness"; endurance is my greatest "natural asset"; and strength falls somewhere between these two. However, there have been different times in my first running life when I was in peak running form that each of the three was my "current" weakness and I adjusted my training regimen accordingly. When I began my second running life on 6/1/97, all three were huge weaknesses. I have focused on developing my best asset....endurance (base)....first. Then I shifted emphasis to strength development. Now I'm finally getting around to working on my fundamental weakness, speed, although strength is still a close second. In the future when I am back to a peak, I will emphasize speed and strength work more than endurance on an ongoing basis, as long as I continue to get adequate LSD's and sufficient total mileage to maintain my endurance base.

Basically, I think that specific assets and weaknesses are fluid. It's necessary to evaluate where we are in our training/development at any point in time relative to our inherent asset limitations and decide where we can get the most bang for busting our butts.

Jim2