Perhaps the two most agreed upon principles in training theory relate to specificity of training and changing the training stimulus. Simply speaking, it’s widely accepted that to improve as a runner, you need to continually be introducing the body to new stimuli or stress in order to spur different adaptations. Moreover, to get better at a particular event, whether it’s the mile, the marathon or any distance in between, you must perform workouts that mimic the exact demands of that event.
I’ve previously discussed the principle of specific adaptation as it relates to workouts and formulating a long-term training plan. Likewise, many others have written about the principle of stress and recovery as the basic backbone of training. However, both of these approaches to the topic of specific adaptation and training stimuli have focused on straightforward aspects of training.
These basic training principles can also be applied to the minute details of training, such as the surfaces you run on and what time of day you head out for your workout.
In the following pages, we’ll examine how you can apply these broad principles to the micro level of your training — specifically, where you do your speed workouts — by looking at the advantages and disadvantages of doing your key sessions on the track versus the roads and why switching it up on occasion can help you improve both your physical and mental fitness.