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When I first started coaching, I would often have to talk a new client off the ledge of despair. They would look at their training plan and get overwhelmed by the prospect of so many workouts and long runs. But these key sessions—which took place in the final few weeks of the plan—wound up being entirely manageable. They just weren’t quite possible yet . The runners needed to build up to those workouts, recover properly, and get in better shape before attempting them. That process is why we train. It allows you to improve incrementally, and ultimately to do things you didn’t think you could. And it all depends on patterning , or properly varying effort throughout a given training week. I worked with 10 different coaches during high school and college, yet the patterning I experienced for cross country and track remained remarkably similar. Most runners have heard of the “easy/hard” rule, where effort alternates from day to day. This general rule always formed the backbone of our training programs. And this patterning reflects a concept called training density . And once you understand density, you’ll be able to plan your own training much more effectively. What is ‘training density’? Training density reflects the pattern of effort throughout a certain time period. If density is high, the runner is completing a lot of high-quality work (like long runs and faster workouts). If density is low, the overall workload is spread thinner with fewer high-quality training sessions. High training […]