With all due respect to the myriad of training programs that appear in the pages of running magazines and in books, there is no one generic training program that is the “best.” The simple proof is that two people on the exact same running program can have dramatically different results.
This observation is obvious to anyone who has ever trained with another person or in a group. Very simply, aside from identical twins, no two people are alike.
So how does one determine what type of training works best? A good objective way is to start with VO2 max testing. This reveals critical performance measurements such as maximum heart rate and the heart rate near the point at which running intensity becomes anaerobic, called the deflection point. Further analysis can also yield information on how efficient the runner is. This is the percentage of their VO2 max they can run at for sustained periods of time.
With this information, training pace, amount of anaerobic training, and recovery pace can be calculated very accurately. A good coach, familiar with how to interpret this data, can build a training program tailored specifically for an individual athlete. There is very little guesswork involved, and the athlete’s progress can be monitored by repeat VO2 max testing. The beauty of this approach is that every workout contributes to your fitness gains, and the use of a heart rate monitor during training ensures that overtraining is virtually impossible. Throw in a GPS/heart rate monitor, and you have the ability to track time, intensity and distance very precisely.
All too often, I hear or read about one type of training program touting its superiority over another. Unless that program matches a person’s unique physiology and genetic predisposition, these programs have little or no basis in their claims. Only by objectively determining a runners specific needs can we begin to approach what would be considered the “perfect” training program.