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Coach's Corner: Coach Smith's Essential S's to Success

Like most coaches, I have been influenced by the work and philosophies of many others.  Fortunately, most successful coaches recognize that success breeds success and are therefore pretty open about sharing what they do that works.  Consequently, I’ve been fortunate to learn from some of the best in the sport.

Coach Michael Smith of Kansas State University is one of the many coaches that has shaped my approach to endurance training.  In addition to coaching successful collegiate and post collegiate distance runners, Coach Smith is one of the instructors for the USATF Level II Endurance Coaching program.  At the USATF Level II Endurance Academy that I attended a couple of years ago at UNLV, Coach Smith outlined his comprehensive and comprehensible training philosophy. He has since documented his rationale and spoken about it on Coach Jay Johnson’s podcast.

According to Coach Smith, effective training programs must touch upon each of the essential elements of endurance: stamina, strength, speed, suppleness, and skill.  The emphasis placed on each depends upon the athlete and the specific distance and surface for which she is training.

As distance runners, most of us naturally put the majority of our training efforts toward building or maintaining our stamina, often neglecting the other essential elements of speed, strength, suppleness and skill.  Unfortunately, we don’t generally realize that we have neglected a specific area until it is too late.  Injury and under-performance are far too frequent. This should not be the case.  These harrowing experiences can be effective indicators of one’s strengths and weaknesses, but if nothing is done with the new data to alter one’s training program, the passion for training and racing will ultimately wane.

Working with a qualified coach can help you train toward your goal race, avoid injury, and find enjoyment and fulfillment throughout the training cycle. By offering a fresh set of eyes, an experience coach can work together with the athlete to evaluate her strengths and weaknesses and measure them against the goal race distance and terrain to determine how much emphasis to place on each of the five elements of training and ultimately tailor a training plan specific to the individualized goals and needs of the athlete.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll discuss each of the five essential elements of an effective training program and how to incorporate them in a plan tailored to your specific race goals and needs.   In the mean time, please ask questions that you would like address in upcoming articles in the comment area below.