Tips on what can make/break a runner

This week’s blog is about the best and the worst. As an athlete and a coach I have experienced and witnessed countless smart and poor choices in both training and racing. We often learn from expert advice or from our own experience, and so in hopes this blog helps you avoid bad choices and make many good ones, here are some of my favorite good/bad decisions a runner can make.

The Good:

  • Track your training. If you use a GPS device, this is quite easy. Track the miles, effort, and pace. This information is incredibly valuable. Many runners I know have data from the last 5-10 years!
  • If you are seriously training for a goal race, you need to keep a watchful eye on the forecast. Adjust training days or expectations for weather. There’s absolutely no excuse for missing a long run because it rained on Saturday. Plan to move your long run to Sunday or get creative.
  • Train with purpose. This sometimes means running or training LESS. If you don’t know the reason for your training that day, you should question why you are doing it.
  • Treat yourself like an athlete. This means eating, sleeping, and drinking like one. Set yourself up for success.
  • Be cautious. If something feels injured, DO NOT continue to run through it. Overtraining and injuries can usually be avoided. You are not brave, tough, or dedicated if you train through injuries. You are stupid.
  • Show up early to races. My athletes who achieve their race day goals usually get there early, and give themselves ample time to warmup, relax, hydrate, and prepare in every way necessary. Showing up frazzled and last-minute is usually the recipe for disaster. Respect your goals.
  • Learn how to fuel your body. Our bodies are pretty smart, and usually give us clue, cues and advice as to what works and what doesn’t. Like your training, make note of your fueling needs, schedule, etc.
  • Communicate with your coach! Though your coach can’t be a mindreader or do the work for you, they are there to support you. It’s impossible to be supportive when the coach doesn’t know how to help you. If you don’t have a coach, rely on your team or running buddies for support. The running community can be extremely knowledgable and supportive!

The Bad:

  • Skipping the taper or recovery. Elite athletes know to respect these important steps to training, so why are any of us the exception to this step? Respecting the taper doesn’t mean pausing all training, either. I’ve had plenty a runner “not run” during the taper, which is almost as bad as blowing through the taper at high speed. Training cycles exist for a reason. If you don’t understand them, do some research or ask a coach.
  • I have never heard a runner say “I shouldn’t have listened to my coach,” but I hear “I should have listened to my coach” all the time. If you hired a coach, there’s probably good reason for it. Trust that person you are paying good money to guide you!
  • Eating something new the night before or morning of a race or long run. This rarely ends well.
  • Trying new socks, shoes, or a new outfit for a marathon. Your long runs are dress rehearsals for everything – including wardrobe. Trying something new risks blisters, chafing, bloody nipples, and general discomfort – none of which are supportive of a successful race.
  • Winging it on race day. While plans don’t always pan out, having no plan at all is like dancing with the devil. Study the race course, and have a plan on pacing, fueling, and how you are mentally breaking up the race distance.
  • Giving up before you begin. It’s impossible to have a good run or race if you doom it before you start. Yes, speed workouts, long runs and races usually hurt. But dooming yourself sets you up for failure.
  • Just as one good race or workout doesn’t define you as an athlete or human being, neither does one bad one. The athletes who learn to really care about their goals but also keep a healthy perspective are usually the ones who succeed and enjoy running for life.

5 Tips for Novice Runners

As temperatures slowly start to warm, we are all anxious to get outside and active. Even for experienced runners, taking an off-season means coming back slowly. Novice runners are usually very eager to get out and go from 0-60. Taking on too much too soon can often lead to injury and burnout, so I am giving a few pointers getting in those miles carefully.

  1. Start slow. Your pace for all of your runs in the first few weeks should be comfortable. An easy pace should feel comfortable, relaxed, and sustainable. This pace is also sometimes referred to as “conversational,” meaning you could talk during the entire run without huffing and puffing. If you cannot hold a conversation or sing a song, you are going too fast for you easy miles. The purpose of easy miles: active recovery, building weekly mileage, maintaining or building current fitness.

  2. Focus on time, not miles. Start small. Perhaps the goal for the first week is 20-30 minutes of walk/run, 3 times per week. As your fitness increases, you’ll naturally be able to handle more time on your feet. Many folks getting into running want to go out and run a hard 5 miles. While the enthusiasm is great, our bodies take a little more time than our brains to adapt. Look at the big picture, not just what you want to accomplish that one day.

  3. Take rest days. I recommend that when getting into running, focus on 3 non-consecutive days for the first few weeks. For example, Monday-Wednesday-Saturday. Rest days are just as important as your running days, and should be spaced between those running days. While you rest, your body rebuilds and recovers from the stress you put on it while running. You need to take days for the rest and rebuilding process, or you will break yourself down too much and risk injury. Again, the stronger you become, the more you will be able to handle. But start small.

  4. Sleep. If you are cutting back on sleep to train, your rest days become that much more important. Most people need 7-9 hours of sleep per night to properly function day-to-day. Many of us don’t get in that kind of sleep, and often sleep is the last priority for busy people. You need to rethink the value of sleep. There is nothing “badass” or “warrior-like” about averaging 4 hours per night. You are harming yourself, plain and simple. Get some more sleep, and your world will change – especially when running or exercising regularly.

  5. Be patient. It takes some time to settle into new habits. Most of us take 4-8 weeks before a new routine feels truly comfortable. It’s normal to have setbacks, struggle with your new priority, and to juggle everything else in your life and your running goals. However, there is nothing that says one crazy week or an overwhelming weekend will ruin your goals of becoming a consistent runner in a few months. Simply get back at it, and take your time. Don’t try to skimp on rest days, or double up to “make up” those missed workouts. They are gone. Just be patient and take it one day at a time.

Yak Trax

yaktrax_pro-300x300While many runners choose to take off the winter months, or trade them in for cross training in a gym, some runners power through the cold elements. If you train in a climate that gets snow and ice, I highly recommend getting yourself a pair of Yak Trax.

Yak Trax cost around $30.00, and easily attach to your shoe. The metal springs make it possible to maintain good traction on snow and ice-covered surfaces. The last thing a runner wants to do is slip and fall or compromise their stride to prevent falling. They even work on steep hills!