What is the magic training formula and how it is used? The magic formula is the ratio of hard running vs. easy running. Studies of Long term elite runners throughout the world have found the majority of the elite runners run most of their workouts at what they consider a relaxed or easy pace.
In the quest to get better many runners to compete with themselves and increase the intensity of all of their workouts. They may see short terms gains, but after several years, they fall into a cycle of buildup, injury and then recovery. Round and round this goes until they finally give up all competitive running.
The 80/20 rule
So what is the proper mix? The Magic Formula lies with observing the training of long term successful runners. The first take away is runners across the US, or the world for that matter, do different workouts. Some may favor track workouts, others run varied terrain. But the one thing in common seems to be the proportion of hard vs. easy running.
This balance seems to be consistent whether it be in the US or the highlands of Kenya. What was found over and over is the majority of running is at a comfortable pace. The consensus seems to be that 80 percent of running should be at a relaxed pace, while ONLY 20 percent of running should be at a hard pace.
Now let’s delve a bit deeper into the 80/20 rule. The keyword is EASY! What is an easy run? An easy workout is one that takes virtually no time to recover. The below chart outlines an easy way to determine if you are running too hard or easy.
This simple breathing test is one way to help determine whether your easy runs are either too hard or too easy.
Heart Rate Test
First, get your resting pulse rate. Most runners will be in the 65-80 range.
At the end of your easy run take your pulse immediately on completion of the run. Then wait for two minutes and repeat the process.
Take the pulse in your neck. Count for 15 seconds then multiply by 4 for the rate for one minute.
There are two components to examine. How fast does the Heart Rate drop and how much does it drop.
If your resting pulse is around 65-80 then your 2 min time should drop under 100 BPM (Beat Per Minutes)
This is with the caveat on how far the rate fell. For example, if the top rate was 160 and it then fell to say 105, this indicates an easier workout than a person whose top rate was 118 and then dropped to 99.
If you resting pulse is well under 65, then the target time would be closer to 90. Conversely if the resting pulse was over 80 then the target time would be closer to 110.
How hard is too hard?
Another way to determine if you running too hard is how you feel at the end of the shorter runs. These runs aren’t designed to fatigue your legs. At the end of a easy 5k workout, you should be able to run another 5k without any rest, at the same pace.
An additional gauge is comparing your pace for your short runs to the pace of your long run during the weekend. The long runs should be close to the same pace of the short workouts.
Why does the Magic Formula work?
One does not become a good runner over night. Running is not only about building muscle, at least not in the long term. One needs to build up the aerobic capacity, increase the capillary system and increase mitochondria density. This still happen when running intense workouts, but at a price.
Intense running causes soreness in the muscles. The soreness is a result of both micro tears and the leftover toxins from the energy production. So it is correct to stress the body in this manner. However if the body is in a constant state of rebuilding, then the intense workouts are limited in their capability to work at max capacity.
This is where the concept of hard/easy days that most Running systems employ. But easy days are NOT days off. The day after a hard workout is just as important as the intense workout. By running Easy, new blood will carry nutrients and oxygen to repair the muscles and flush out the remaining toxins.
So back to the aerobic capacity, capillary system and the mitochondria. Here is one of the secrets of running. All of the aforementioned will grow just as well by running easy.
Advanced Training Formula
The advance training formula has a minor tweak to the Magic Training formula. In our training system we have found that it is better to have a build up phase for several months before embarking on the workout phase. Over the years the build up phase, or base training, has greater long term benefits. Most all of the work is at an easy pace as we increase our foundation. Go to Base Training for more detailed information
In the buildup phase it is better to cut back the intensity even further. Closer to a 90/10 ratio. This allows the body to readjust to the new level, but more importantly allows one to put even more effort in the workout phase which is usually limited to around 10 weeks or so.
During the workout phase, once one has transitioned for a couple of weeks at the 80/20 level, then the effort level can be increased to a 70/30 ratio.