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What Makes You Faster- More Training or Greater Efficiency?

Posted by on Jun 2, 2013 | 8 Comments

Let’s have a fun debate. You are a professional runner. You have to improve. You have two training options:

  1. Train harder (which equates to running more/longer/faster in training.)
  2. Work on more efficient movements (i.e., improving technique.)

Yes, yes… I know. More training almost always results in greater efficiency AND greater efficiency increases the ability to train at a higher volume. For the sake of the debate, choose one. There can be no “middle ground.”

What do you think?

Leave your answer in the comments section!


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  1. StephenB
    June 7, 2013

    I would guess efficiency. A trained pro is likely fit. It seems to me that they derive very fast benefit from Maffetone style training.

    My contrarian opinion on the other hand is that less trained individuals can benefit from quality work sooner, otherwise a regime of exclusive low heart rate training might take a long time.

  2. Shane
    June 7, 2013

    I think getting more efficient at running so that you can train harder!

  3. brian
    June 4, 2013

    How about metabolic efficiency ny burning fat instead of carbs.

  4. Ben S.
    June 3, 2013

    Focus on training harder will result in burnout. I believe efficiency is more important. Even for a short run, I can pay attention to feedback from running to improve. It takes experience to interpret that feedback and learn proper response to it. That means running more. I had terrible form as a runner in school. I was inefficient and slow. My coach said by running more (higher mileage) the form would fix itself. My coach was right. Higher mileage helped me improve physically and in turn efficiency and form improved along with race times. Every run should have a purpose, even if it is occasionally running slowly and forgetting about efficiency and form. The key is to get out and run without getting stuck in a mindless routine.

  5. Rob Y
    June 3, 2013

    Efficiency, but not in the way you describe. I’m talking about high quality workouts and not just increase in volume. I strongly feel all runners benefit from frequent speedwork. Speedwork improves your cardiovascular efficiency and is also a chance to work on more efficient form. The track doesn’t lie and is a great place to measure your progress over time. Speedwork also improves your leg turnover which helps with all aspects of running; downhills, uphills etc… Whether you’re an ultrarunner or just a hobby jogger some speedwork is good. By the same token it’s not about increased training volume as it’s everything to do with consistency. If you can keep to a regular running schedule that will pay off a lot more than being irregular and mixing up big mileage weeks with low mileage weeks. In the end though I think a combination of higher volume AND speed work to train cardiovascular and gait efficiency are both key.

  6. Dave
    June 3, 2013

    Depends. If I’m a pro who is having problems keeping healthy enough to train sufficiently, I’d work on efficiency/form. If I have not had injury issues, but I’m still not performing at the level I need to be at, I’d train harder.

  7. mike
    June 3, 2013

    when there’s two sides there’s always a middle.

  8. Zen
    June 3, 2013

    2. I believe in running efficiency. Surely improvement is based on more training, but smarter training instead of ‘no pain, no gain’. A better efficiency might come from improved gait, or great cardiac/respiratory function, or stronger muscle that stores energy better, or all of that. But ultimately the stress level will be lower at the same speed, consume less amount of oxygen, heart rate being lower, or we can run faster and longer at the same effort. That’s what we are looking for.