We’ve recently added a lot of new CARs to the group who have not yet had the benefit of hearing all of the training philosophy rants that the veteran CARs hear every week. I’m feeling the need to put together a quick summary of the basic rules that I’d like everyone to adhere to during training and racing just so that we’re all on the same page.
“Start Slow and Finish Fast” – going out too fast in races or workouts is something akin to self immolation without the gasoline and the match. You will go up in flames, and once the damage is done, there is no way to undo it. Always begin your races and workouts conservatively, give your body a little time to warm up and become more physiologically efficient, and then slowly work the pace down to where you want to be. If you get into the habit of running every single workout that you do in that fashion, you’ll always finish your workouts feeling good, you’ll recovery more quickly from workout to workout, and you’ll experience rapid gains in fitness.
“Drink More Fluids” – dehydration is a runner’s worst enemy, and the vast majority of runners underestimate their fluid intake requirements. Keeping yourself properly hydrated is something that you have to pay attention to 24/7, 365 days a year if you expect to be able to perform up to your capabilities. I hound everyone about this subject more than any other because so many of you show symptoms of chronic dehydration in the form of muscle cramps, headaches, unexplained fatigue, extremely dry lips and skin, etc. Always try to keep a bottle of water, fruit juice or sports drink within arms length and make sure you’re drinking it steadily throughout the day (note: drinks containing caffeine or alcohol don’t do any good in keeping you properly hydrated).
“Slow Down” – one of the biggest traps that the typical Type A personality distance runner falls into is the mistaken belief that in order to race faster, you have to be training to the max every day (or as often as possible). If left to their own doing, the vast majority of distance runners will overtrain, and leave themselves overtired and unable to compete up to their ability on race day. It is completely counterintuitive to think that in order to race faster, you need to train slower, but that is exactly the case with most runners. Keep in mind that effective training is endless cycles of stress (interval, hill, tempo or long run sessions) followed by rest. You should never overdo the stress days (stick with the pace targets that are laid out for the workouts) and make sure that the easy recovery days really are easy recovery days so that your body can rebuild and get the benefits of the hard work you did on the stress days. If you’re out there putting the pedal to the metal every day, you’re going to dig yourself into a fatigue hole that at the very least will leave you very frustrated with your running, and at worst, will lead to injury and illness.
“Get More Sleep” – if you’re not getting enough sleep, you can’t expect to train effectively. Your workouts will feel awful and your body will eventually break down if you’re training with a constant sleep debt. Ideally, you should be getting a steady 8 hours of sleep per night. If that isn’t possible, get as much as your schedule will allow.
“It’s A Beautiful Day For A Run!” – even if it seems like it isn’t, once you get out the door and get going, you’ll always be glad you did it.
I’m sure that many of you could come up with other frequently uttered phrases aimed at increasing your running potential such as “Quit your job”, “Cut your class”, and “Put the kids up for adoption”, but the ones above are the most important and practical.