I finished reading Run Less, Run Faster: Become a Faster, Stronger Runner with the Revolutionary FIRST Training Program this fall after reading several Runner’s World articles about the program and sort of implementing it for my half marathon training in 2010. When training for that race, I was pregnant and didn’t have access to a gym, so our training didn’t follow the FIRST program to the letter, but I enjoyed the speed work we did. And now that I have a GPS watch, it’s much easier to track my pacing on tempo runs.
But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.
The book is written by Bill Pierce, Scott Murr, and Ray Moss, researchers with the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training. As runners themselves, they found themselves in a quandary as they tried to improve their fitness but weren’t making much progress by adding miles to their weekly running. They began experimenting with incorporating other forms of exercise — namely cycling and swimming — into their training and reducing their mileage. And since they are researchers, they kept meticulous records of their progress and worked to make their training runs — now reduced from six to three days a week — count.
Fast forward, they were seeing excellent personal results and decided to take their personal studies to the lab for a full-fledged research project. Several studies later and they found that runners can improve their speed and fitness by reducing their running. The key is to complete three specific runs every week + two cardio workouts. In essence, the three key runs — track repeats, tempo run, and long run — each target a different goal in your running while crosstraining allows you to recover from the intense running workouts while improving your cardiovascular fitness. Runs are often faster than in other training plans, but as they argue, “If you want to run faster, you have to train faster.” Touche.
In addition to the training plan, the book also offers suggestions for using this program in conjunction with other performance factors like nutrition, weather, and injuries. It also has form and flexibility sections and a running strength training plan. And a section dedicated to getting to Boston.
I love the idea of this kind of training. I certainly have had problems in the past running more than four or five days a week. I just wear myself out, overeat, and am generally a bear when I’m running too much. Plus all I seem to do is sleep. I also appreciate the authors’ respect for runners’ time. Get in, get your workout done, get on with your day. Their stretches, form drills, and strength training are streamlined and to-the-point, which I appreciate because I so often have to get going right after my runs. That kiddo of mine gets antsy to get out of the stroller and go home.
I’ll make these ideas a part of my training ethos. I currently do not have a budget for a gym membership, so cycling and swimming are not a possibility, but I’m going to see how some power or cardio yoga DVDs work.
My main critique of the program is accessibility. You pretty much have to have access to a track for the track repeats, and not every runner has access to one. There are several in my town, but you need to be there early or late in the day to avoid school traffic or athletic practices. And in the winter, there are only a few indoor tracks to use in town. Likewise, unless you have a route that is marked, you sort of need a GPS watch (or a smart phone) to give you feedback about your pacing. (And most smart phone apps I’ve played with don’t give you very good mileage feedback.) Even on the well-marked trails I run on, if I ran with my regular running watch, I’d have to do some serious math to make sure I was at the pace I needed to be.
I’ll add this book to my coaching library. It’s a good reference for training — especially if I’m coaching runners who want to improve their times and fitness.
Have you read this book or tried this training program? What did you think? Did it work for you?