Whether training for a 5k or an ultramarathon, every runner has the intention of becoming the best that he or she can be. Our running arsenals have just about every tool that we need to become a solid runner, and contain everything from energy gels and sports drinks, to GPS watches and the latest zero-drop running shoes. But what we sometimes leave out of our goody bag is the most simple, yet effective, tool of all: the mind.
What do I mean by this? Well, as bluntly as I can put it, some of us simply don’t know what we’re doing when it comes to putting a training program together (I’ve been there myself plenty of times). We just go out and run, and don’t really have a plan. What’s the goal of training? What’s the plan of action? How am I going to get from where I am to where I want to be? There are all sorts of thought processes that get ignored when preparing for a race. Here, I want to present some of those, and how to quickly fix them before it’s too late.
1. STARTING TOO FAST
This is a pretty easy mistake to make. Whether it’s a race or a run, many people can come out of the gate on fire. This is seen even more during interval and speed workouts. The problem here is that you end up training the wrong muscles, prompting earlier fatigue, and many times sabotaging the workout’s intended benefits.
This is an easy fix, and one that I try to use during my own workouts. Focus on the negative here (in numbers only, of course). Try to slow your first mile down enough that it is your slowest mile of the run. Take your time down with each successive mile. Your speed/time change is up to you, but remember, you should be running fastest at the end of the run.
There is a tendency for a lot of runners out there to stick to the “medium” run during training, not going too short, but not going very far either. The medium run provides some benefits in that it allows you to run at a pretty solid pace for a longer time than a short run would provide. Getting stuck in that rut, however, can sabotage your training. Shorter, faster runs will provide stronger, faster leg muscles. Longer, slower runs will allow for improved endurance.
Follow the “ditch the default” mentality during your next training program. Schedule all three types of runs as opposed to simply lacing up the shoes and running. Implement speed days where you are running much shorter (even intervals, maybe) at a much faster pace. Add in days where the intensity is much lower, but the time spent on your feet is much higher. Putting in different types of training sessions like this will improve your overall running, and allow for some variety in the training program.
3. ALL YOU CAN EAT WORKOUT
There’s nothing I like more than seeing the words “All You Can Eat” in front of me. The one situation I don’t usually indulge in this, however, is when it comes to my workouts. You hear it all the time: more reps are better, 15 miles is better than 10, if it doesn’t hurt it doesn’t help. The fact is our bodies aren’t well-equipped to handle “all-out” workouts very well. Sometimes it can take 10-14 days to fully recover from a brutal workout like these. There is certainly a time and place for them, but you have to be careful of when to implement them.
The solution is simple: Don’t eat the whole pie. You don’t really need to do 400m sprints for 20 reps. You don’t need to run 20 miles every other day. Sure, once in a while may not hurt you, but training all-out on a consistent basis isn’t necessary. The best way to be ready on race day is to be recovered and fresh. So leave the buffet workout at home.
4. INCSUFFICIENT RECOVERY
If you’re one of those people who feels like taking a day off is only hurting you, then you’re not alone. I fight this battle constantly. In fact, I have to actually reward or trick myself into taking off days occasionally. Training is great for improving condition, obviously, but it takes a toll on the body. It damages muscle fibers, connective tissues, and joints. If we don’t rest, it can lead to injury
When putting together a program, implement off days just like you would training days. Once a week or three days out of every two weeks, you need to completely shut it down. Let your body rest and heal. Doing this will allow for the body to repair the damage that has been done and start fresh after the recovery day. Your body will thank you, believe me.
With that said, there are plenty of other mistakes that runners make on a consistent basis. I know because I have made them all myself, multiple times. These are simply a few of the mistakes I see from other runners pretty consistently. In an effort to improve your training program, and results, the next time you’re planning things out, make sure to put on your thinking cap before your running shoes. It’ll be a wise decision.
Post contributed by Brock Jones. Brock is Co-Owner and Head Trainer with BodyFIT, Inc. in Lexington, KY. He holds a Masters of Science in Exercise Physiology from the University of Kentucky and is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. You can read more of Brock’s posts about fitness and exercise on the BodyFIT Punch Blog.