How to improve athletic performance is common asked. There are many factors that go into creating a peak performance.
The name of the game is pace sustainment and lactate tolerance.
The majority of athletes compete in races for various reasons.
Some want to lose weight while others may want to run a specific time.
How do the top runners make it look so easy? Are they more talented?
The honest answer is many of them are. Do not lose hope over that though. What you lack in talent you can made up with your work ethic.
I, too, lack talent. The key ingredient to achieve the highest athletic performance is longevity and stickability. You cannot do this for a few months and quit.
For example, although not fitness-related, writing here at rundreamachieve for going on 7 years has been a test.
There are billions of websites online, most of which people make and eventually stop creating content on.
Athletic performance comes only by way of endless, non-stop work. There are no short cuts. You cannot expect to be the best you can be without putting in the hard work necessary in order to achieve stellar results.
If you can’t touch your teammate in front of you, you are not doing your job – Coach Joe Vigil, world-renowned exercise physiologist and distance running coach
I wish there was an easier way but there isn’t. The majority of my readers are beginner to advanced middle and long distance runners.
My Top Recommendations For Elite Sports Performance
Improve your lactate tolerance
The reason you have not been able to sustain your goal race pace for the entire duration of your race? You have to train your anaerobic system more effectively.
This goes for me or any other runner with a specific time goal in mind. The top local runners in your area make it look easy for a reason. The problem is training at a high heart rate over a long period of time hurts and is painful.
Additionally, It takes time for the physiological adaptations to take effect. Some runners want quick results and get discouraged when they don’t come as quickly as they would like.
The top Kenyan athletes I have lived and trained with are extremely patient. This is why they are dangerous and are so well-prepared when it comes to race day. Their mindset is not the same.
Easy running is exactly that, easy. The majority of people around the world can run a few miles easily. The reason being is the body is able to clear lactic acid faster than it is building up in the bloodstream.
The faster we run the higher demand for oxygen is placed on the anaerobic system. If you have not spent adequate time at or far below your goal race pace then you will slow.
The runners who are beating you simply have spent more adequate time training at higher intensities than you have. Could they be more talented than you? Perhaps.
I, too, have been beaten by athletes who were simply more talented than I. That being said, I was able to counteract that with hard work and persistence over many years.
We all have a choice in this life, be average, be good or be great – Coach Joe Newton
Slow Down Less To Achieve Peak Performance
The hydrogen ion contained in lactic acid is the real culprit that shuts down muscles functioning when we try to run fast.
That being said, there is good news. You and I can train our bodies to run for longer periods of time and can lesson this physiological trauma from this happening.
The bad news is it will take hard, monotonous and extremely challenging workouts to improve our lactate threshold.
Easy running does not produce this effect. Often times, runners get discouraged when they fail to sustain their goal race pace for the entire duration of their races.
Common reasons for this are not training the anaerobic systems of the body effectively and for long enough. There is a big rush to run higher mileage and focusing more on volume rather than quality.
The smartest runners often times win the races, not always the most talented athletes. The important fundamental to keep in mind as you read through this post is to always focus on leverage.
Leverage simply means doing more with less. Your competition may be focused on running high mileage. Athletic performance success usually occurs by following the fundamentals top athletes follow themselves.
The higher mileage athlete that doesn’t have high emphasis on training at the anaerobic threshold and specifically at aerobic capacity will be beaten.
Quality versus Quantity
The athlete focused on running quality versus quantity is going to be better prepared on an anaerobic level. He or she will be training at a higher percentage of their weekly volume at, near or far below their goal race pace.
Who do you think will have taught their body to clear lactic acid faster come race day? The athlete who put in a ton of slow miles or the one who ran fewer miles but trained at a higher anaerobic effort?
Easy answer right?
If you are continually missing your goal perhaps it is just a few small changes you need to be making in your training.
Remember, the benefits of these hard anaerobic efforts that are so vital for athletic performance come within the rest.
If you are not as disciplined on your easy days and back off when you know you should you are setting yourself up for failure.
Athletic Performance Training Strategies
You can be brand new to the sport of running or an elite athlete the same strategies that work for sub 3 hour marathoners can work for you.
What you don’t want to do is beat yourself up if you don’t get the results you are looking for as fast as you would like.
Trust me, I get it.
One of the best pieces of advice I have ever heard was to find what successful people do and simply duplicate their work habits.
What are the reasons these runners make running 5K to marathon events look so effortless? What do they have that you and I don’t have?
Remember, when it comes to racing pace sustainment is key. The only way to improve your capability to sustain pace is to train at and faster than your anaerobic threshold.
Outsmart Your Competition
This is the point where lactic acid begins to build up in your bloodstream. The faster we run the more demand there is the body to transport oxygen and muscle functioning to stay consistent.
The problem with many runners is they second guess themselves when they don’t run as fast as they think they can.
The tough question we all have to ask ourselves is how much time did we truly devote to running far below the pace we are aiming to hold in the race.
If you neglect this piece of the puzzle you will slow faster than your competition. My job is to ensure you don’t and sustain pace longer and more efficiently than your competition.
What Is Glutathione?
Glutathione is the body’s master antioxidant and probably not 1 in 1000 runners you come across know anything about it.
If you are consistently fatigued it may be largely in part due to you running low on it. I’ve been using a product called Cellgevity since 2013.
Max International, also known as the glutathione company, is at the heart of glutathione research. How important is this to running performance?
Your competition knows little about glutathione but the medical community does. There are currently over 143,000 medical peer-reviewed articles written about glutathione on PubMed.
PubMed is the internet authority on medical peer-reviewed articles online. Why is glutathione so important to athletic performance? It detoxifies the body of free-radicals and heavy metals.
It also plays a role in slowing the aging process and oxygen transport throughout the body.
Focus on All Details of Your Preparation
Remember, to set new personal bests you have to be paying attention to every area of your preparation. The areas of your preparation you neglect your competition will not and beat you come race day.
Self-discipline starts with you. It’s no other person. It starts with you. Start to examine yourself…Self discipline is doing what’s right instead of doing what you feel like doing. That’s the meaning of self-discipline – Eliud Kipchoge, marathon world-record holder (2:01:39)
So, since so few runners know about glutathione perhaps you should start researching it. I have numerous posts I’ve written about it since 2013 here I have listed for you below.
I wish someone would have told me about glutathione and how not paying attention to it when I was in my 20’s and 30s.
Hire a Sports Performance Coach
This is common around the world. I have hired sports performance coaches in the past myself. Investing in yourself is one of the best methods to get to the next level.
Now, you can always do it on your own and that can certainly be beneficial. That being said, someone that has done what you wish to do can see the errors in your preparation and help you to make corrections.
You can drastically improve your athletic performance by working one-on-one with a professional coach. What I have tried to do here at rundreamachieve is to continue to focus on value.
There are nearly 500 posts with free content here. You can also subscribe to the rundreamachieve youtube channel where I create new videos each week.
People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care – Zig Ziglar
Key Workouts To Drastically Improve Athlete Performance
What I do is focus either on minutes or focusing on landmarks. If you have open roads where you live alternate sprinting from telephone pole to telephone pool.
If you don’t have that as an option focus on a landmark. It could be a tree, bush or mile marker and sprint from that point to the next.
Furthermore, you can focus on time. The great thing about fartlek workouts is they can vary anyway you want them to.
You could run at a high heart rate for 1 minutes followed by 1 minute at a lower heart rate. Do this for 20 minutes to an hour.
I would recommend keeping your heart rate at or close to your anaerobic threshold. This is between 167 to 174 beats per minute.
Dr. Joe Vigil, one of my mentors and one of the world’s top exercise physiologists, states that runners usually race right around these efforts.
How The World’s Top Running Coaches Think
You also have to have courage, people. That’s something that’s lacking in a lot of Americans. Courage to go even under the most difficult situations. We all have bumps in the road, but when we line up to do something, no one cares about the bumps; you’re all on the starting line.
No one’s going to listen to your excuses. You’re there to compete. Have the courage to do what you set out to do. To take that plan, and graduate from high school and graduate from college, and practice your field, whatever it might be. And you know, it’s tough to have the courage to do that. Because it seems like everybody’s trying to throw you off. “Let’s go to the movie tonight. Let’s do this, let’s do that.” I haven’t been to a movie in 15 years. It hasn’t affected my life. I still do what I want to do – Joe Vigil
Train Faster than You Want To Race At
So, it is critical to spend time in training at or far below the pace you are aiming to race at.
This is the only way to gain the physiological boost you are looking for. You have to stress the anaerobic system. No one understands this better than coach joe vigil. He coached the only NCAA division cross-country team to have finish with a perfect score at the NCAA cross-country championships.
His Adams State College team went 1-2-3-4-5 at the 1992 National Championships. It has never been duplicated since or prior to that date.
Remember, running faster than you ever have for any distance is about lactate tolerance. You want to slow down the effects lactic acid has on muscle functioning.
It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or an elite athlete. This is a training principle that must be followed in order to get the highest return on your time investment.
Easy running certainly has its purpose. You build endurance, gain motivation and burn fat. That being said, if you want to race fast you have to train fast.
Tempo runs are usually conducted at your anaerobic threshold. This occurs at a heart rate of between 167 to 174 beats per minute or roughly 90 to 92 percent of your max heart rate.
So, be patient with these forms of workouts. You won’t be able to do an 8 to 12 mile tempo this first few weeks into your training regiment.
It takes time for the body to adapt to these types of runs. So, that being said, start off with shorter runs, perhaps 3 to 4-mile tempo efforts.
You want to gradually increase the duration of your tempo runs as you get fitter. These workouts will help you to improve your lactate tolerance and eventually be able to sustain pace for longer periods of time.
Athletic performance as it pertains to running simply comes down to being able to handle lactic acid build up more effectively than your competition.
It is a lesson in patience more than anything. If you believe in delayed gratification which most people do not, you will be successful. Who doesn’t want instant results right?
The facts are results in this sport don’t come overnight. It took me 5 long years to lower my marathon best from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35. In fact, the way I see it, I had to run from 1992 to 2007 before I broke the sub-2:20:00 marathon barrier.
I didn’t start running marathons until 2002 but my athletic career started in 1992 so all of those years of training led to that 2:19:35 marathon.
Train at Your Aerobic Capacity
No one can train at this intensity for very long.
The goal with training at your aerobic capacity is to recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers. Furthermore, it is to train at sprint speeds that far exceed your goal race pace.
Imagine your goal race pace for the marathon is 6 minutes per mile and you are running at 4:30 mile pace for certain periods of time.
How much easier is 6 minute mile pace going to feel having taught your body to handle 4:30 mile pace?
That being said, don’t expect to run very long at a heart rate of 175 beats per minute or higher. You are running at anywhere from 95 to 103 percent of your max heart rate.
Athletic performance success is a matter of you training at high intensities and stressing the body accordingly.
You won’t set new personal bests by taking it easy on yourself.
Train at Speeds That Exceed Your Goal Race Pace
For example, aerobic capacity workouts I have done in the past training for the marathon are as follows:
16x200m in 28 to 32 seconds with 100 meter jog or walk recovery
16x400m in 65 to 72 seconds per repetition with 200m or 1-minute recovery
8x1K in 2:55 to 3:05 with 300m jog
So, as you can see there is high emphasis on very fast running. Running that we cannot sustain for very long. The goal being is to run much faster than our goal race pace to ensure we can sustain it.
In the marathon, the first half is just a normal run. At 15 kilometers, 20 kilometers, everybody is still going to be there. Where the marathon starts is after 30 kilometers. That’s where you feel pain everywhere in your body. The muscles are really aching, and only the most prepared and well-organized athlete is going to do well after that. I’ll go with the pace, but after 30 kilometers, I’ll change to my own pace. And if you’re ready to follow me, then we can go together – Eliud Kipchoge, marathon world-record holder (2:01:39)
Sustain Pace Longer
Our goal is to slow down less than our competition. Furthermore, these types of workouts will help you to react to any moves your competition throw at you in the race.
Your athletic performance success will be dictated by the level of commitment you bring to the table. There are no easy roads to results.
You have to be able to react to the surges runners in the race will throw at your. I had this experience at the 2007 California International Marathon.
That being said, I was able to react to the moves the top Kenyans in the race were making in the race.
In fact, I remember them saying prior to the start of the race
By mile 13 it will be all Kenya
The picture below was taken of me with the lead Kenyans just past mile 19 and the story wasn’t turning quite to their plan.
Laban Moiben of Kenya (#11) ended up winning with John Kathoga (#26) taking second. The other two lead Kenyans fell off the pace. I finished 4th and top American with Canadian Charles Bedley, also in the picture, taking 3rd.
I credit the training methodologies I will be discussing in this post to having been able to sustain 5:19 mile pace for 26.2 miles in this race.
Why I Was Able To Run 2:19 For The Marathon
The exact reason is account of the workouts above not to mention running faster during my long runs.
Remember, my personal best for the marathon the morning of the 2007 California International Marathon was 2:40:02.
Yes, I had run 1:07:06 for the half-marathon and 50:54 for 10-miles which indicated a sub-2:22:00 which was my goal was possible.
That being said, going from 2:40:02 to 2:19:35 is a massive jump and I had not gotten the marathon distance right until the morning of 7 December 2007.
The reason I was able to make that jump was the fact I was training often at speeds that far exceeded 5:25 mile pace (2:22:00 marathon pace).
So, what you need to do is duplicate my work habits. What is your race pace? Is it to hold 8 minute mile pace for the 5K? 10k? Half marathon or marathon?
The way to make it reality is to train your anaerobic system effectively. Will it be painful and challenging? You better believe it.
Be Consistent and Persistent
That being said, it will be a labor of love. You have to be a bit fanatical when it comes to this. Big results require big time hard work. There is no easy, short-cut method to athletic performance.
I was able to run my second fastest marathon time of 2:26:42 at the 2011 Monumental Indianapolis Marathon following this philosophy as well.
This was not easy. I was assigned to Fort Campbell with the 101st Airborne Division and the US Army’s concern was not that I was interested in running fast at this marathon.
My athletic performance on that morning was a result of the result of endless hours of hard work and belief in myself.
You have to believe in what you are doing and never give in to what others say you are or are not capable of.
Process vs The Event
You really have to prioritize your time and decide for yourself how badly you want success. The event is the finish time you see on the clock below. That being said, the process is far less glamorous.
I had never trained so hard for a race in my life as I did for this race.
In fact, I place this particular race as the most successful athletic performance of my career.
One, I had to jump in a porta-john while running with the leaders of the race at mile 14.
This cost me at least 2 to 3 minutes.
In addition to that, I did two long runs of 27 and 30 miles in length leading into this race.
You have to make the decision to stick to the goals you have set for yourself. There are no short cuts nor easy ways to run fast. Expect some challenges. Sometimes we can do everything right leading into the race and still fail.
In addition, there are times when our bodies do not cooperate with us as mine so evidently didn’t in Indianapolis. I spent the remainder of the race trying to make up the ground I lost having to jump in the porta-john.
How much time do you devote to mental training?
Let’s face it, runners in general do not spend enough time visualizing themselves achieving great success.
They are great at putting in the miles, doing track workouts and writing down their splits in their workout planners.
What we often fail at is spending 20 minutes per day in solitude visualizing ourselves coming across the finish line in a time we dream about.
Billy Mills, the only American to ever win an Olympic gold medal in the 10,000m event put mental training beautifully,
The subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between reality or imagination
There is a Bible verse I often think of which also covers this topic perfectly
Now faith is the assurance of what we hope for and the certainty of what we do not yet see – Hebrews 11:1
What this meant for me was although I was a 2:40:02 marathoner the morning before I ran 2:19:35 I was certain I could break the sub-2:22:00 marathon barrier.
Yes, I had run a 1:07:06 half-marathon and 50:54 for 10-miles but in reality, at that time, my personal best was still 2:40:02.
See It Before It Becomes Reality
What is your dream goal time?
What is that time you feel is impossible to achieve? How often are you visualizing yourself running that time?
You have to believe it is possible in your mind first before it ever will become reality. That being said, you have to combine your belief with action.
Remember, find out what successful people do and duplicate their work habits. Don’t rely on your talent and think you can half-ass your efforts and get by.
You cannot let up. Are you lacking in talent? Well, you are going to have to accept the fact that you are going to have to work far harder than someone with talent then.
That is the facts.
I know because I, too, was lacking in talent and had to work incredibly hard to earn the personal bests that I have.
Athletic performance success comes down to a combination of different things.
How effective have you been at training at your anaerobic threshold (167 to 174 beats per minute) and aerobic capacity (175 beats per minute)?
How many miles a week are you running and what percentage of those weekly miles are conducted at, near or far below your goal race pace?
Is it 10%? 30%?
Where are you in that department? Be honest with yourself. Remember, running fast for long periods of time is an art form that does not come about overnight.
Do not second guess yourself and think you are past your prime, too old or don’t have what it takes. You do but you have to put out effectively to garner those physiological adaptations to occur.
You have to train fast to improve you lactate tolerance. The best runners in your region are that way for a reason.
Write down your goals and make a commitment to yourself that you are going to stick to your plan and achieve them. Be willing to wait. Every successful athlete I’ve ever trained with or knew believed in delayed gratification.
Never lose enthusiasm despite the setbacks that may come about in your training. This is one characteristic that every elite athlete I have ever lived or trained with possessed.
I hope this post on athletic performance has been not only enlightening but has helped to motivate you to make the next big leap in your training.