USATF Podium Education Program Tidbits

In December I attended the USATF coaches education podium project in Las Vegas. The speakers were cutting edge researchers, Olympic and elite level coaches and representatives from the USATF. Below are some tidbits of interesting facts, observations and practices from the conference sessions. What I find interesting is that some practices and data run contrary to what so many of today’s coaches currently do! A key goal to this annual conference is to share best practices, newest research findings and general training applications.

A commonly relied upon and practical “test” for runners is to perform a time trial to determine vVO2max (the slowest pace at which you reach maximum oxygen consumption). This simple time trial is used to then determine training paces. This is not guess work which is what so many coaches do. And the time trial of preference is a one mile run. This will determine your current fitness level. Runners and coaches alike are reticent to run these time trials for reasons like:

  • The runner’s aren’t in shape to “race” a mile.
  • It is too fast of an effort early in the season.
  • It might injure runners making them race too early.


The goal is to have training paces established that are practiced accurately and approximate predictions for various race distances can be determined. For instance off such vVO2max time trials: Meb K. – had a predicted 10K of 27:12 and he ran 27:13 for AR; Deena K. had a predicted 2:19 when she ran 2:19:36. Of course actual performances assume conditions are conducive to a top level performance, and training has supported the goal pace.

Aerobic pace – 65-75% of your vVO2max of current fitness level. These runs can last 20 minutes – several hours – trains aerobic system to use fatty acids better; AND allows your body to retain glycogen for faster paces. Running faster than this pace decreases rate that system will adapt and improve and hinder recover after workouts.

Here are some calculated paces. The ranges are there to allow for how you feel on a given day. But be clear that moving outside these zones do not serve the athlete well!

  • 4:00 miler – 240 sec. 240/.65 = 369 sec. 6:09 to /.75 = 320 sec. = 5:20/mile
  • 5:00 miler = 6:40-7:41 pace
  • 6:00 miler = 8:00-9:22 pace

Slower than these paces does not challenge individual’s adaptation threshold. Faster hurts recovery.

Marathon potential pace is calculated to be 84% of vVO2max pace but most runners do not reach this. Most runners hover around 80%. Even Meb & Deena are @ 81%. From a practical training Coach Joe Vigil uses a progression. You might start at 75% early in the season then move the pace to 80% then go to 85%. Remember, these athletes are not on some 12 week marathon wonder program. It is long term development.

Lactate threshold development occurs normally at about 88% of vVO2max pace depending on how fit you are. Unfit could be as low as 33.3% of vvo2max. Yikes!

Under normal conditions (whatever that means) a HR of 168-172 is a LT range; however (as well discussed by me – see previous posts on HR running) this is NOT accurate. It is especially skewed for distance runners. It is not advisable to use HR for training. Paces are more reliable.

By the way, Coach Joe Vigil’s athletes have a range of 24-38 BPM for resting HRs. He has found that tracking this is a better performance predictor.


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 - 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 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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2 Responses to USATF Podium Education Program Tidbits

  1. Jimmy Holub says:

    Thank you for posting this, Dean!

    Also, it is vindicating to see that the USATF convention presenters professed the exact same guidelines that you have been teaching to us and having us perform on a practical scale in the RxRunning Club.

    Good stuff!

  2. Jimmy Holub says:

    Haha, maybe this research study will make it to a USATF convention too:
    “Velocity Correlations to Race Distance Specialization”

    The idea for this research study came out of casual conversations with Coach Dean. I find it fascinating. For anyone else interested, if you click on my name above this comment it will link you to the public facebook page for the research study. Coach Dean, thank you again for inspiring this research!

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