Follow These 5 principles of training to Become a Successful Runner

principles of training

In order to get the most from your training, you must follow some fundamental principles of training.

Understanding these principles will help you train effectively and achieve your goals. These rules apply to everyone – from beginners to elites.

Here are the 5 principles of training:

  1. The Principle of Adaptation
  2. The Principle of Individual differences
  3. The Principle of Specificity
  4. The Principle of Progressive overload
  5. The Principle of Reversibility

1. The Principle of Adaptation

When we introduce certain stress to our body regularly, our body responds to it by increasing our body’s ability to handle that stress. This is why a certain exercise becomes easier to perform over time.

For example, when you start lifting weights, your muscles get sore. But if you continue lifting, after a period of time, you’ll experience very little to no soreness.

In addition to that, it becomes easier to lift the same weight.

The reason for that is, the muscles involved in doing this particular exercise become stronger. And the changes inside the muscle cells make you use less energy. This adaptation also prepares you to handle new stresses.

An important thing to note is, adaptations to training happen gradually. Doing too much too soon may lead to injury or overtraining.

2. The Principle of Individual Differences


Everyone is different. Each individual has his or her own strengths and limits. These differences could be genetic, body size and shape, activity history, injury history and so on.

Because all of us are unique individuals, we respond to a certain type of training in different ways. For example, some of us can easily handle higher volumes of training while others can easily get injured doing the same amount of training.

This is the reason training should be customized for each and every individual. And that is what this principle is all about.

3. The Principle of Specificity


The principle of specificity is quite simple. It implies that – to become better at a particular sport, the type of training you do – should be specific to it.

So, in order to become a better runner, your training must include running primarily. And to become a bodybuilder you will have to lift heavy.

Trying to do both at the same time will produce only mediocre results. This may be fine for someone who is seeking general fitness. But for someone serious about his chosen sport, this makes all the difference.

So, if you want to become a fast distance runner, a bodybuilder’s physique is not going to help. In fact, the extra muscles mass you’ll have to carry – will only slow you down and make you less energy efficient. On the other hand, bodybuilders are not recommended to do endurance runs as it causes them to lose muscle mass.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do any other type of activity besides your sport. In fact, runners are recommended to do some sort of supplemental training which helps them run better.

For example, flexibility and strength training helps runners fix muscular imbalances and avoid injuries. And plyometrics will increase your explosive strength, making you a faster runner.

Of course, runners should approach strength training differently then bodybuilders.

So, keeping this principle in mind, your primary training should be specific to your sport. And any additional activity you do – should help you become better at your sport. If it doesn’t, consider it unnecessary and avoid it.

4. The Principle of Progressive overload


Progressive overload is simply the gradual increase of stress you place upon your body via training.

In order to reach your peak ability, your body needs to be stressed in such a way that triggers the body’s adaptive response to these new demands.

In running, overload can be achieved in the following three ways:

  1. Frequency – Frequency is the number of times training is performed. So, if you are currently running three days a week, you can add one more day.
  2. Intensity – You can add interval training or increase the number of reps if you are already doing it.
  3. Duration – Duration is another way of overloading the body. You can increase the duration of your long runs to increase the overload.

Keep in mind, that progressive overload requires a gradual increase in volume, intensity or frequency. This is very important. With this technique, you gain the maximum benefits from your training.

If you increase overload too soon, your chances of getting injured increase tremendously.

So the recommended way is to get comfortable with certain stress of training before introducing other stresses.

Note: The rate of achieving the benefits of a training program is fast in the beginning and then it slows down over time. This is the reason, beginners will see tremendous improvements in their personal bests (PBs), while the elites have to train really hard to see an improvement of just a few seconds.

5. The Principle of Reversibility

If you stop training, your body starts adapting to the new circumstances. Which means you’ll lose what benefits you gained through training.

For a runner, completely stopping running would result in loss of aerobic fitness, muscular adaptations and cellular adaptations that she gained from training.

Similarly, if a gym-goer completely stops lifting weights, he’ll lose the muscles he gained with his training.

This rate of loss can be reduced significantly by training at a reduced stress level. Remember, maintaining a moderate level of fitness is easier than starting all over again.

To see how these principles are used, read How to start running post which I wrote a while ago. The process of proper training follows what we have covered in this post.


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