Trusting Your Training

Trust is critical to your success as a runner. This is paramount when it comes to training. You need to actually believe that the training that you are doing is going to help you accomplish your goal. When you step on the starting line you need to know the the work that you have done has prepared you for accomplishing your goal. Whether that goal is finishing your first 5k or finally qualifying for the Boston Marathon, you need to believe that all the work you are doing is moving you closer to your desired result. This is often best achieved through a solid coach/athlete relationship. The more that you trust your coach and his or her training guidance the more you will adhere to the plan and the more success that you will have. I don’t just say that because I am a coach; I say that because all top level elite runners have coaches. A large part of trusting the training is in believing that you have actually gotten faster. In many races we may simply become creatures of habit and fall into the same paces that we have always run and ending up with the same results. Believing in your training requires that you embrace change and the improvements that come with it.

So how do we develop this trust in our training? I’ll spend some time talking about a few of the more popular training sources and give some advice for each one to increase the level of trust.

Static Training Plan

Many runners download a plan from the internet or from a magazine and adapt it to their lives. I for one am not a big fan of doing this because every runner is a unique individual with unique histories, physiologies, and life styles. The way a single male 26 year old runner who ran in high school and college should train for a marathon is very different that the training that will work well for a 45 mother of three who just picked up running a few years ago. If this is your option I wold recommend that you make adjustments according to your particular circumstances. For example if you are a busy adult with kids, Jay Johnson’s Simple Marathon Training is a near perfect resource. If you don’t feel like investing $14 in your training, consider that you most likely own socks that cost more. If you are in your twenties and single I would recommend Daniels’ Running Formula or Advanced Marathoning. The bottom line is that the source of your training should be tailored to you and your life. If it is, the training is so much easier to trust.

The Self Coached Runner

The next option is to write your own training. This is the option that I am in right now. I’ve read a good number of training books and spend some time reading journal articles on the science of running. I am able to put together training that fits my lifestyle and physiology. I can trust it because I have over a dozen books on running and a stack of journal articles with notes and highlights. This method takes the most time and requires that you are a bit of a running geek. There is also a considerable amount of risk involved as we have a limited ability to see ourselves objectively. We are always emotionally attached to ourselves and run the risk of being either too easy or (more often) too hard on ourselves when it comes to training. If you have a bad race and are self coached, it is easy for you to blame yourself and bombard yourself with self doubt. This is still a better method than downloading a plan but requires more time and effort to capitalize on. For this option you need to have a solid grasp of the exercise science as well as the time and energy to craft your own training plans.

A Live Coach

The next option is to get a coach (I am considering this for the new year myself). A face to face relationship with a local coach is the best option. You may have access to a good coach through a local running club or a training group at your local running store. Lots of stores run training groups around local races. This also gives you a community to rally around and having team mates is extremely powerful (not to mention a hell of a lotta fun).  Just make sure that the coach is not some runner who can just run fast. This person needs to have the communication skills necessary to relate to runners as well was the technical knowledge to know what to tell you. Another coaching option is online. Several very reputable coaches have programs that you can go month to month on and are very reasonably priced (less than $50/ month). The key here is to ensure that you get along well with your coach. Read their training philosophy and ensure you buy into it. Make sure that the coach is someone you will be honest with throughout your training. The relationship you have with your coach is probably 10x more important than the coach’s technical knowledge.The relationship you have with your coach is probably 10x more important than the coach’s technical knowledge. Click To Tweet

Conclusion.

To trust your training you have to ensure that it is tailored to you and matched your lifestyle. Don’t just download a spreadsheet from some random website; do your homework. Learn about training theory so you understand the purpose of the workouts and runs the you are doing. Understand that fitness gains actually come with recovery and rest. Read a few training books or technical articles. Knowing the science will help you trust the training more. If you do seek out a coach interview them and make sure that you are a match for each other. A bad coach/athlete relationship doesn’t help anyone and is guaranteed to do harm. If you can learn to trust your training you will get to the start line knowing that you are prepared to crush your goals.

Enjoy the run.

Great books on Running:

Solid Online Coaching Programs

Believe in Yourself: The power of self belief

Believing that you can do something is vital to your success as an athlete. This essentially is a positive attitude about yourself, your training, and your racing. Additionally, self-belief or self trust is the ability to know your body and respond to it appropriately. You need to be able to trust the feedback you are getting from your training and then adjust accordingly. If you do not believe that you can do something it will be harder to accomplish it.

Knowing your fitness and being able to read your body’s feedback is key. If a workout really expends your energy and you feel on the edge of overtraining or an injury, you need to be confident enough to back off instead of charging ahead. This is a fine line. Daniels talks about this when says that you shouldn’t make a workout harder until it feels easy. Rarely do I have enough time in training to do things this way but the philosophy is still sound. I often don’t move up in distance on my long runs until I can put in a surge the last two or three miles to finish fast. This lets me know that I have more in the tank and can successfully add a couple of miles the next week.

The power of the stories we tell ourselves

Psychologist Stan Beecham in his book Elite Minds talks a lot about the stories that we tell ourselves and how those narratives impact our future. Many times these stories become self fulfilling prophesies.  Beecham talks a lot about how our beliefs influence our behavior and our thoughts. If you can have positive beliefs, if the story that you believe about yourself is a positive one, you will be more successful as an athlete. If you don’t consciously believe that you can accomplish a big goal you will be less likely to take the actions you need to make it a reality.

Self belief and Process Goals

When you turn your attention to process goals rather than times or race placings (which you cannot control), you are more likely to have success. The process goal of using a mantra for the final 4 miles of your half marathon is a goal you have total control over whereas finishing in the top five in you age group is not really under your control. By accomplishing a lot of process goals during training and racing your confidence and ability to accomplish things will increase. You will believe more in yourself because as an athlete you are being more successful at the things you are trying to do. The process is what you want to master. The better results you get from your process based goals the more confidence that you will develop. This confidence will be translated into more self belief come race day.

The psychobiological model of endurance performance hinges on motivation. Essentially you will keep running at that pace until you either are no longer motivated enough to endure the effort or you think that you don’t have enough in the tank. This is why running by feel is such a powerful tool. When you look at your watch you subconsciously tell yourself, “I need to slow down” or “I need to speed up or I’m not going to hit my time goal” or some other thing that is simply not true as it is based on the inherent inaccuracy of a “current pace” GPS measurement.  These negative thoughts contribute to our internal narrative and are manifested with changes in perception of effort. The story that you tell yourself out on the race course, trails, or the roads, needs to be based on the reality of the physical feedback you are getting from your body not some electronic device strapped to your wrist. This is important because of the myriad of factors outside of your effort, that contribute to your actual pace. This allows you to put your performance in perspective. Knowing that you gave your best effort based on how you felt means you have no regrets about your performance. If your goal time was not hit you know that it’s because of something you could not control and not from your lack of effort.  Focusing on process goals and getting in tune with your body are keys to developing a solid base of self belief as a runner.

A lack of self belief will create anxiety about accomplishing your goal. Although a big goal has to scare you, you still need to believe that you can do it. A large part of this is understanding the work that you have to do and instead focusing on that. That work you have to do, the intermediate milestones that you have to hit become your process goals in training and should dominate your focus. I only race two or three times a year. Focusing on a time that I will hit for these races is a misplaced focus. Instead my goals include making sure to fit in strength work after each and every run. That I spend time with my foam roller ion my easy days. I make sure that before my big long runs I pay attention to what I am eating to set myself up or success. All of these things are well within my control and are the bread and butter of successful training. I know that doing these things are the best way to set myself up for success come race day. By focusing on the present reality of training, you can minimize the anxiety of race day and make it a celebration of you training rather than some kind of judgment about your value as a person or a runner.

Practical Steps

Okay. So how do I improve my self belief? How do I tell myself a positive story?

Believe that you have no failures simply events that you learn from. View your training aa series of experiments. If something doesn’t turn out the way your thought tell yourself “that’s interesting” rather than “that sucked.” Come away from a race or a workout not with the idea that you did not accomplish something but that you now know more about how to improve the next time out. You can choose to focus on not hitting your goal time or rejoice that you now know that you need to tweak your nutrition plan or that your pace was a little too aggressive. This can be insanely difficult. Ask yourself what do I know now that I didn’t before this workout or race? What adjustments can I make to my training to perform better next time out? What process goal can I work on to master this aspect of my training? By continually asking how you can improve your training process, and working that feedback into your training, you can remain positive and be confident about your abilities come race day.

Enjoy the Run

Resources:

Elite Minds by Stan Beecham

How Bad Do You Want It by Matt Fitzgerald

Daniels Running Formula by Jack Daniels

The psychobiological model: a new explanation to intensity regulation and (in)tolerance in endurance exercise

Mantras: The Magic of Self Talk

The third tool is the mental game is using mantras or self talk. This is something that you may already be doing instinctively during long runs, workouts, and races. Today I will talk a little bit about the research that supports this and some tips for incorporating it into your training. It is a proven technique, both in research and out on the race course for improving performance.

The Research

Using positive self talk can decrease your rate of perceived exertion (RPE, how hard a given effort feels) and make it easier for you to maintain a given pace during a race. Motivational self talk has been shown to increase power output in a cycling time trial with no corresponding increase in RPE. The cyclists using motivational self talk finished as much as 5% faster than the control group that did not use motivational self talk. Meaning that the cyclists went faster although they did not feel like they were. Essentially their RPE was associated with a greater performance with self talk than without it. In another study cyclists increased their time to exhaustion by 18%  and reduced their RPE, by using positive self talk. These results most likely carry over to running. By using positive self talk you can go faster for a given RPE. It’s probably not a big enough jump that 10k pace feels as easy as half marathon pace, but it’s certainly not an insignificant difference. We are not sure exactly why this works but it has been hypothesized that positive self talk increases motivation during exercise, prolonging time to exhaustion and reducing RPE.  Self talk is an extremely effective mental tool for improving running performance.

How to do it?

A mantra is a phrase or word that you repeat over and over during exercise to help keep you motivated. Select something short that is easily remembered and stated. If you have a form cue (i.e. “Run tall”, “smooth is fast”) that might fit well. If there is a motivational phrase you have from a favorite coach or teacher, that can also be used here. It’s actually important that you select the phrase yourself. This puts you in control of your self talk and increases its effectiveness. Simply put, what works for me is not going to work for you simply because my mantra doesn’t necessarily mean anything to you. My mantra has meaning and history for me and not for anyone else. Basically pick something positive that will remind you to keep going. Choose a mantra that has meaning for you to maximize your chances of it being effective.

Another element to consider is that speaking to yourself in the third person is more effective in managing emotions than talking to yourself in the first person. Saying “I can do this” is not as effective as “Paul, you can do this.” Researchers have said that using the third person creates psychological distance and allows us to better cope with the situation. It allows us to be less emotional about the event and more likely to accept the advice, even though it’s coming from ourselves. 

It’s easy for our minds to wander while running so doing this effectively for significant stretches will take practice. Using a mantra during a run or a race is a great process goal. When you practice, it’s a good idea to use your mantra only on hard days. Because of the increase in speed without a corresponding increase in effort or RPE, save the practice of mantras for workouts and long runs. If you use self talk it is easy to slip into a faster pace without realizing it. As powerful as mental tools are, “physiology always collects its debts” (Ross Tucker). You don’t want to find yourself overtraining on easy days because you kicked up your mental game. Help keep your easy days easy by using a mantra only on hard days.

Summary

  1. Pick a a mantra that has meaning for you. This will be more effective.
  2. When talking to yourself use the third person instead of the first person, to maximize effect
  3. Practice your mantra on workouts and long runs to avoid training too hard on easy days.

Let me know how you are doing with this.

Enjoy the Run.

Process Goals in Depth

In my previous post on process goals, I spoke about having process related goals for every time you go out for a run, whether that is an easy day, a workout, or a race. You need to have goals that you are in control of that are not time related. Things like form cues or racing tactics or a cool down routine are good choices for process goals. A simple one is a set strength workout that you do after every run or a warmup routine that you stick to prior to racing. I am going to talk about why this works and some more ways to incorporate it into your training. Let’s dive in.

Why is this a smart thing to do?

1. Process goals motivate us to accomplish things better than a results goal. When we are in control of something, we are more motivated to accomplish it. If all the tools are at our disposal we feel more empowered than if we need a bunch of external factors to go our way. This stems primarily from a psychological construct called self determination theory. Daniel Pink talks about this, in a work context, in his book Drive. He says that intrinsic motivation, doing something because you find joy in the process rather than chasing the outcome, leads to better outcomes. The more that we focus on the end goal the less likely we are to actually do the hard work that it takes to get there. It seems counter intuitive but it makes sense. If all you are concerned about is running a certain time you will do anything and everything to get that time. The problem is that running a certain time is not completely within your control. If you focus in instead on doing the work, training hard, being honest with your coach, and taking your recovery seriously, you’re more likely to be successful and become a better runner. You may end up hitting that time or you may not. What I can guarantee you is that you’ll be more satisfied with yourself because you invested emotional and psychological energy into something you had complete control over. Weather, competitors, course conditions, and other elements can easily derail a good race result. Nothing can stop you from doing the right things in training on a daily basis. Heidi Grant Halvorsen also speaks about this in her book Succeed. She classifies goals as “get better” goals and “be better” goals. Getting better is a process goal while being better is a result. Getting better goals lead us to focus in the details and specific actions that we ned to accomplish our goals. Strength work, form cues, warm ups, and proper sleep are among the details we need to pay strict attention to as runners.

2. Focusing on the result can easily turn into fantasizing. Matt Fitzgerald has a whole chapter on this in his book How Bad Do You Want It.  In chapter 4 of his book he talks about triathlete Siri Lindley’s failure to make the US Olympic team because she spent so much time fantasizing about being on the team and not enough time focused on the specific actions she needed to take to get her there. Yes, a big ambitious results based goal is useful, but once you set it take the time to map out the steps you need to get there. These steps will be process goals and the elements that you need to devote your attention to on a daily basis. At the end of the training cycle you will have accomplished a great deal more than simply qualifying for a specific race or running a specific time. You will learn more about yourself by getting fully committed to the process of training and not be seduced by the romantic notion of one day of glory. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi talks about this in his book Flow. One of his eight components of Flow is the ability to focus on the task at hand and not be distracted by external factors, like the result. If you are more engaged in the present task you will perform better at that task. One of the things Jack Daniels preaches is for the athlete to always focus on the task at hand. Sounds simple, but it takes tremendous focus and practice to do it successfully. I want to qualify for Boston as much as anyone but to do that I need to put that goal on the shelf and concentrate on executing my training each and every day.

3. Process goals are a hell of a lot more fun. Results are mostly binary, Either you made the time or you didn’t. Either you made it on the podium or you didn’t. With a process goal there are almost always degrees of success. Maybe you didn’t pass 10 people in the last mile but you passed 8. Maybe you didn’t do the full strength workout this week but you got in 8 of the 10 exercises. Maybe las month you were only able to get 6. The process goal allows you to define your success and can give you a clear indicator of where you have improved and where you still need to put in more work.  Our minds love accomplishing things and receiving validation. Its better to get that validation on our own terms through process goals than outsource it to external factors we cannot control.

How to incorporate this into your training?

Process goals are a bit of a mind shift and I recommend doing it slowly and gradually. There are three areas that immediately come to mind when I think about integrating this practice into your training: season goals, daily training, and running identity.

For your season goals set a big race goal and then spend serious time detailing how you will get there. If this is difficult for you enlist the help of a coach who can break the goal down into manageable, tangible milestones. Then make those milestones your focus. Set your season goal on the shelf for a while and concentrate on hitting those process based milestones.

In daily training make process goals the center of your routine. Your warm up can be a process goal. Try to use words to describe your effort levels rather than paces. Paces are results that you cannot control but you are completely in control of your effort. Use words like easy, comfortably hard, and steady. When you want to pick it up tell yourself to just go a little faster. Find breathing rhythm that you can go to to shift gears. Paces, just like race results, are dependent on a host of external factors. Mastering the feeling of your running efforts will go a long way toward mastering your craft.

All of us who call ourselves runners deal with running identity. Am I really a runner if I only run 3 times a week? What if I really have no desire to do a marathon/ultra/5k? What if I can only run 10 minute mile? Social media has made it almost impossible to not compare ourselves to others as we we read their seemingly daily highlight reel of PRs and successful workouts. Know and relish in the fact that your identity as a runner does not stem from your race results; it is a product of the daily commitment that you make to training.  The day in day out, week in week out grind of training says more about you as a runner (and a human) than any race result ever will. Your life may not allow you to train like an elite but you’ve made a commitment to the process and that is what matters. Process goals will enable you to accomplish a lot in running while still maintaining your sanity and being in control of your emotional health.

Your identity and as a runner does not stem from your race results; it is a product of the daily commitment that you make to training. Click To Tweet

Conclusion

Process goals are another element in the mental game that can help you continue to improve as a runner. Take some time to develop some simple process goals that you an focus on in your training. Remember that this will take time to get proficient at and it will bring incredible value to your training and racing. Let me know how things are going and if you need some help mapping out some process goals let me know, I can help.

Enjoy the Run.

Further Reading

Drive – Daniel Pink

How Bad Do You Want It – Matt Fitzgerald

Succeed – Heidi Grant Halvorsen

Flow  – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Mental Rehearsal for Runners

As I was browsing through my collection of running tomes (Daniels, Noakes, Magness, Hudson, Lydiard, etc.) something struck me. In the midst of all the talk about base building, tapering, long runs, and tempos, there is hardly anything on the mental aspect of training. If you do a bit of searching online you will find that almost all of the top level athletes do some form of mental training. At the highest levels of distance running the physiological differences are minuscule and every competitor is looking for that thing that will separate them from the pack. For many, that thing is mental training. So if I am a recreational runner what use does it have for me? I am not competing against the world’s best or trying to pay my rent with racing. Even though you may not be feeding your family with your running, you may still have a burning desire to see what your capable of (I know I sure as hell do). To see what your potential really is when everything goes right. This is where mental training can provide you an advantage. By incorporating mental training into your arsenal, you can squeeze every last ounce of potential out of your training and your racing. If there is a PR you just cannot seem to break or your racing strategy falls apart once the gun goes off, mental training is the thing you need to put you over the edge.

The first element of mental training I am going to look at is visualization.

What is it?

Visualization, or “mental rehearsal” as it’s sometimes called is the act of practicing using only your mind. Some people prefer the term “mental imagery” as they feel that term better encompasses the multi sensory experience that encompasses this practice. As I read more and more about it I think mental rehearsal is a better term. Imagery and visualization are both eyesight centric terms and the visual is only a single aspect of what you do with mental rehearsal. Mental rehearsal is a way to train your body by using just your mind.

In mental rehearsal you don’t physically do the activity you just simulate it with mental images and other sensations. This technique is used quite extensively in the highest levels of athletic performance.  It is something that you can use to improve your training and racing results. The goal of visualization is to convince your mind (and your body) that you are actually doing the activity. You go over in your mind all the things that happen during your race. The closer you get to the feelings you will have during the activity the better. What does your breathing feel and sound like? What is the rhythm of your footfalls at race pace? Do you feel your glutes woking? What does the surface feel like under your feet? What will it feel like when you make a move in the last 3 miles? The more detailed you can make your mental experience the better it’s going to work.

Why does it work?

On a certain level your body does not know the difference between a good mental rehearsal and the real thing. In essence you get to train without the physical wear and tear on your body. This happens because as you mentally rehearse, the body believes that you are actually doing the work and it makes adaptations that will help you do this better. This happens on a neuromuscular level. As you mentally rehearse running, the same neural pathways used in running are activated; just not enough to actually contract the muscles. You may have heard of a study where basketball players mentally rehearsed free throws and actually improved more than the players that did physical practice. You can do the same thing with running. So if you spend 15 minutes at race pace in a mental rehearsal, the body adapts to this. Studies have shown that mental practice has a positive effect on physical muscle power. The key is doing it well and doing it often enough to make a difference in your training.Mental rehearsal is a great way to better prepare for races and hard workouts. Click To Tweet

How to do it

Before you try and integrate mental rehearsals into your training, I’d advise you to go on a few runs as research. On these research runs pay strict attention to how you feel. What does the air feel like on your face? Where are your arms swinging? Do you hear anything? What does your breathing feel like? After collecting these sensations you will be better able to mentally simulate them.

If you are just starting out with mental rehearsal as a runner, start small and work your way up. At first it may be difficult to maintain the focus needed for the length of time that you need to simulate an entire race. I’d say start out with a repeat or a short workout to rehearse in your mind. The more vivid and visceral you can make the rehearsal the better results you are going to get. Find a quiet place, close your eyes and imagine the road in front of you. Imagine what the target pace feels like. The pace (in terms of time) will be of no value to you here. Your body doesn’t understand 7:35 or a 90 second quarter. You need to feel it. That’s what your body will respond to. What is the sound your feet are making? What does the rhythm of your feet sound like? How does your arm swing feel? Is your thumb brushing against your shorts every time it goes by? What is the rhythm of that? What’s it sound like? If it’s a race, is there a crowd? What are they doing? Are you passing people? The most vital aspect of this is to replicate the feelings and sensations that you will have when you are actually running the effort. This is yet another reason to learn how to run by feel; it makes it easier to do effective mental rehearsals.

The more you do this the better your rehearsals will become and you will be able to focus for longer periods of time. You could probably do mental rehearsal for an entire 5k but I doubt you’d be able to focus for a full 10k or a longer race. For the longer races identify the key moments in the race and mentally rehearse those. Maybe how you’ll make it through mile 20 of a marathon or deal with a key hill in a half marathon. This practice can also be used to deal with race day anxiety. If the race is more familiar to and you have replayed it in your mind a few times before, there will be less anxiety and more excitement about competition. You will feel more ready to race and race well.

In summary:

  • Mental rehearsal is a great way to better prepare for races and hard workouts.
  • Learning to recognize and reproduce the sensations that you feel while running well is key to good mental rehearsals
  • Start small. Try it for a few minutes when you first wake up or just before going to bed to get started. As you get better start using it for key workouts and then move on to races.

I will be incorporating this into my current marathon training cycle and see how it goes. (Maybe this time I can finally start slow and not blow up with cramps half way through!) If you give this a try, drop me a line and let me know how this works for you.

Enjoy the Run.

The Mental Game

As important as mental toughness or mental fitness is to success in running, the vast majority of the information out there is focused on the physiological aspects of training. Training schedules, tips on the long run, and strength routines to help you improve running economy and minimize injuries. There’re seems to be very little about what you need to do in order to be mentally sharp and focused come race day. So I decided to do some research and create a resource that I would love to have on mental training for runners. It has blossomed into a series of posts as this topic is extremely huge and I wanted to give myself (and you) some concrete tools to use in training and racing. I will talk about the theory behind the practices and give you step by step guidance as to how to do the practices and incorporate them into your training. Let me also say that I am not a sports psychologist by any means. I’m just a coach doing a bit of research and some critical thinking. Here’s what I intend to cover:
  1. Visualization. What it is, why you should do it. How/why does it work. How to get started.
  2. Process versus outcomes. I did  a short piece on process goals not too long ago. This one will be more in depth and provide some real examples to use on a daily basis.
  3. Mantras. What are they, why do they work, and how to implement them.
  4. Self belief – Believing that you can do something is vital to your success as an athlete.
  5. Trusting your training – Trust is the foundation of any coaching relationship. I will also explain why trusting your training (whatever the source) is a key to unleashing greater performance.
  6. Team mates –  Community is a big part of running and getting some people to challenge and challenge you is a great way to build mental toughness.
  7. Running by feel – I have talked about this before and this is something that I continue to work on myself. The more research I do the more I realize that this practice, seemingly physical, actually helps to improve your mental abilities as well.

Enjoy the Run

How Running by Feel and Process Goals led to a silver medal

Frerichs at the USATF Outdoor Championships

Frerichs at the USATF Outdoor Championships

In the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London, Courtney Frerichs won the silver medal in the women’s steeplechase. She beat the world record holder and reigning Olympic champion as well as several other runners with PRs faster than hers. In reading about this race on flotrack, two things jumped out to me. The first was a process goal and the second about running by feel.

 

Frerichs is coached by Jerry Schumacher of the Bowerman Track Club. Before the race he told her to just go with Emma Coburn, the American record holder and Olympic bronze medalist, from the gun. This was a process goal. Jerry didn’t know what Coburn was going to run. He did know that with Coburn’s fitness and experience in big events, she would most likely race very well. He was right. By staying with Coburn from the gun Frerichs was able to maintain good enough position throughout the race to give herself a shot at a medal.

 

The second thing was about running by feel. Further down in the article it mentions the speed work that Frerichs had been doing. It says that she used to look at her watch every 100 meters during workouts. This is the antithesis of running by feel. By looking at your watch you are breaking rhythm and slowing down as your focus shifts from running to interpreting the numbers on your watch. You get inside your own head, inserting doubt that you can run that fast or being upset with yourself for running that slow. This is a mental mistake many runners make without even knowing it. Apparently her coaches got her to run more by” instinct” rather than being a slave to the numbers on the watch.

 

Through having a process goal Frerichs put herself in a position to medal. Running by feel gave her a better sense of what she was capable of and most likely boosted her confidence. As  a result she was able to crush her PR by 16 seconds and take home a silver medal at the world championships.

 

Process goals and running by feel are two things that can help you race better as a runner.

 

Enjoy the Run.

Recovering by Feel

Listen to your body for recovery

One of the staples of my current training schedule is some sort of speed session on Wednesdays. I will do a tempo run, a fartlek, or some configuration of comfortably hard running. In reviewing my training logs for the past few weeks (you should do that on a regular basis) what I found is that I am not fully recovered from my sessions. My second set of structured work felt harder and the pace was not nearly as consistent. For me a typical workout may be 2 x 3 miles at threshold pace. What I have forgotten is a cardinal rule of Jack Daniels’ training system: always know the purpose of the workout. The purpose of doing the speed sessions is to train the body to run at that speed with solid form. If you are running fast with bad form you are inviting injury and practicing bad habits. The biggest enemies of good form are poor strength and fatigue. If you are not strong enough in the right places you will not be able to run with good form. For example if your hips are not strong enough to stabilize the knee at impact, energy that could be used to propel you forward is being applied to your knee, inviting injury. If you are too tired to focus on your form or the muscles are simply spent from your previous effort, you will have similar results. This is important because the key to a successful workout is not the time you spend running the at the target effort, but the time spent recovering for the next bout. When you aren't sure what the recovery time should be, go by feel. Your body knows what it’s doing. Click To TweetYou should be fully recovered and ready to go. When I looked at my training log I found that I was giving myself like 90 seconds to recover from a comfortably hard three miles. Definitely not enough time. So I the next time out I recovered by feel by feel. After running the three miles I paused my watch and walked around the corner. I paid close attention to my breathing while I walked. When I felt pretty good I went back at it for the second set. It made a world of difference. My effort felt better and the pace was closer to the first set than it had been previously. When you are not sure what the recovery time in a workout  should be, go by feel. Your body knows what it’s doing.

Enjoy the Run

Three Items every Runner Should Own

RaceDots, Foam Roller, and Elastic Bands

RaceDots, Foam Roller, and Elastic Bands

Today I am going to talk about three things that every runner should have and use regularly. I am not mentioning the obvious things like shoes or a gps watch. Those are super obvious and you most likely already have a religion like relationship with your shoes and your watch (or is that just me)? So I will not talk about those. There are also a host of other items that are nice but not essential. Things like headphones, good socks (I know a lot of runners that never wear socks), or a heart rate monitor (don’t waste your money). Those things are more personal preference and will not necessarily make you a better athlete and runner. The items I am going to talk about here are things that I did not use when I started running but have become indispensable as I have gotten older and more serious with my running. Used properly they will have positive effects on your overall fitness. Here are three things (besides shoes and a watch) that can make a huge difference in your running. Click To Tweet

  1. Foam Roller. Most of us cannot afford to get massages after every hard run or workout. We simply don’t have the time or money to make this a reality. A foam roller is the next best thing. By rolling your muscles your train the fibers to line up properly, increasing the ease at which the muscle can lengthen and contract. This makes them more functional. When you do hard workouts or long runs, you do damage to the muscle fibers and when you recover these muscle fibers heal and become more capable. Your foam roller helps them do this in an orderly fashion. I use my foam roller on a daily basis whether I run or not. It is a vital part of my post run routine. A lacrosse ball is also a great tool to have for reaching those, small tight areas that need special attention (think your glutes or the bottom of your foot).
  2. Set of Elastic Bands. These are like magic. I first discovered these when I had some pain in my ankle that just would not go away. Doing some searching online and talking to my doctor, I built a physical therapy protocol that called for using these bands to rehab my injury. Since then I have found other physical therapy protocols and exercises that I have incorporated into my training when necessary. On more than one occasion I felt something strange coming on and by using these bands I was able to not lose any time running and make myself stronger than before. There are also mini-bands that you can use to incorporate some resistance into several strength training moves. These are small, inexpensive, travel well, and are incredibly useful. If you don’t own a set I encourage you to get some and give them a try.
  3. Race Dots. Okay, these will not directly impact your fitness but I love mine so much I just had to mention them. These are super powerful rare earth magnets that you use to attach race bibs to your shirt or sports bra. No more safety pins destroying my favorite singlets and technical shirts. Admittedly these will not directly affect your fitness. However, they can have a huge impact on your mental state on race day. I love that I don’t have to worry about my bib being crooked or bunched up because with race dots you can adjust the bib with the magnets still on. If you’ve ever stabbed yourself with a safety pin on race morning you’ll never risk doing that again. I am a huge proponent on limiting stress on race days and for me race dots are an important part of that. If you race a lot these are a must have.
What things have you found vital to you running?
Enjoy the Run.

How and when to break the 10% rule

There is a lot of conventional wisdom in magazines and the internet about only increasing your mileage by 10% per week. The claim is that this helps to prevent injury. The underlying assumption is that the more you run or the more drastic the change to your training, the higher your chance of injury. There are several things wrong with this. Let’s look at a couple of issues with this “rule."

First it assumes that volume of training (distance) is the most important variable in your training. It's not; your body and training is much more complex than that. If you have been running a lot of hills and are transitioning to flatter routes, you can probably go more than 10%. If you've run longer in a previous training cycle, that neuromuscular fitness (or at least some of it) will still be there to support your running. If you’ve been going pretty hard and at the max volume you’ve ever run, 10% may be too much. Intensity is important. If you've finally figured out that your easy runs really need to be easy, you can probably increase mileage more than 10% safely. Other factors such as life stress, health, altitude, weather, etc., can all affect how and when you increase your mileage. The real thing is that it affects each person differently. You need to understand which variables are key for your training.

 
Secondly there's no scientific evidence to support it. That's right. There is no peer reviewed study that shows that 10% is some magic number. How this idea has persisted for so long is a mystery. It's almost as bad as the 180 steps per minute cadence "rule.”  Which is also not backed by any scientific evidence. In fact there is evidence to the contrary.  Just like your optimal cadence is a function of your particular biomechanics and pace, your optimal mileage progression is a function of your unique running and training parameters.
 
So you're probably asking yourself, "Okay, so how do I figure this out for me?"  I'm glad you asked:
  1. If you haven't already, incorporate running specific strength work after every run. There are great guides from RunnersConnect, Jason Fitzgerald, and Jay Johnson online. This is your best tool against injury prevention. The real issue is that you are not training your muscles and tendons hard enough through running alone. You need additional neuromuscular stimuli during training for your muscles and tendons to keep pace with your heart and lungs. Keep your chassis tuned as you grow your engine.
  2. Listen to your body. This is probably the most important element. If you feel like you need a day off take one. If you're feeling really good and want to throw in some easy miles on a day you usually don't run, give it a try. Understand the adjustments you can make in your stride to deal with potential injuries. When I get a a certain type of pain in my foot I know that focusing on landing with my lower leg vertical can alleviate it. Pay attention to what is happening with your body and adjust accordingly.
  3. Don’t be a slave to a training schedule. The vast majority of training schedules were not designed with your particular training history and lifestyle in mind. They are written for some ideal, average runner who doesn’t really exist. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments based on what your body is telling you and what is going on in your life. Many a day I have skipped a run because one of my kids kept me up half the night. I also move long runs and workouts around to adjust to various life events. Know how to adjust your training to make it work best for you.
Enjoy the Run