These are 6 ways to not improve as a runner and what to do about it.
1. Compare Yourself To Someone Else.
Always appreciate your own ability. There is no one like you and God created only one of you in a world of over 7 billion people.
You are special. Be inspired by others, but also keep in mind they cannot get you out the door or do your workouts for you.
2. Run Faster Than Your Own Good On Recovery Days.
This cannot be stressed enough. You simply cannot keep pushing and expect your body to thank you for all your hard work.
The best runners in the world run slower than your grandma on their easy days. I highly recommend reading Run to Win: The Training Secrets of the Kenyan Runners I have seen first hand what the Kenyans do.
They are good for a reason and they do not continually push.
3. Expect Results Too Quickly.
The hardest thing to do as an athlete is to slow down. We all want results quickly. That being said, results will come if you are patient. Few people believe in delayed gratification.
What good will occupying your mind with clutter help your training output? Often times, this is out biggest enemy. You will get results quicker by slowing down and focusing on the things you can control. Shy away from those you cannot.
Easier said than done, but you can overcome this. You have all the capability, otherwise I wouldn’t think you would be taking the time out of your day to read this.
People who are wanting to get in shape, lose weight or who have been training for years all have one thing in common, their driven.
The greatest lesson I learned while training with the US Army’s World Class Athlete Program is the best athletes don’t always take their training too seriously. CPT John Mickowski was one of them. John was a 49.45 10-miler and 3.38 1500m guy. He didn’t keep a training log nor did he count miles.
What he did do was worked extremely hard and left his workout on the track. He wasn’t over analyzing every detail of every aspect of his training.
Relax, if you have a bad workout…forget it.
Move on to your next effort, the majority of the time that next effort will blow your mind. Why? You let go and let your body rest.
Yes, it is important to be organized but do what works best for you.
Vary Up Your Workouts
There comes a time when you have to just do the hard work and trust in your ability. Too much analyzing and over thinking is a quick way to staleness. You will do this much more successfully by focusing on the workout, then forgetting it.
A great workout doesn’t equal a great race. What you do the hours and days after that track session or road interval is what counts. Don’t over think things. It isn’t worth it. Trust me.
Use your mental energy for the race. Don’t let it discredit you from being the best athlete you can be. I would recommend meditation and Dr. Joseph Murphy’s The Power of Your Subconscious Mind. This is a great book you can find on Amazon.
My collegiate coach, Jack Hazen, had us lay on the floor and just relax for 20 minutes visualizing ourselves achieving our race goals before and after hard workouts.
It was a training tool he learned from Dr. Joe Vigil, a world-renowned exercise physiologist.
Jack Hazen, Lisa Larsen Rainsberger and Dr. Joe Vigil have taught me the most about the importance mental visualization and motivation.
It is vital you train mentally. We know how to train physically. That being said, some of the above mentioned methods will assist you in being a better athlete.
Practice The Pace You Want To Race At
Worry and over analyzing about future races isn’t worth your energy. Practice visualizing several times a day your body performing exactly how you want it to.
Coach Vigil’s book Road to the Top: A Systematic Approach to Training Distance Runners is one of the best books on the market for proper training you can get. I bought it years ago and continue to reference it.
5. Neglect Practicing The Pace You Want To Hold In The Race. A race has no rest breaks and jogging everyday will not prepare you to hit a time goal you are looking for.
Running easy is great for fitness reasons. That being said, if your goal is unrelated to a specific race time, then please continue to run easy and build your fitness.
The Kenyans have trained in such a way that minimizes the ‘slow down’.
This form of training is what we call in the running community, ‘lactate threshold’. It is the point at which lactic acid begins to build up in your bloodstream. What you want to do is train at that intensity and gradually extend the length of time you spend there. Your body will adapt and supercompensate meaning it will absorb the training and bounce back even stronger.
You will notice the fitter you get that that workout you did a couple weeks ago isn’t so hard anymore. It takes 21 days for a physiological adaptation to occur within the body.
The more time you spend practicing your race pace the better you are going to race.
Furthermore, the best runners are clearing lactic acid quicker than it is building up in their bloodstream, thus, they slow down less and maintain pace longer.
This is the goal.
Focus On What You Can Control
6. Over-Train and Race.
I spent from October 2009 to December 2011 chasing the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials standard of 2.19.00 with no breaks whatsoever. I scared it with the 2.26 I ran last year a the Monumental Indianapolis Marathon.
You have to give yourself a break. I would never recommend training any longer than 16 weeks for a marathon. Are there runners out there running back-to-back marathons or ultra’s? Absolutely. That being said, if you want to improve your time don’t over extend your training phase. You want to perform at your maximum.
Allow yourself some down time and don’t be in a rush. There will always be another race. Do not live with regrets that you didn’t try.
If you have dealt with issues in your racing or fitness. Get up, brush your shoulders off. Your best races are in the near future.