The following blog is the first in a series aimed at guiding the average everyday runner who would like to train smarter and get better results for their efforts.

The first rule is the following:



Recently I received a request for help from a runner who was struggling to run beyond 5 or 6 kilometers. On questioning what training he had been doing, it turned out that he regularly runs 3 x 5 kilometers per week. Now while he was still “unfit” to run 5 kilometers, that training would have been beneficial. However now that his body is able to complete the task, very little further adaptation will take place. Why? Well, there simply is no need to as his body is already “fit” for 5 kilometers (plus a little extra which the mind will be able to squeeze out). In order to go beyond 5 kilometers with ease, this runner will need to start gradually running further and further until his body adapts to his new goal distance. The same goes for getting faster, getting stronger etc. Unless you challenge your body beyond its current limits your fitness will reach a point where it levels out.

There are various ways in which you can make your training more challenging. Some variables are:

  1. Volume – that is volume of a particular workout and overall volume in a training week
  2. Frequency – How often you train in a day, week, month, year…
  3. Pace – How fast you do your workouts. This also includes pace variations such as fartleks and intervals.
  4. Resistance – making training tougher with hills, sled pulling etc. Also adding strength training to your schedule.

All of the above however need to be implemented smartly and be specific to your goal in order to reap the full reward. Something best worked out by an experienced coach.


The body needs to rest in order for fitness adaptations to take place. In the same way that we get grumpy when we don’t have enough sleep, your body also gets “grumpy” a.k.a “overtrained” if you just keep pushing hard and don’t ever back off. Recovery could be complete rest or slow jogging. I generally do not categorise most cross training as recovery as it is usually still a hard workout on the body and mind.

On the opposite side of the scale, resting too much can also result in your body not being challenged enough and you will be going 1 step forward, 2 steps back all the time, basically going nowhere.

Coaching is, for the most part, getting this equation of increasing challenge and optimal recovery as perfect as possible for maximum results.

So if you find yourself not progressing, have a good look back at your training, are you doing same old same old and never getting out of your comfort zone? Or are you training so hard that you are permanently doing the death march through the valley of fatigue?

Let me know how you get on and if you would like professional guidance from a coach then check out our Trainsmart package where the thinking is done for you here.

Onwards and upwards!

Coach Kathleen

About Coach Kathleen

Coaching since 2004, I have coached both young and old athletes from those achieving provincial and national medals in track, biathlon and cross country to runners running their first ever half marathon or marathon. I am a specialist in youth coaching and my coaching philosophy is to not only help each athlete achieve their best with their athletic talent but to guide each athlete in developing character and transforming their lives beyond the track. As an athlete I have competed at high levels across all the running disciplines, track, road, cross country and trail running as well as internationally in triathlon. I have a personal best of 2 hours 45 min for the marathon and have twice been part of the winning ladies team in the AfricanX trail race. Qualifications IAAF Athletics Lecturer Level 3 Distance Running Coach SAQ Fundamental Movement Certificate Personal Running Performances
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