Training smart, what does that mean? Well, depending on who you ask, it could mean a million different things…but, I am going to give my spin on it.
For two years now, I have been training for and or running marathons. Boston, this past week made number 6 for me. I have done three with Team Hoyt, two solo and one pacing a friend. Each one has had it’s ups and downs and each one has been special in it’s own way.
What I have found unique about the marathon, aside from the fact that it is twice as long as any other road race, is that there are as many “training plans” as there are runners who run them.
But, what I have found intriguing is trying to find the perfect plan that will be effective and one that will work for YOU. To often, we find some cookie cutter training plan that MIGHT work, or we see some partial puzzle piece to a Ryan Hall, Desiree Davila, Frank Shorter training plan and we think that we can do that same thing to improve upon our own race performances…This is where I have to be frank. Guess what? None of us (any of you reading this blog) are elite (except maybe David Mick)…so don’t think that you can do the same thing as an elite and get the same results…you will be broke in no time flat.
For us real world runners, those of us who do not collect a pay check to run, we have to be very smart and very cautious. In the past, I have been guilty of trying to pile on the miles because I thought there was something magical about hitting 70, 80 or even 90 miles per week!! We get sucked into the Dailymile vortex..or what I like to call “mileage whoring”. This is where we only care about the total number of miles ran, rather than the quality of miles ran….This is complete and utter craziness (in my opinion).
I personally know several runners who think that they need to hit X amount of miles per week..yet, when you ask them why this number is important, they can’t even begin to tell you. Then there are those who are slave to X pace on their Garmin…They have no clue what the difference is between a tempo a steady state, a recovery, etc..They just go out and run and try not to be slower than some arbitrary number that they have set for themselves.
But, for those scientific driven individuals like myself…we want to know WHY we run each run and WHAT is the purpose of each run. I have come to understand that a recovery run is just as important as a key speed workout, or a hard tempo..The body needs to repair and recover, otherwise, those key runs are useless and the body cannot adapt.
However, runners are very stubborn individuals and for some reason believe that if they miss a workout, all of a sudden they will go from their current pace to some snail like crawl overnight…Did you build your current fitness overnight??? Well guess what? You won’t lose it overnight either!!
I don’t know why exactly, but for some reason, a good amount of runners in my training group and elsewhere seek my advice..Maybe it’s just because I am so dedicated to it and I love helping other runners meet their goals..whatever the reason, I get asked daily about the “this or that” of running. Although I love helping and “coaching”, it can be very frustrating. I see many injured runners continuing to stay injured, or get re-injured because of nothing more than stubborness (myself included).
A runner gets injured, they get depressed, they get upset and they have to slug through “alternative” training methods, i.e, X-training, agua jogging, physcial therapy, etc. They begin to improve and rather than continue doing the things that are helping them, they get right back on the road, start cranking out the miles, only to end up injured AGAIN.
Did I say that runners are a stubborn breed??? Now, I don’t know everything and I am by no means a medical expert..but I do know that trying to run through an injury by beating yourself against the concrete for miles and miles is not a great idea. Your body is very smart, listen to it. If you are having pain somewhere, there is a reason for it..and guess what? The cure or remedy is not a 10 miler on a hard surface! The body needs attention to the injured area and it is sending you a warning signal…so listen!!
Another huge issue with runners is NUTRITION!! So many runners believe that hard workouts are all they need to become a better runner. Most runners do not realize that how they fuel there body is just as important, if not more so than just getting in quality workouts.
Would you jump in your car for a cross country road trip knowing that there was no gas or oil in the engine?? No, of course you wouldn’t! So, why do that with your body? The human body (particularly the runner’s body) is a finely tuned and calibrated machine. The body runs off of electricity (hence the name electrolytes), and all of the electrical circuits and paths in the body must be firing correctly in order for you to have a good run.
If you have a bad run, what do you usually do? You get upset and blame your training, or get mad at yourself for not being able to push the pace. But, did you sit down and analyze the cause of the bad run? Any and every bad run can be linked back to something. Maybe you didn’t sleep enough the night, or nights leading up to the run. Maybe you are low on potassium, sodium, calcium, etc, and the body isn’t functioning properly. Maybe hydration ( or lack thereof) is the culprit…or possibly it was those spicy hot wings you had for lunch! Instead of getting upset, find the cause and fix it.
After every run, good or bad, it is very important to rehydrate and replenish the fuel. The body needs fuel to function and this fuel comes in the form of carbs, proteins and fats. Each one functions a bit differently (that’s a whole other chapter)..but, just know that the body needs these fuel sources to repair and replenish, as well as prepare the body for the next run. So, right after your runs (within 10-15 minutes after), ensure that your are taking care of the body by fueling it with proper nutrition. A great “on the go”, high octane fuel source is Chocalate Milk…plenty of carbs, fats and protein to get the body started on the recovery process. After that, make sure to have a good balanced meal within 1-2 hours afterward. Believe me, your body and your next run will thank you!
Also, if you miss a run, for whatever reason..don’t sweat it! You will not lose any fitness by missing a run here or there and in fact, your body might just perform better after the little extra rest and recovery.
One of the last, but possibly most important elements to successful running, is HAVING FUN!! Don’t make running a business or a job…Whether you are a elite, sub-elite or weekend warrior…enjoy it!! Enjoy running for what it is and the fun that can be had doing it…If you are not part of a running group already, I suggest you become part of one http://www.meetup.com/HamptonRoadsRunners/. Running alone and solo all the time can get very boring and very lonely..Get out there with friends and have good conversation…the miles will fly by, I promise. It is much easier to push yourself and suffer a bit when you know that everyone else is suffering or hurting a bit too. Not to mention, you build great friendships and commraderie through running. Runners share a common bond that links you to one another in a special way…you can talk to a runner about things that you wouldn’t talk about with anyone else.
As summer approaches and the days get longer and warmer…lace up the shoes, get out there and get going…If you are just starting running, thinking about starting, or have been running for years…Just have fun doing it and get out there and enjoy the MILES OF TRIALS and the TRIALS OF MILES!!