Specificity of training and its relation to the performance of distance runners

Int J Sports Med. 1996 Apr;17(3):199-204. doi: 10.1055/s-2007-972832.


Validated six-month retrospective questionnaires were completed by 119 female and 234 male coached distance runners (59% compliance) for a descriptive study of relationships between specificity of training and best performance in a summer season. Runners were aged 26 +/- 10 y (mean +/- SD), specialising in distances from 800 m to the marathon, with seasonal best paces of 82 +/- 7% of sex- and age-group world records. They reported typical weekly durations of interval and strength training, and typical weekly durations and paces of moderate and hard continuous running, for build-up, precompetition, competition, and postcompetition phases of the season. The training programs showed some evidence of specificity, especially for runners preparing for longer events. A potentially beneficial effect of specificity was evident in a significant (p < 0.01) correlation between performance and seasonal mean weekly duration of moderate continuous running for runners specialising in longer distances (r = 0.29). The only other significant correlates of performance were seasonal mean relative training paces of moderate (r = -0.18) and hard (r = -0.42) continuous running, which exemplified detrimental effects of specificity for most runners. Thus, the training of better runners is not characterised strongly by greater specificity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Physical Education and Training / methods
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Running / classification
  • Running / education*
  • Running / physiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires