Say goodbye to the expression "No pain, no gain."
Henry Lange, director of the National Triathlon Training Camp-East and a world-class triathlete, is one of a number of coaches who are helping athletes change the way they train. No longer, Lange says, do athletes have to train to the point of exhaustion. Long, slow workouts only improve one's ability to do long, slow workouts, he says.
Lange has drawn upon 13 years of coaching experience in cross-country skiing, swimming and triathloning to develop his SMARTER training program, which stresses faster, shorter workouts.
SMARTER is an acronym for the elements Lange believes must be employed to train more efficiently and run a better race -- Speed, Muscle power, Aerobic endurance, Race pace, Technique, Enjoyment and Recovery. Here is an outline of his program:
*Speed. Lange calls speed "the overall goal of the SMARTER program." It is the measure of improvement.
"Speed is a complex neuromuscular coordination pattern that involves a very intricate kind of firing of muscle fibers," he says. "These fibers are either contracting or relaxing. The faster you go, the more fibers you recruit into this pattern. Efficiency in speed is very dependent on the timing sequence between the fibers that are contracting and the ones that are relaxing.
"The only way to race fast is to train fast. The only way you can bring these muscle fibers into play in that recruitment pattern is by going at the speed you expect to generate in a race. If you go out and do all your training at a slow pace, you never train those muscle fibers that you need to generate that faster speeds you use in a race. You have to train at the speed you're going to go in the race, not all the time, but a little bit, now and then."
To increase running speed, he says, either increase stride length or stride rate. For bicycling, you must use a higher gear or pedal faster. In swimming, you must either increase stroke length or stroke rate.
Each of the following four elements -- muscle power, aerobic endurance, race pace and technique -- should be incorporated into a workout at least once a week, he said.
*Muscle power. Necessary to generate speed. To build muscle power, work at a slightly faster pace than what you are accustomed to for one workout a week. If you typically run an eight-minute mile for five miles, you need to train a little faster and average a 7:50-7:55 mile. "Run faster when you're feeling pretty good, and then when you start to strain, pull back on the throttle. Never let it get really hard, because when it gets really hard, a lot of tension exists, you override that sense of flow and rhythm and you don't generate an efficient pattern. The key to remember in these muscle power workouts is that faster is not harder."
*Aerobic endurance. The base on which conditioning is built. This is the only one of the four workout elements that does not use speed. Here, you maintain a steady and comfortable pace for a distance longer than the one at which you plan to race.
*Race pace. The pace you can keep up effectively and steadily during a race. After a good warmup, you might run three to five fast miles or bicycle a 10- to 15-mile time trial.
*Technique. Using the most efficient form for any activity. Good technique means eliminating unnecessary tension and unnecessary motion in your stride, stroke or pedaling style while maintaining a fast pace.
*The other two elements -- Enjoyment and Recovery -- mean being in the proper frame of mind to work out and being in the proper physiological state to recover from one day's workout to effectively do the next day's.