Training Framework

Training has many different aspects to it, but I think we all have a tendency to focus on the physical running part more than anything else. Running is definitely one of the defining aspects of our training, but our training should include much more than just running.

When anyone asks us what our training looks like, we immediately go to how many miles we’re running and how many days a week. They might as what we’re training for and we’ll throw out the name of our goal race or possibly just the next one on the schedule.

Even if you’ve never really thought of it, our training encompasses more than just running. Training can be broken down into physical, psychological, and nutritional. Making sure you take the time to consider each of these separate from the other, guarantees you’ll be thinking about them and adding them to your training plan in some form.  You can set goals related to each of these different aspects of your training.

Physical training includes your running, strength training and rest days. Running is at the core of our training and it is our goal. We want to run for life not just for the next race and because of that goal all of these other aspects of training get pulled in. Being the best runners, we can be means we need to address speed, endurance, and strength in our training schedule. If you want your training to mean anything, you have to rest. Without rest our body cannot adapt and get stronger.

Psychological training includes strategies for dealing with down times during a race, lack of motivation in training, boredom, going out too fast, and rest. Ultrarunners know finishing a race hinges on pushing past the low points, and there will be low points. Getting through months of training and any injuries takes mental fortitude like you wouldn’t believe. Being prepared for these challenges is critical to getting to the starting line let alone the finish line. Psychological rest is being able to find other things you enjoy that reduce your stress level because if you get injured and have to take time off, you need to have other things you can focus on to get you through and back to running.

Nutritional training includes day to day nutrition and hydration, race day nutrition and hydration, and recovery nutrition and hydration. All runners think about race day nutrition, but not all of them think about their day to day nutrition or their recovery nutrition. The same goes for hydration. Yeah, we all laugh and say we run so we can eat whatever we want, but for most runners eating ice cream, fatty burgers, pizza, and French fries is not going to help you reach your running goals. There may be an argument for recovery though, at least for your postrace meal. Our body gives what it gets. Try different ways of fueling and hydrating your body during training, and you’ll be able to dial it in making your race a success.

Limiting our definition of training to just our weekly running schedule or our next goal race is short sighted and won’t get us what most of us want, which is to run healthy and strong for the rest of our lives.

Eager Beaver

Not everyone is an eager beaver. Pulling yourself out of the winter hibernation can be quiet the process. “But it’s running!” the beavers say. I know I totally get it beav. I’m right there with you rearing to go, chomping at the bit, barely containing the animal within.

But for some, it takes time for the snow to melt, the limbs to thaw, and the warm blood to reach the toes. It can be especially challenging if you have dropped your miles very low over the winter months or if you had a disappointing race season before the cold hit your neck of the woods.

When your miles drop to the point that you are having to work up to the fitness level where you were at the close of the race season, overcoming that mental hurdle of knowing how hard it can be to come back is your most formidable enemy, but you’ve slain this foe before. Write yourself a good gradual training program, set some goals along the way, sign up for races with increasing distances, and help your running partners thaw themselves out as well. Remember how great it feels when you’re at peak fitness. And at the end of next season, rethink the idea of maintaining a higher milage base.

A disappointing race season can leave you depressed and questioning why you work so hard only to miss the goal you set for yourself. If you find yourself in this space, you really need to get out into the sunshine, even if it is just to sit on a park bench. Soak in some of the suns rays. Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. Wiggle your toes in the grass and earth. Brush your fingers gently on the blossoms covering the trees. Breathe the mountain air. There is nothing like getting outside away from the business of the city to reignite the fire that fuels your engine.

Once your brain is in a better place, it’s time to rethink your race season. Failures are only failures if you learn nothing from them and continue to repeat them. There’s a Chinese proverb that says, “Failure is not falling down; it’s not getting up.” Find the places where you think you were less than your best and pull them apart until you know why. That “Why” is your starting place.

Turn your why around and look at it from every angle. Get intimate with it. Pull it apart and turn it inside out. Now, come up with a plan to kill the why. This will likely be trial and error during your training.

Trial and error can be fun. It makes you think outside the box. It makes you dig deep and find something new about yourself. You may make new friends through collaboration as you work through this little issue of yours.

We’re runners, we stare into the face of challenge and smile.

 

 

Gearing UP

gearing-up

It’s time to gear up for spring races in the norther hemisphere. Hopefully, you’ve been following a maintenance program through the winter months. How much you need to increase your miles will depend on where you are at and what your race distance is.

If you have a standard training program you’ve found on the internet (you can find mine above) or in a book, find the week that matches what you have been doing and start from there.

As you increase your miles, don’t forget the two golden rules of running: First, only increase your miles by ten percent each week; and second, every fourth week should be a rest week, reduce your miles by twenty to twenty-five percent.

After deciding where to start and working out the details of your training plan, think back to the things you struggled with last season. It could be loads of things, hydration, fueling during runs, falling a lot, climbing, or descending. Ideally, you worked on these issues while you were doing maintenance, but… Once you have a few things you’d like to work on, brainstorm different ways you can address the problem.

Hydration: this is something you have to stay on top of from the very beginning of a race/run. Find a way to remind yourself to keep drinking. Don’t chew gum because it increases saliva. You’ll drink if your mouth gets dry. Try taking little sips frequently or longer pulls every mile (when your garmin beeps). You could count your steps and sip every one hundred. Keep in mind you need to think about electrolytes too.

Fueling on the go: this is another one you have to stay on top of from the beginning of the race/run. You may want to eat something small before the race starts. Don’t over eat the night before to the point where you can’t eat the next morning. Eating something small every hour is the best way to sustain your energy throughout the race/run. Find different things you can tolerate, in case something makes you sick or is just unappetizing. Try different amounts of food too. It may be easier for you to eat more frequently, even every half hour or twenty minutes, just taking bites of things.

Falling a lot: You might just be clumsy, but I doubt it. Muscle imbalances can cause falling as can not paying enough attention to where you are putting your feet. Maybe your feet are not fast enough to prevent tripping or changing your foot placement once you figure out it’s precarious. Another problem could be your balance and proprioception. Muscle imbalances between your outer thigh and inner cause instability in your lower leg, ankle and foot. Having high arches can also cause some instability. Working on agility training with a speed ladder helps with foot placement and being able to move them quickly. Balance, proprioception, and core exercises will help as well.

Climbing and descending: just do it. A lot. You can also add strength training to your routine; for climbing focus on hamstrings and glutes; for descending, core and quads.

The goal is to go into your spring races stronger than you did your pervious fall races and certainly stronger than last spring’s races.

Can’t Make it Up

extra-credit

Life isn’t like high school— you can’t make up the work. There’s really no credit recovery system in place. And there isn’t extra credit. Sorry.

This is why it is so important to catch waning motivation early, injuries, overtraining, and even boredom. When you miss a training session, sleep, or a meal (among other things in everyday life outside of training), you can’t go back and insert it. Your body just doesn’t work that way.

So what do you do if you miss a critical training session or don’t sleep well the days coming into a race? You press reset and move forward. Don’t look back and for god’s sake don’t try to “make it up” or get “extra credit.” The only thing you will get for your efforts is less. You’ll deplete your body and it won’t be ready for the next session, if you try to throw in an extra workout. You also run the risk of an unnecessary muscle strain or similar minor injury, especially, if you are a beginning runner or not used to doing two a day workouts.

Sleep—that precious recovery time a body needs (and my mind despises). If you lose it, it really is gone. Harvard Medical School actually did a study on this very issue click here for the study. The sleep foundation summed up the findings, “Even when you sleep an extra ten hours to compensate for sleeping only six hours a night for up to two weeks, your reaction times and ability to focus is worse than if you had pulled and all-nighter.”

Making up calories doesn’t sound reasonable to me unless you are trying to gain weight. If you’re maintaining or losing it’s counterproductive. Over eating at a meal, isn’t good for you. It can make you feel hungrier the next day, which sets you up for eating more the next day too. You eat to fuel your body when it needs fuel. You don’t overeat to replenish your body’s energy supply for work you did the day before.

So if you miss a training session, a meal, or sleep, move forward. Don’t criticize or berate yourself either, that doesn’t help anyone and can lead to less motivation and progress. Press reset and move on.

Creating Lasting Change

lasting-change

It’s resolution time!! January of every year most of us make resolutions about how to change our lives to make them better or to get into a better place  allowing us to do the things we really want to be doing.

The problem is after about six weeks we give up. We might drag it out for another two weeks, but ultimately the changes don’t hold, so how do we create lasting change?

First, start with your language. Resolution just has a negative connotation, even if it’s a positive word, it carries some heavy baggage because so many people give up. I use the word goal.

Second, don’t go into things at full throttle. If you are new to swimming, you don’t jump in the deep end. It’s the same with any other exercise program you begin as well as other areas of life. Go slow.

Third, don’t set the bar too high. Change takes time. You can’t expect to go from novice to expert overnight. That type of approach results in injury. Slow and steady wins the race. Learning to do something properly is more important than learning quickly.

Fourth, Forgive yourself for set backs, but hold your self accountable too. Beating yourself up for mistakes is not going to help you move forward. If you miss a day, it’s not the end of the line. Start fresh each day. You also know when you are making excuses. Excuses to not do something, are a dime a dozen. Find reasons to follow through.

Fifth, track your progress. Keep a chart and check off days that you have followed through. You can take it a step further by tracking improvements such as weigh lifted, pace, distance, or whatever it is you are working toward.

Sixth, celebrate success. Don’t go all crazy and eat a cake or something silly that could set you back in your goals. Try little rewards, like new socks, new shoe laces, a new headband. Anything to make you feel good about what you are doing.

Having a support person who has the same goal and is committed to reaching it, is very helpful in maintaining a commitment to change your life style.

Burnout

burnout

I’m just sick of doing this over and over again. What do you do when this is what comes out of your mouth or echoes in your head before every run? Burnout is caused by repeating the same thing over and over, overworking your body at every training session, and stress.

Variety is important in every area of life you want to maintain a certain level of excitement about whatever it is you’re doing. If you run the same route, the same pace, the same time, the same distance, the same… you get the idea, eventually you just want to quite. It’s not fun anymore. Even if you do different workouts during the week, if you keep the same pattern it can lead to burnout. You have to mix it up more than that. Having a secondary sport is a great way to break things up. Try to pick something that is different from running. Running is a solitary sport for the most part, so picking something that is more social is going to keep you engaged in your training more. You can add an aerobics class or a team sport.

Overworking yourself every time you go out for a run kills motivation to run. You should absolutely work hard on your hard days, but you should have easy days too, where you leave the Garmin at home and connect with the reasons you started running in the first place. We all hear about how overtraining can cause injuries because your body is constantly taxed and doesn’t have the time to recover. But there is a mental side of it too, burnout. You become resentful of your running. It’s like any hobby, if you make it more of a job than something you do to relax and have fun, you’re going to hate it. It loses its value.

Stress in other areas of your life suck the life and desire out of other things you enjoy. If stress at work, with family, or with friends is becoming overwhelming taking a break from running for a few days or a week is not a bad thing. This may seem counter intuitive, but you’ll be glad you did and come back to it with new vigor. Just don’t take some much time off that you start losing the benefits you have gained through running. Make sure you have a good support system that can take on some of the things that are weighing you down. Maintaining your love of running includes taking care of other areas of your life.

Depression isn’t the same thing as burnout, but it’s something to look for if you are losing the love of things you enjoy. Check in with yourself and make sure you haven’t lost enjoyment in all the things you enjoy and that you’re not withdrawing from those that you love.

Keep your fire for running burning and don’t let it burn out.

Does running have to hurt?

muscle-cramps-1

It’s nearly the anniversary of when I fractured my foot and I’m thanking my lucky stars that I took the time and had the discipline to rehab my foot properly so I could run this past season.

Non-runners feel entitled to comment on whether or not running is healthy. Some of the frequent comments/questions I get when people find out I’m a distance runner are, “Isn’t that bad for your knees?” “Running that far can’t be good for you.” “Running long distance is bad for your heart. People have had heart attacks at the end of races.” “If you keep running you’re going to get hurt.”

I’m guessing they get this idea that runners get injured all the time from the research which says 45% of runners get injured each year. Part of the problem with that number is it doesn’t define injured. Whenever we participate in a sport on an ongoing basis, even high school and college level athletes, we have aches and pains, which are a result of our participation in physical activities.

But what does injury actually mean? I think this is subjective to a certain extent. Runners, ultrarunners in particular, tend to push themselves beyond aches and pains. It’s what we do to get to a finish line of a 100 mile race. If we stopped when it hurt, most of us would never finish. Even when we do have more than a simple ache or pain we continue our training and continue to increase our miles.

Is this the wrong thing to do? Now I’m no doctor, so you should really talk with them over me, but I don’t think running through an injury is always a bad thing. There are some injuries where it is better to stay active and by that I mean reduce you miles and take it easy for a few weeks. There are other injuries where it is best for you to take time off running and find some type of cross training to do. I’ve always drawn the line as a fracture or more than mild soft tissue injuries.

Sometimes it can feel like we are always dealing with some type of injury or pain, which doesn’t go away when we stop running or take a day of rest. Running is not easy and runners are a tough bunch, aches and pains and even actual injuries are going to happen to all of us at some point in our running career. We need to know before hand, where our line is in the sand and how to tell the difference between an actual injury and just an ache that can be worked through.

Acute stabbing pain is not good. You should take a day off and if it continues for more than 2-3 days see a doctor. Centralized, one particular spot, pain is also a bad sign, if it continues for more than 2-3 days, have it checked out.

Swelling, redness, bruising means ice, rest, compression, and elevation for a few days. Strained muscles and tendons, means you should warm up before running hard and watch your form. Also, look into some type of strength routine for your hips. Weak hips cause a whole host of issues.

As we head into the colder months here in the western US, our race season is coming to a close and many runners reduce their miles for the winter to rebuild their muscles and give their body much deserved rest from the hard work it has put in for the winter.

Winter or off season months are the best time to add in preventative routines to your training, such as strength and stretching.

Listen to your body, think about what it’s telling you, and do what it says most of the time.