Runner's World Run Less Run Faster: Become a Faster, Stronger Runner with the Revolutionary 3-Runs-a-Week Training Program

Runner's World Run Less Run Faster: Become a Faster, Stronger Runner with the Revolutionary 3-Runs-a-Week Training Program

by Bill Pierce, Scott Murr
Runner's World Run Less Run Faster: Become a Faster, Stronger Runner with the Revolutionary 3-Runs-a-Week Training Program

Runner's World Run Less Run Faster: Become a Faster, Stronger Runner with the Revolutionary 3-Runs-a-Week Training Program

by Bill Pierce, Scott Murr


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The groundbreaking plan that helps runners of all levels to improve their race times while actually training less—now fully revised and updated for today's runners

In today's busy, fast-paced world, all runners have the same objective: to run the best they can with the limited amount of time at their disposal. Bill Pierce and Scott Murr made that goal possible with their revolutionary FIRST (Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training) training program. FIRST's unique training philosophy makes running easier and more accessible, limits overtraining and burnout, and substantially cuts the risk of injury while producing faster race times. The key feature of the detailed training plans for 5k, 10k, half-marathon, and marathon is the 3PLUS2 program, which consists of:

• 3 quality runs, including track repeats, the tempo run, and the long run, which are designed to improve endurance, lactate-threshold running pace, and leg speed
• 2 aerobic cross-training workouts, such as swimming, rowing, or pedaling a stationary bike, which are designed to improve endurance while helping to avoid burnout

With tips for goal-setting, recovery, injury rehab and prevention, strength training, and nutrition, Run Less, Run Faster has changed the way runners think about and train for competitive races. This revised third edition includes a new preface, training plans tailored to the new qualifying times for the Boston Marathon, new exercise photos, charts that will help runners adjust training practices to their elevation and climate, and updated nutritional recommendations.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593232231
Publisher: Harmony/Rodale
Publication date: 01/19/2021
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 233,402
Product dimensions: 6.60(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Bill Pierce, listed as a marathon supercoach by Runner's World magazine, is an experienced marathoner and chair of the health sciences department at Furman University.

Scott Murr, an experienced marathoner and twelve-time Ironman Triathlon finisher, is director of the Furman Fitness and Aquatics Center.

Ray Moss, who designed the FIRST laboratory physiological testing protocol, is professor of health and exercise science and director of the Molnar Human Performance Laboratory at Furman.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

The FIRST 3Plus2 Training Program

Our running and coaching experiences prior to 2003 led us to the conclusion that many runners had goals, but that they did not have a defined pathway for achieving them. We regularly encountered runners who were frustrated in their futile attempts to get faster without any specific practical plan. Often, they assumed that they just needed to run more. Our motivation for founding the Furman Institute of Running & Scientific Training (FIRST) was to design a plan that non-elite runners could use to become healthier, to improve their running performance, to meet their challenging (but realistic) goals, and to avoid injuries. Further, we realized that most runners had a limited amount of time to train, so the training program had to fit into their way-too-busy lives.

Many runners have shared with us how the FIRST program came to their aid as they tried to find a path to meeting their goals and reaching their potential. No message captures that fulfillment and success better than the following email, received from Jo Linnane.

While I was sitting in my office in NYC, where I was an art director for a television show, a friend walked in and told me that she was running a 5K. I had been practicing karate for 20 years, but I was not a runner. The 5K promised a T-shirt and a beer at the end; I was in. I downloaded the “Couch to 5K” app. It took no time for the running bug to bite.

Soon I entered the NYC Marathon lottery and received one of the coveted spots. My goal, like that of many first-time marathoners, was to finish. With that goal accomplished, my dream running goal quickly changed. How could I get fast enough to qualify for Boston?

As a set designer and art director, I did not have a normal 9 to 5 schedule. I worked full time on a TV show and regularly designed 4 or 5 regional theater shows a year to satisfy my love of theater. That meant a lot of travel on top of a busy workweek. How could I fit marathon training into my busy professional endeavors?

After several marathons and lots of shorter races, I was getting faster. I targeted the Chicago Marathon for a Boston qualification. I trained very hard, using a five-days-a-week running plan. I approached the race with confidence, but crossed the finish line 6 minutes and 50 seconds short of qualification.

I pondered what I should do to reach my goal. I knew many people who ran even more miles than I did in a week. Should I? However, my body felt like it was in a perpetual bonk from training. I was either tired or injured. How could I tolerate even more?

A Facebook posting about my training and failed Boston attempt led another runner to tell me about a three-days-a-week training plan called FIRST. I wondered if actually running less might be the answer for me. It would fit with my busy professional life and maybe reduce my overall level of fatigue.

I decided to try the FIRST marathon training plan. I enjoyed the variety of the three demanding run workouts, and the recovery days provided relief from feeling perpetually pooped. Also, I avoided any serious running injuries while getting faster. I decided that the plan was a smarter way for me to train. The training fit well with my travel. I easily fit the cross-training part of the FIRST training plan into my daily routine by heading to the gym before work or on the rare early day riding my bike in.

During the marathon preparation, I became more attuned to how my body responds to training. The test for the new approach to training came in Indianapolis. I was ecstatic when I crossed the line with a 10-minute PR and a Boston qualification.

Thank you, Bill and Scott.

Jo W. Linnane

Ogden, Utah

The core principles of the FIRST 3Plus2 Training Programs value quality over quantity, with individualized training goals for every run. Because many runners are not able—physically or logistically—to run more than three times per week, the FIRST Training Programs, based on three quality runs per week, have many adopters and endorsers around the globe.

We have received thousands of messages from runners who followed the FIRST Training Program for 16 weeks exactly as it was intended with remarkable results. They comment that they are now “believers,” even though they were skeptical when they adopted the program. Usually, they add that their running friends told them that they would never improve while running less.

Our programs provide structure and specific paces tailored to each runner’s current fitness level. The program, described later in this chapter, is grounded in a sound philosophy and scientific principles. Is it for everyone? We don’t think that any single training program is for everyone. Each individual responds differently to training programs. History tells us that even elite runners have achieved their greatness with vastly different training methods. Is the FIRST Training Program the optimal way to train? We have never made that claim. What we have said is that it is an effective training program that works for many runners. The evidence of the program’s success was solidly proven by studies that collected and examined physiological data, but also, and perhaps more importantly, by the thousands of Boston qualifications and other racing successes that runners who follow the program have earned.

Runners ranging from 2:40 to 6-hour marathoners tell us that the FIRST Training Program was central to their achievements. Many of the runners who say that they found success with the FIRST program had been injured in the past by following programs that required running daily or almost daily, or focused on high mileage. The FIRST program provided them with a means to participate injury-free in the sport that they had come to believe they could no longer enjoy. A large number reported to us that they have busy professional lives that do not permit them to run more often than the three Key Run workouts (an essential part of the FIRST Training Program) and, furthermore, that they were able to achieve their goals—typically, a Boston qualification—following the FIRST Marathon Training Program. Numerous clubs around the country have written us to say that their club uses this program because the specific structure of the workouts makes it easy to provide each club member with an individualized goal for each workout. We have learned that runners are disciplined and dedicated; they like structure and accountability. The FIRST Training Programs are designed to give you a specific distance and pace for each workout, based on your current level of running fitness.

The FIRST Training Programs are designed to produce optimal results with limited running. We have compressed our collective knowledge, experience, and research into a training method that provides specific workouts, laid out in 12- and 16-week training schedules for races from 5Ks to marathons (see Tables 6.1–6.5 in Chapter 6). These efficient and effective training programs have been tested with runners of wide-ranging abilities. Along with the training schedules, we include answers to many of the most frequently asked questions that we have received from runners around the world.

This book is based on the FIRST training philosophy of Training with Purpose. The chapters provide the essentials for becoming fitter and faster. We realize that it is unlikely that anyone has time to devote to an extensive regimen of strength training, flexibility, and cross-training. That’s why we developed “The 7-Hour Workout Week,” shown in Chapter 16, “Putting It All Together with the 7-Hour Workout Week.” We offer a practical, detailed, and comprehensive training program that will keep you strong, flexible, and fit while not requiring much time. This basic program will enhance your running and contribute to keeping you a healthy, injury-free runner.

Likewise, we know that lengthy chapters on the complex topics of nutrition, environmental factors, and injuries can be more daunting than helpful. We offer simple nutritional guidelines and believe that you can become a healthy eater and a well-fueled runner by following our advice. Similarly, the information we share about training and environmental challenges is essential for coping with altitude, heat, cold, pollution, and other factors. Most importantly, we wish to help you stay healthy. All of our workouts and exercises are designed to help you avoid injury, while recognizing that running is a physical activity that requires repetitive movements of impact that contribute to overuse.

What Is the FIRST Philosophy?

At the heart of the FIRST philosophy is the belief that most runners do not train with purpose. When runners are asked to share their typical training week and the objective of each run, many are at a loss to explain why they do what they do. Not having a training plan that incorporates different distances, paces, and recoveries means that runners don’t reach their potential. Nor do they garner maximum benefits from their investment in training time. The FIRST program makes the run workouts clear and specific, limits overtraining and burnout, and substantially cuts the risk of injury, while producing faster race times. By focusing on efficient, purposeful training, FIRST enables runners to meet their goal of running faster without sacrificing their job, family, friends, or health.

Table of Contents

Foreword vii

Preface ix

Section I Training with Purpose

1 The FIRST 3Plus2 Training Program 5

2 Principles of Training 18

3 Realistic Goals 22

4 FIRST Steps for New Runners 38

Section II Becoming Faster with FIRST

5 FIRST Fundamentals 55

6 Three Quality Runs: The "3" of the 3Plus2 Training Program 61

7 Essential Cross-Training: The "2" of the 3Plus2 Training Program 112

8 Rest and Recovery 134

Section III Performance Factors

9 Running Hot and Cold 145

10 Altitude Training and Racing 159

11 Running Injuries 171

12 Running Nutrition 184

13 Body Composition 194

Section IV Essential Elements to Be a Fit FIRST Runner

14 Strength Training for Runners 201

15 Flexibility and Form 222

16 Putting It All Together with the 7-Hour Workout Week 238

Section V Hopkinton or Bust

17 The Road to Boston Is Steeper 253

Appendix A How to Calculate Paces 291

Appendix B Pace Tables 293

Acknowledgments 325

Source Notes 329

Index 331

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