What are the best predictive measures for running performance?

If you were to line up 5k & 10k runners in order by the following criteria, which would be the best predictor of race performance?

  • Weekly Training Mileage (total miles)
  • VO2max (the maximum ability to process oxygen)
  • Running Economy – RE (the oxygen consumption at a particular pace)
  • Lactate Threshold – LT (the pace above which lactate begins to accumulate in your blood)
  • 50 and 300 meter Sprint Times (applied to distance runners not sprinters trying to run distances)

Recent research is actually quite definitive that the first two items (total training mileage and VO2max) are poor predictors of racing success. RE is good but the best predictor is your LT pace! And lo and behold, sprint times for distance runners are very reliable predictors of the longer distance results as well. What this means is that if you lined distance runners up by each of these categories of training in order – highest to lowest rated – the last three line ups will be most like the 10k race results (or even up through marathons). What does this all mean to you? Stop the mileage madness. You improve the most when you incorporate running-specific strength training, hill work, vVO2max running and race-specific pace training. 

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About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - trailrunningclub.com. I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for Running-Advice.com. I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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