Our good intentions and minds cannot will our bodies to do more than they are capable of. (Well, they can, like at the last push at the end of a race, but I’m talking about being smart while training). Push your body to do too much, and eventually it gives out and forces you to become sidelined.
Because we are approaching that time in spring training where mileage starts to increase and injuries start to show up, I wanted to take a moment to highlight two thoughts I shared on Facebook this week.
There’s been a lot of recent chatter about the LONG RUN. Should you run it fast? Is the long, slow run dead? Is the long, slow run just “junk miles”? (Ditch the Long, Slow Run is one of those articles, with at the very least, a misleading headline.)
The thing people tend to forget is that the average runner does not run as many weekly miles as the elite runner. Those of us who are mere mortals cannot afford to run the bulk of our miles at race pace… unless we want to risk spending much of the season injured.
After a long effort and after a hard, fast effort, your body needs to recover. A high mileage runner will recover from those runs faster than someone with a lower mileage base. A newer runner, or a runner with a smaller base, can’t look at the elite training plan and apply the same training intensity.
Alternate days with hard effort (sprints and race pace runs) with days of easier efforts (recovery runs and slower paced runs).
Those slow days are not wasted. Time on your feet is important. Your slower efforts build mitochondria and capillaries, teach your body to burn fat as fuel and create muscle fiber adaptations.
Consistency is also critical when it comes to solid training. If your long run leaves you injured or too sore to complete your next quality workout, it wasn’t the right workout for you at that time. Consistency especially becomes an issue when the 16-20 mile runs start showing up on the training plan.
If you find yourself taking 2-3 day breaks after the long run. And then 3-4 day breaks the next week, that then turn into 3-6 day breaks the following week… the plan is broken.
The long run is not THE ONLY run you should complete each week. EVERY run on your plan should have a purpose. If you’re skipping your speed work or your tempo run because your long run left you too sore…. the plan is broken.
Why? Because all those rest days mean you are not running consistently.
What do you do about it?
You take a break and evaluate the plan.
When we have those little aches that turn into nagging pains, runners like to show what they are made of and push through the pain. “No pain, no gain” is usually not a smart way to train. The longer you run (and the more times you’ve been injured!) you begin to learn the difference between a pain you can train through and a pain that warrants a rest day.
Sure, you have a training plan to follow. Yes, you have a race to prepare for. But, you aren’t going to get to the start line if that little pain becomes a big injury.
The best way to deal with those pains that pop up is to take a rest day or to cross train with an activity that gives the muscle group a rest. (And when necessary, see a medical professional and follow their advice)
You are training for a lifetime of running, not a single event. You will get to race day in better shape by paying attention to your body and adapting the plan accordingly.
You might also like: Fueling and splitting the 20 mile training run
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