Recently I realized I have only been posting after races, and since I haven’t raced in a while, I haven’t posted in a while. But then I thought to myself, “Self, even though you’re not racing, maybe it would be cool to get your blog on. You could talk about training because that’s what you’re doing and one or two people might find the subject interesting.”
So, here we go. No race re-cap, just some of my own musings on training/running in general.
1. First stop: motivation station (because we're on the training train...)!
I think the biggest struggle most people have with training/running is finding the motivation to lace up each day and just do it. When your bed is warm and snuggly, and it would be so much easier to continue snoozing, why do you get up and run? Or conversely, it’s the end of a hectic day, you’re exhausted, hungry, and tired, what makes you peel off the business socks and get down to the real business of the day: your run? For me, this usually isn’t a problem. I’m passionate about running, so whether I'm training for something or not, I look forward to my run each day. If you’re not a weirdo like me and don’t find joy in running, it’s important to find your own source of motivation. Maybe it requires signing up for a goal race so you have something to work towards, or enlisting the help of a running buddy/team that will keep you accountable to showing up for runs, or maybe you just need to mix yourself a kick-butt iPod playlist. I can’t tell you exactly what will work for you when it comes to motivation, to each his own, but I can tell you that without something driving you to get out the door each day, it will be tough, if not impossible, to stay on the training train!
2. One size does NOT fit all.
When it comes to an actual training plan, I can tell you that I’m currently logging about 100 miles per week. I can also tell you that I run twice per day most days. And I can tell you that I hit the track once per week. So if you want to have performances similar to mine does that mean you should be doing what I’m doing? Absolutely NOT! Every runner is different. We have different bodies, we're at different levels of fitness, we're at different phases of training, we have different goals, we have different lives/schedules...you see where I'm going with this? So when it comes to training, don’t compare yourself to other runners by the miles, paces, or any other measure, find the training plan that works for YOU!
3. Listen to your body...kind of.
Let me clarify something here, in the beginning of a training program, or in the midst of a rigorous workout, your body will likely tell you to stop. In fact, if you’re training correctly, there will be workouts where your legs and lungs will be burning and your mind is screaming at you to just quit FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! It’s at this point when you need to make a decision: do you listen to the screaming and back off/give up, or do you push through? Pushing through is what is going to make you a higher-performing runner. And as you run more, you’ll learn to distinguish this discomfort (good) from pain (bad). Unlike discomfort, if your body is telling you it’s in pain, stop running! Getting injured and being out for weeks will not help your training efforts; backing off for one or two days to ensure your health will (help your efforts). Learn to listen to your body, at the right times, and your training efforts will be much more fruitful!
4. Even MC Hammer takes a break every now and then.
I used to be of the mindset that I was going to hammer out my runs moderately hard for moderate distances every single day. There would be slight variations to this plan, but for the most part, if I was hammering out 10-13 miles per day at 6:00/mile pace, I thought I would be in decent shape to race well. Turns out I raced fine, but I wasn’t seeing much by way of improvements. And not only that, but training wasn’t very challenging because my body learned the routine and my hammer time started to become the norm. I was no longer pushing my limits mentally or physically. So: how to prevent this with your training? You need to balance legit hammer time (that’s 2 MC Hammer references in one…boom!) with non-hammer time. It’s so simple to say, but so much more difficult to do. It means there need to be days when you run shorter distances at super fast (that’s a technical running term) paces where you feel like you’re absolutely blowing yourself up. The flip side to this will be days when you force yourself to cruise along at paces slower than molasses to let your body actively recover from the aforementioned blow-up session. You won’t be able to get the most out of your hard sessions if you aren’t fully taking advantage of your easy sessions. As someone wise once told me, “you have to run slower to get faster.” The balance of high-intensity and low-intensity is what’s going to get you to your best outcome.
5. A yoda, you may need to find (Star Wars people, did I do that yoda-speak correctly?).
Sometimes you won’t know what to do in order to best train when it comes to running because you've never run a step in your life. Or maybe you're a runner who has set a new, lofty goal, and you wisely realize that doing the same old thing is not going to get you to where you want to go. Don’t discount enlisting some outside help in order to train smarter. I had been doing all right on my own (personal opinion) when it came to running for the past few years, but when I decided that I wanted to take things to the next level, I sought out a coach. I wanted someone who knew even more about running than me, and who could provide an objective perspective when it came to my training and racing. Enter Coach Ron (http://www.miletomarathon.com/index.html). I won’t say it came easily to give up control and trust someone else with my passion, but he has become my go-to resource for everything related to training: mileage, paces, resting, lifting, nutrition, etc. And with his help, I’ve been able to accomplish some pretty cool things this summer.
It hasn't been an easy road, because I am a major pain in the butt, but good ol' Coach Ron has stuck with me. Here we are at this summer's USA Track & Field Half Marathon Championships.
So there's a handful of my thoughts on training. Most of them are probably things most runners have heard before, but it never hurts to get a reminder every once in a while. Now stop wasting time reading things on the Interweb and get training!