Stephen Seiler says 80% of a runner’s workouts should be done at a slow speed with 20% at medium to fast pace. Here are his five training tips related to this theory

Stephen Seiler (pictured right) is an exercise physiologist from the University of Adger in Norway (see He specialises in endurance training and offers the following advice…

Stephen SeilerTip 1: No pain, no gain is a no go. It looks cool on a T-shirt, but elite athletes do NOT train as hard as they can every session. They can’t. You shouldn’t either. Some days you build the cake (train long and steady, for example), other days you eat the cake (do a HIT interval session). Pacing is not only for racing, it is also important for the day to day, week to week training process. Some sessions should be psychologically relaxing to perform. Others should test you. The balance is important mentally and physically.

Tip 2: 80:20 vision. Imagine a training pyramid. The 80% is “horizontal” and represents the solid platform of long sessions, basic endurance, extending your comfort duration. These sessions are developmental, not trash miles. The road to elite performance always involves a gradual increase in training volume. Long sessions get longer, training sessions become more frequent. Then there is the 20%. These are those sessions that are not much fun to do, but very satisfying to complete. They build our capacity, but dig into our mental and physical reserves. This is the vertical part of the pyramid. Without both the base and the height in our training, there can be no pyramid, and there is no other path to true peak performance. Although we cannot train as often as the elites, this basic pattern still works!

Tip 3: Effective interval training is not JUST about high intensity. Interval training often focuses on the intensity. But, elite athletes seem to choose to hold back the last few percent on intensity in order to be able to accumulate more minutes. This might mean doing 8 minute intervals at 90% HR max instead of 3 minute intervals at 94%. A tiny decrease in intensity translates to a large increase in accumulated work time. The result seems to be a stronger signal for adaptation and a bit less stress. That is an important combination for the long term!

Tip 4: Polarize your peaking process: During a peaking period, the hard sessions get HARDER, but the long easy sessions get EASIER. This is the pattern we see with elite athletes, and it also makes sense for the rest of us. As you peak during the racing season, think polarised. Keep the long low intensity sessions “easy”, or even “easier”, so you have energy and focus to peak your form. The worst thing to do is let the easy sessions become harder in search of “ a little extra”. This regression towards the middle is a classic error in training… falling into the black hole.

Tip 5: There really are no secrets. World records have been set without fancy machines, and will be in the future. There are no good substitutes for the old fashioned training process, at least not legal ones. So, be careful about the hype. Zero gravity machines and elliptical running may be useful as an alternative training mode during an injury, but running is running. The best way to train for running will continue to be running, the old fashioned way.

» Interview by Tina Chantrey. See