As a newbie runner, I have discovered with time the importance of a regular training. But even more important, I learned (sometimes the hard way) the negative effects of a superficial preparation. In the following post, I want to highlight some of the latter, in the form of three DON’T, and three DO of the training phase!
Don’t underestimate the… boring steps
Running can be fun (can be?) but there are some steps that often we like to cut, or skip. Warming up, stretching, for example. We usually remember of these steps when a little pain, or a muscle pulling, or something else threaten our run. Let’s try to avoid this step, keeping a good routine in preparation and post-race activities!
Don’t think that the training is not only… the training!
The training phase has the purpose of creating a stressful situation to the body. The following recovery phase helps the body to repair, and to build to new “attacks”. This non-technical explanation gives an idea how training without proper recovery, is just stress after stress.
Don’t misunderstand me, this is not a pass to spend one lazy week eating pop-corn on the couch “because the body needs to recover”. Nice try :). The balance between setting conditions out of the comfort zone, and allow time to recovery are important to avoid overtraining, a syndrome that happens when recovery allowed has been low for too long. For detailed programs, professional coaches are there to help you. More generally, if you want to prepare an half marathon event, there are many good schedules available on the internet that will help to set your goals.
Don’t push too hard!
When I write this recommendations, I say it to myself first: I am very bad at that. Especially at the beginning, the feeling of improvements (covering longer distances, in shorter times, feeling the runner’s high, or simply… enjoying in) is a positive reinforcement.
But improvement looks more like a zig-zag than a straight line, and in some cases, you can be disappointed from the trend. Relax and keep going!
Another problem is to set too soon big – or unrealistic – goals. If you cannot run one mile without panting, I am sorry, but probably running a marathon in 6 weeks is not the easiest goal! If you have a 10k running event in three weeks, and your personal best is 1h sharp, forget to run it in 45 minutes!
Don’t push too hard: baby steps, please!
Be disciplined and keep motivation up!
I just said about the recovery time. That leaves to the active part: the training! It is easy to set goals over the enthusiasm of designing this new project. You have maybe decided to run the Amsterdam Marathon, and you just booked your flights and hotel, planning what to do. (You didn’t? You can do it here ;-)). The event is in 12 weeks, and you found an amazing 12 weeks plan to get there ready. Yahoo!
The first two work outs go very well, you feel euphoric. But tomorrow… the legs feel a but hard, and it is chilly… That is a defining moment, that will decide if you will continue or give up. Of course, there is nothing wrong in skipping one training. But if you indulge, it will be easier to skip the second one. There will always be a cold day, an hour more in bed, a coffee with a friend. You should not give up on any of these. Be good at planning. Motivation can slightly lose grip, and that is where discipline needs to compensate and kick in… and remember: the best cure to lack of motivation is to get out and start running: motivation will then follow!
Learn what is your natural pace, and start from there
It sounds obvious, but not many pay attention to this fundamental detail: if you don’t know how fast you can run, how can you set a time goal?
Besides the fact that if you are starting now, you should probably not set a time-bound goal, you should learn what is a pace you can have a long (>8-10 km) having short conversations, and what is the (lactate) threshold speed, where you start going into anaerobic efforts, producing lactate. Your training should be more in the first stage, building up on the second. Pushing too much into the threshold – or even above – zone, will put the body in distress, and hurt your motivation. You can learn more of different pace speeds on the internet: my recommendation is to learn what your body can deliver first, and then build progresses up.
It must be fun!
The beauty of running is that it generates endorphins, the power of the excitement for achieving goals and breaking limits. Everuthing fun can become else: an obsession, frustration, disconnection with other things (work, family, friends). Remember that! Another way to be strong is being mindful and present in all aspects of life: this will help not only for the mental balance (better sleep, less stress) but non-running friends will forgive you when you will start telling another “interesting” running related story 😀 ! Keep always the positive attitude!
Another aspect of this is the celebration of wins: did you establish a new PB! Celebrate, do not think how faster you could have been cutting that curve, or if the old lady wouldn’t have slowed you down at the 14th km… and if you did not make a new record, celebrate you gave 100% of yourself to cross the finish line!