"I'd rather be seen on my bicycle than on a park run" - Quote from the dark side

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Newton’s 3rd rule: train first for distance, only later for speed.

No I’m not confused about Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of physics. This is Arthur Newton’s laws of training. You might not know who Arthur Newton is, but he is seen as one of the greatest ultra runners of all time. He started running at age 38 and is mostly known in South Africa for his 5 Comrades Marathon wins.

Arthur Newton on his way to his 1st Comrades win - 1922

In his running career that lasted from May 1922 to June 1935 he held both the up and down Comrades records, the London to Brighton record and the world 30, 35, 40, 50, 60 and 100 mile, and the world 24 hour running records. In this time he ran 102 735 miles (165 403 km) in training. Now that is distance! He was also the first to write a book about ultra running and training for ultra running. I think it was first published in 1936. The booked included Newton’s laws of training.

Finishing London to Brighton - 1924

So why this whole Arthur Newton thing? It’s all about distance. In South Africa a lot about running revolves around the Comrades marathon. At the moment, more than 20000 runners are training for Comrades and obviously every expert wants to tell every other expert how to go about this training. The Comrades is an ultra marathon of 89km (54 miles). It is run over a very difficult route and you have to prepare properly to earn the medal. In the past it was accepted that training for an ultra means running very long distances. This has changed over the years and today the modern approach is to run less distance and put more quality into the running.

I’m what Runner’s World refers to as an “old timer” when it comes to these things. I did most of my running between 1982 and 1997. I learnt about ultra running during the years of distance. However, when I listen or talk to most of the “modern runners”, I constantly hear talk about injury, pain, sore knee, niggle, runner’s knee, ITB and the normal list of runner’s aches & pains. Then I look at how they train and find nearly all these runners include some speed sessions in their training or they are constantly worried about the times they run, in training as well as in races. I also find I’m running more per week than most are doing at this stage. Yet, I’m one of few that are running completely injury free. Why? Because I still follow Newton’s rules of training.

Speed will come later, first get strong by running long and regularly (6 days per week). Arthur Newton ran 20 to 30 miles seven days a week. Yes, it was many years ago, but I think this man knew what he was talking about when he created his rules for training.

Newton’s Nine Rules of Training

1. Train frequently all year round
2. Start gradually and train gently
3. Train first for distance (only later for speed)
4. Don’t set yourself a daily schedule (rather a weekly one)
5. Don’t race in training and run time-trials only infrequently
6. Specialise
7. Don’t over-train
8. Train the mind
9. Rest-up before the race

During his 100 mile world record run - 1928

I might be old school or conservative, but I still stick to Arthur Newton’s rules. I don’t worry about the time I finish a race in. I don’t run time-trials. I train for distance. Speed will come later.


Colin Hayes said...

Good reminder that "new" isn't always "improved". There's a reason those ideas still work when put into practice. They make sense! I'll admit to violating some of them (I push the pace too often), and still deal with nagging pains (I need to get off the pavement more), but I'm slowly coming around. Trying to think long-term rather than "how soon can I get faster". Good stuff Johann!

Anne said...

These seem like great rules...even for someone like me who is training for her first half-marathon, I believe that speed will come, but I must first train for distance. I want to stay injury free so I can run into my 80's :)

Jameson said...

I usually try to run 2 miles as fast as I can, and then convince myself I can run really far slower...usually fails.

Julie said...

Hi Johann,
Great idea for a post! I love his rules...they make complete sense. I just need to keep on adding the distance a little at a time and then worry about the rest. By the way, I like your new picture:) You are wearing my favorite color:) Happy Wednesday!!

Denis said...

Hi, If you want to learn more about Newton's rules, I invite you to read "Lore of Running" by Tim Noakes, MD (4th Edition). The laws are detailed and refined. An excellent reading !