These are the two general philosophies of training volume in running. By the words alone, they connote opposing description to one another. Minimalist is best described by doing the minimum amount of training in order to achieve one’s objective or goal. While the maximalist would be best described by doing as much volume or amount of training as the body could absorb and sustain in order to improve or attain your goal.
In the late 70s and early 80s, I was greatly influenced by the teachings of Arthur Lydiard which was the proponent for maximalist training philosophy. In my preparation for my 1st marathon race, I exposed myself to endurance runs with a daily menu of 10 kilometers and sometimes “double” the same distance for the day. In my weekend runs, my minimum distance then was 20 kilometers and a maximum run of 30 kilometers. Seldom did I do interval runs at the Oval Track but I improvised some running “burst” or fartlek sessions in my daily runs. Being young at the age of 30s gave me the strength to recover very fast in my running workouts. With this observation, the maximalist philosophy is more adept to the younger runners and this approach to training has a lot of potentials for the runner to improve greatly in his/her performance.
In the mid and late 90s, articles and personal experiences of older runners (40 years old and above) made way to the different runner’s magazines advocating that there is no need for too many kilometers/miles of running preparation in order to perform well in a road race. Experiments and studies had been made to elite runners as well as to the masters runners. Such studies resulted to almost the same results of performance for the athletes who are exposed to maximalist training philosophy. The minimalist practitioners had made their training more race-specific and with higher intensity of training as they have strictly followed some parameters or time/pace guidelines for a certain kind of running workout. This is where speed training and faster pace of workouts had been incorporated in their weekly training schedules. This kind of approach in training brought the importance of recovery to every runner. In my personal observation, this kind of training approach is highly recommended to runners or athletes who had been exposed to road races and intense training for a minimum of two years as running experience.
At my age of 58+ years old, I could hardly follow the teachings of the maximalist approach to training due to obvious reasons even though I have the time to run almost everyday. But I am still trying my best to find out the maximum of mileage I could do every week most especially now that I am preparing for another ultra mountain trail run next year. On the other hand, minimalist approach with higher intensity of training had given me positive results in my past marathon & ultramarathon races but I still have the feeling that I could still improve from my best PR times that I registered for the past 3 years. I know I could still improve in my future races using this training philosophy.
Considering “running as an experiment of one”, I could not recommend which one is fitted to your attitude/personality and personal lifestyle if you want to develop your potentials in running. However, you must possess the following qualities in order to improve in your running—discipline, patience, focus, and “warrior” attitude. Your training plans and programs are useless if you do not have these basic qualities.
Minimalist or Maximalist? It’s your choice!