Frank Horwill



  • These articles were first published many year's ago and whilst some are as relevant today as they were when new, many are now mostly of historical interest as modern research and coaching methods have superseded them.

Maximising Your Potential

By Frank Horwill

  1. Have a target to aim at in six or twelve months' time. This might be a time target, eg breaking 14-minutes for 5km. Or it could be a status target eg making the county team in cross-country. The target must be realistic and not a pipe-dream. Not much point talking about breaking 4-minutes for the mile if you have not yet broken 4-minutes for 1500 metres.
  2. Decide how much time a week you can devote to training. There are 24 hours in a day, we sleep 8 hours, work 8 hours, have three hours to consume food and perhaps require three hours a day to travel to and from work. We have, therefore, 2 hours a day in which to train, at the very least, one hour. Most of us do not work on Saturday or Sunday, we can consider training twice on those days, each session 10 hours apart (eg Saturday at 11am and 9pm, Sunday at 9am and 7pm). We can do in weekends what takes us four days during the week.
  3. Decide what your target involves in the allocation of aerobic and anaerobic running. This calls for logical conclusions built around stamina, speed and strength. No marathoner will spend all his or her training time doing sprint training, nor a sprinter doing all long-distance running. It would be illogical. Think about your training carefully.
  4. Winter time is vital to your target. If you run 4,000 metres (10 laps) on the Balke Test (15 minutes of running) on the first Sunday in October, and 12 weeks later you can still only run 4k, and a further 12 weeks on that figure remains the same - your winter has been a waste of valuable time. During the winter you need some incentives - running at least one cross-country race a month provides this, or you may choose to run indoors at your weakest event to build up confidence. If your 800 metres time is 2 minutes and you can only run 4mins 15 secs for 1,500 metres, it is your Achilles heel.
  5. Ignore extreme views propagate by experts. Such views as, "You must do 100 miles a week to succeed," or "I can get super fit on 20 miles a week," need careful analysis. The first (100 mpw) may be all at 7-minutes a mile, while the latter (20 mpw) may be all at 4½ minutes a mile via repetition running. Both get some sort of results, however, there are other ways.
  6. Remember the physiological facts. These have been obtained from the world's greatest physiologists from Astrand's time (1939) to Costill today. Endurance is best increased by work between 80 and 100 per cent of the VO2 max.
    Never forget these figures: 80 per cent V02 max is your half-marathon speed; 90 per cent is your 10km speed; 95 per cent is your 5km speed and 100 per cent is your 3km speed. If your 1,500m speed is 5 mins (80 sec/400m), all the other speeds will be about 4 seconds per 400m slower - ie 3km: 84 secs, , 5km: 88 secs, 10km: 92 secs and half-marathon 96 secs. As the time per 400 slows with each distance, the duration of running increases especially when doing repetition running, eg 3km speed (100%) - 16 x 400 in 84 secs, 100 jog. 5km speed (95%) - 7 x 800m in 2:56, 100m jog. 10km speed(90%) - 6 x 1 mile in 6:08 500m jog; half marathon speed (80%) run 9 miles at 6:24/mile.
  7. Never lose sight of pure speed. Speed is rate of stride x length of stride. The first is improved by running up and sprinting 30m, the run up is not less than 20 metres. The Russians call this "pure speed". The legs are moving at maximum speed, but you will not be travelling at maximum speed until the stride-length increases 30m further on. Increased stride length comes from increased leg strength. Hopping regularly is a great strengthener, especially up gradients.
  8. Eat regularly and correctly. Moderate meals every 4 hours = greater physical output. Think fruit, vegetables, fish, whole grain cereals, lean meat.