First, what does 'optimal' mean anyway? I define optimal to mean this: to be your best at a specific point in time, given the time and energy you put into something. You could also call it: perfection, given the circumstances.
'Optimal' is a relative term. It is entirely possible to run a personal record and not perform optimally, just as it is possible to finish last and run your best race possible. But in order to achieve an optimal performance, you must approach the challenge with the right attitude, the right discipline, and the right training approach.
Below are my 10 Optimal Training Principles of distance running, as well as links to posts on the topic. They are in no particular order. I will write a post (or two) on each one, but in the meantime, here they are.
3. Each athlete is responsible for his or her training. (Here)
4. Self-efficacy is a fundamental ingredient in optimal training. Self-efficacy is developed through one's ability to persist in the face of adversity.
5. Active engagement in training makes the process more understandable, more relevant, and more effective.
6. All behavior is caused. All causation is mental. We become what we think about most of the time.
7. Certain behaviors, if practiced with consistent quality, will ensure optimal training. (here)
8. Making mistakes is an effective way to learn and improve.
9. Optimal performance and realizing one's potential are the results of painstaking preparation and focused work.
10. Rankings and personal records indicate progress at one point in time.