One of my favorite things about running is you can see tangible improvements in you progress.
This is typically done through personal best race times. Maybe through your easy pace speeding up as well.
But, the next step is recognizing why you are improving.
Below, I’ve detailed a few reasons that can cause long term improvement in running. It may be the case that you see a couple bullet points below that you’re not practicing.
Your ego is not in control.
The ego wants to run hard. Wants to run long. Wants to race and wants results as soon as possible. Well, the ego is not your amigo when it comes to healthy running. Most of your running should be easy, extra long runs should be sparse, and improvement comes over months and years.
You’re focused on the long term.
A new runner may want to go couch to marathon as soon as possible, and it could be that doing so would result in them completing the distance. However, their experience with a first marathon is going to be infinitely more enjoyable if they do a couch to 5k, then train for a 10k, half marathon next, maybe a year or two after running they train for a marathon.
Even an experienced athlete will still benefit from a gradual buildup and progression of training, to achieve a better longer race experience. For most people, the longer you delay moving up in distance, the more successful you’ll be. The main reason for this is that improvement comes very slowly with running. The most important part of a marathon training plan is not the plan, but the running you consistently did before starting the plan.
Your training plan follows you.
Speaking of the plan. If you cannot hire a coach to write you custom training based on your own schedule, the next best thing is to at least be mindful enough to recognize when a schedule needs to change. If you’re not feeling up for a speed workout, put it off. If you lost half a night of sleep because of a sick child, sleep and skip the easy run. You’re a 24 hour athlete, and what what you do during the other 23 hours a day influences that hour run and the recovery from it.
You run easy when you need to.
Looking at the training of profession runners, they consistently run about 3/4th of their miles at an easy effort. This is essential to being able to run as much as they can and is probably true for amateurs as well. Don’t be fooled by the “easy” in easy running, you’re still improving because of these workouts. A theory is that much of a runner’s adaptation to the hard workouts comes from running easy in a slightly fatigued state, after the hard efforts.
You run hard when you must.
While 3/4th of your volume should be easy, that other quarter or so is the qualify work. Hard efforts have multiple benefits. A couple being they break down the body to stimulate regeneration to a point stronger than you were. It’s suggested that easy running after hard workouts also causes the body to adapt, as said above. To make this happen, running hard when it is called for is essential. And running easy on easy days helps make this happen.
You’re not afraid to not run.
This is were the ego (who always wants to run run run) is again, not your amigo. Being able to recognize the need to take a bit of a rest from running and (way more importantly) actually taking that little rest, is often enough to keep you running consistently. Not running for 3 days after you feel a little ankle niggle to let it rest, perhaps from landing poorly during a trail run, can be the difference between taking 3 days off and taking 3 weeks off if you try to run through it.
You do ancillary work.
This includes everything you do while not running, to support the running. Strength worth can help remedy any muscle weaknesses or imbalances. Foam rolling and massage may help your body move and feel better. Meditation can help increase your mindfulness and simply improve mood. Drills outside of running can help improve how you move while running. They take more effort, mentally and physically, than simply going out for a run – but they’re probably worth it.
And most importantly, you’re mindful of your training and body.
This is all encompassing. I feel that mindfulness can lead to knowing all of the points above. Being mindful of when you need to run easy, run hard, do strength work, take a few rest days. It all comes back to knowing and recognizing this need.
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