Editor’s note in 2013: This piece which was written in the website’s earliest days.
We give our training advice a little differently here. John Kellogg probably knows more about training properly than any other coach in the world. The only problem is that his plan is more than a little unrealistic for the masses. As a result, we present the his ideal coaching advice on the left (mostly for elites or super serious runners) and a translated version for the masses on the right.
Four Principles To Correct Training For Elites
by John Kellogg
This piece centers on the cornerstones of any sound career-long running program, which include progressively higher mileage, periodization, and extremely limiting the amount of hard interval training, particularly in youth. Right from the start, let’s make one thing clear: the training fundamentals outlined here do not stem from any sort of “philosophy.” Other terms which do not apply here are “opinion”, “theory” and “belief.” Instead, the word “approach” is the appropriate one. See, “philosophy” smacks of the armchair musings of some non-runner who has a degree in physiology and sets out to prove his little training theory by using serious distance runners in the same disposable fashion that B.F. Skinner used rats!
There are as many scatterbrained theories on training as there are on the JFK assassination and “the mark of the beast.” But serious runners don’t need theories; they need what has been proven in the real world. Here’s the truth: It is not possible to reach ultimate potential without first establishing enough of a lifetime base to make your training count when you become physically mature. Most Americans do not understand this; they try to get a quick fix in this sport, and it simply doesn’t work. A runner absolutely must obtain the ability to train at 120-150 (or more) miles per week by the peak of the career in order to reach fruition. There are no exceptions to this. To generalize as much as possible, a proper training approach relies on four principles that are not widely used in the United States:
1) Long-term development. It takes years for runners to attain their capacities. Most Americans employ a “fast food” training scheme, particularly in junior high and high school. They run hard intervals on the track, which gives them an alluring quick fix, yet the long-term results are without exception mediocre at best. Every time you race, you’re drawing not only off of training you did a few weeks ago or even months ago, but also off of running or other activity that you did many years ago! The nature of that activity must be predominately aerobic for best future results in running.
2) High mileage. This is the missing ingredient in American distance running. An emphasis on low to moderate mileage during the 1980s and most of the 1990s is the sole reason for our failure to produce the number of elite runners that we had during the 1970s and early 1980s. Those guys “back in the day” ran high mileage, and – surprise of surprises – the only U.S. runners who have been among the world’s elite during the last decade are also high mileage runners! Our program aims to develop runners from youth to the point where they can train effectively and consistently at 120-150 miles per week by the time they reach physical maturity. Anything less than that is a cop-out and is inferior to the training used by elites around the world. Again, this is a long-term approach. There are no quick fixes to doing this correctly. It may take many years to reach the point of being able to run three weeks out of every four at 120-150 miles per week and also be able to add an ample amount of faster-paced running in there. It will pay off enormously if done correctly, but several years of only moderately good performances might have to be faithfully endured in order to get to the highest possible level. Probably 99 out of 100 Americans lack this kind of patience and perseverance, and those runners will most likely never fulfill their promise.
3) Less hard track training. We do far less of the stressful anaerobic interval training than anybody else in America. The bulk of our harder training is comprised of what’s commonly called “threshold” or “high steady state” running. The idea in this is to work with your body rather than against it, watching for the yellow warning light that says you’re about to go too hard, as opposed to sailing through a red light, struggling and fighting yourself, and undermining the effectiveness of the workout. We also do what is called “alactic” speed work; i.e., short buildups, strides or speedy running of less than 35 seconds at a time. We also develop and maintain joint integrity and muscular strength through occasional form drills such as quick steps and hill bounding.
4) Periodization. This refers to shifting training emphasis at various times, between each off-season and competitive season, and also over the course of an entire career. There are times to run slow, times to run long, times to run a fast relaxed pace, times to gut it up and push a hard continuous pace, times to do tough anaerobic training, speedwork, etc. You have to know when and how much of each to use. Tailoring this training to suit each individual’s strengths is best learned through a long association with each runner, but the principles themselves pretty much apply to everybody.
John Kellogg is a full-time, professional running coach. It is his passion in life and career of choice. John has logged over 70,000 miles in 28 years of running, with a highest week of 156 miles. He has experimented with as many combinations of training procedures as is possible in the course of a human running career while still devoting enough time to each mixture of techniques to ascertain their effectiveness. While he never reached the elite level himself, he was able to train himself effectively enough to run 14:22 for 5,000 meters while possessing a best time of only 57 seconds for 400 meters. John also has a Cross-Country 10,000 meters best of 30:46, and was nationally-ranked in the marathon as a Junior (under age 20).
He has trained in America and in Europe with runners of all ages, abilities, and nationalities, including world-class athletes, and has coached runners of all ages for 15 years, producing results at the state-class, national-class, and international-class levels.
LetsRun.com co-founder Weldon Johnson trained under Mr. Kellogg’s guidance in middle and high school and credits his return to Mr. Kellogg’s training with his huge post-collegiate improvements. A 30:13 10,000 meter runner in college, Weldon recently ran a 28:27 10k at the Mt. SAC Relays.
If you would like to learn more about Mr. Kellogg or employ him as your coach, we hope to have his website up again soon.
The Four Principles Translated For the Masses
by Robert Johnson
Let’s start with the basics. I honestly believe that John Kellogg (the man on the left) knows more about distance running than anyone else in the world. However, he is only concerned with super serious athletes and thus his training approach is a bit unrealistic for the masses. His approach definitely is correct for everyone – there just needs to be someone to help translate it to the masses and that’s where I enter the picture.
I remember getting a letter from John Kellogg at the start of the summer before my freshman year in high school that was outlining the training program for those interested in running cross country. It said that I should get up to like 40-50 miles a week by the end of the summer. I quickly figured out that that was about 7 miles a day and began to laugh as I’d probably never run 7 miles in any one day let alone every day of the week.
1) Long-Term Development – John is correct however when he says that it’s essential to get as much as a base as possible. Just how much of a base (whether it’s 20, 40, 60 or more than 100 miles a week) depends on a variety of factors (how long you’ve been running, how injury prone you are, and how much time you have, etc.).
Just remember, you will not reach your ultimate potential as a runner in your first few months or even years of running. There’s definitely a cumulative effect. They key is to take think long-term and TAKE IT SLOWLY. Don’t rush to build up your mileage or get into shape for a race a few weeks away. This will most likely just cause you to get hurt and end up slower and less fit.
I mean I spent about 7 years pretty much away from the sport as I kept trying to become a world-beater in 3 months. Only when I gave myself one year to gradually get in shape did I get to a point where I could train consistently and run races. Now only 2.5 years after I started running, I can run more than 100 miles in a week.
2) High Mileage Yes, he’s right. High mileage definitely is very important – especially if you want to be the very best. However, not everyone has time to go run 15 miles or more every day. I mean I guess one shouldn’t be surprised to learn that Mr. Kellogg doesn’t have a family of his own – there simply wouldn’t be time to have a family and run that much.
However, it still is important to get your mileage up if you want to do well in any races – whether it’s the mile or marathon.
The key is remaining injury free. More is better but only if you don’t get hurt. Also don’t obsess about your weekly mileage totals. Just focus more on getting in one long run every two weeks and 3-4 high days close together. Be patient and take a long term approach.
3) Less hard track training – At last, we all can find something we agree on. Yes that’s right, we’re both saying run hard less often and you’ll probably end up doing better in the long term.
It sounds counter intuitive but it’s true. You don’t need to be running killer workouts all the time in order to get fast. In fact, if you’d back off a bit and just make sure that you regularly workout moderately with occasionally really hard ones, you’ll end up faster in the long run. Why does this happen? Because your body needs time to become fully recovered. If you’re tired, it’s hard to run fast or stay injury free.
4) Periodization – This sounds complex but all it refers to is trying to focus on one or two races a year (perhaps one in the spring and one in the fall) and then train differently at different times of the year, making sure you peak for your big races. I’ve found that one should probably spend their summers and winters just running easy for the most part – just 2-3 times week, run like four 100-meter sprints near the end of your runs with like 1 minute rest in between.
My brother Weldon has dropped his 10k time by almost 2 minutes since getting out of college and he runs fewer hard workouts and fewer workouts in general than he did while in school. Why is he faster?
Because by just running farther and not as hard, he made his body stronger and stayed injury free so when it’s really time to get race sharp he is able to push it. If you try to stay in race shape all year long or most of it, it’s very hard on you both physically and mentally. One of two things will likely happen – you’ll get injured or you’ll lose your motivation.
Robert Johnson, co-founder of LetsRun.com, has been running all of his life, but only competing seriously since the Fall of 1997. One of his earliest memories is trying to run during the entire p.e. class in first grade.
A series of stress fractures resulted in Robert being only the fourth man on his high school cross country team and in him not running competitively in college. However, his love of the sport never died and he was able to return to competing in the sport once he backed off, allowed his body to heal and gradually got back into things – slowly building up a base so that his body would be strong enough to handle the rigors of serious training.
Since returning to competitive running, Robert has progressed quickly, and he just missed out on qualifying for the 2000 US Men’s Olympic Marathon Trials by running a 2:23:11 marathon at the 2000 Las Vegas Marathon. Fortunately, he didn’t have much time to wallow in his sorrow as he had to quickly get back into things to help his twin brother prepare for the US Marathon Trials on May 7th.
Having stayed in good shape, Robert’s plans on running the Vermont City Marathon on May 28th if he can get over a slight case of anemia.