Why Train?

thinking runner

We’ve all seen or at least heard about people who don’t do any training and then show up at the starting line of a half marathon or even a marathon. Not only do these people finish, some of them do pretty darn well.

It’s true and can be frustrating to those of us who break our legs (sometimes literally) out on the roads and trails week, after week, after week. So why do we torture ourselves, expend so much time, and so much energy in preparation for a race.

Because it’s not about the race. Have you ever heard the saying it’s about the journey not the destination? It’s like that. Of course, we want the cookie at the end, but training takes months and sometimes years. And it’s the training that teaches you more than any race can.

Training for a race of any distance requires you to learn or at least brush up on some everyday life skills such as, determination, organization, goal setting, and facing challenges. These are things that everyone needs to be successful and productive in life. I don’t care what you do for a living these things, will make you better at what it is you do. Not only will they make you better, but they will make you happier.

What if I don’t want to be a better happier person? Maybe I just want to live in my parent’s basement until I’m forty-five and hold a job for no more than a week at a time (versatility right?). Why should I train?

Training has huge social benefits. In nearly every medium sized city you can find running groups, and runners, they’re friendly people. They like to help each other out and impart their running wisdom. Training consistently also makes you feel better so you are more likely to reach out to new people. Finally, running can make you happier with your body, which leads to confidence. Confidence is like a social magnet.

Training will also help you feel better when you actually do run a race. You won’t be struggling through the miles. You can relax and enjoy the moment and then have energy to enjoy the running community when you cross the finish line. You’re less likely to have gastrointestinal issues, vomiting, heat stroke, and dehydration. Even if you do have these issues during a race, you’ll know how to deal with them if you train.

Training will reduce the likelihood of an injury because you are not just jumping into big miles that your body is not used to doing. Jumping into a race last minute without training or with inadequate training is the best way to get injured. Overuse injuries in particular.

It is training that will help you reach your physical health goals, not one race.

Lacking Motivation?

why run

Motivating other is difficult if not impossible really. If they don’t find the reason to do something within themselves no amount of motivation an outside source provides them will last. There are a thousand reasons why people run, and each runner has their individual reason.

But the bottom line is, you have to find your own reason.

It doesn’t matter what your reason is, so long as it keeps you putting one foot in front of the other. As we reach goals, motivation can change too. Changing motivation shows you that you are making progress.

If you can’t find something, ask other runners why they run.

We all have times when our motivation is low or nonexistent. Some of us push through those times knowing it will come back. Others give up and don’t run for a long time losing all the fitness they worked so hard to obtain.

Motivation can drop for just as many reasons as it can exist such as stress, over training, injury, lack of progress, and lack of a goal, just to name a few.

All of these issues can be fixed. If you’re stressed and have a lot on your plate, cut back your running but don’t stop. Running helps reduce stress and clears your head. You can have some of your most creative ideas while running, which could potentially resolve some of the things causing you to be stressed in the first place.

Over training can lead to loss of motivation because you’re just tired. Learn to listen to your body, take a few days or a week off and get then back out there. Make sure you’re following a good training program that gives you rest days and a rest week. If you need more than two rest days, than take one. Most training programs are pretty adjustable.

Injury is probably the most difficult. You have to wait for it to heal, which can take time. Find alternatives such as running in the pool, cycling, swimming, elliptical, yoga, or paddle boarding. Just stay active so when you do come back (and you will) it won’t be such a jolt to your system.

Lack of progress requires re-evaluating your goals or at least the way you measure progress. If you always do the same runs and the same miles every week, you’re going to level off in the progress department. You have to change it up make it more challenging. You can also measure progress in a lot of ways: do you feel better during the day, do you sleep better, are you losing weight or gaining muscle mass, are you breathing better when running or walking, are you able to go farther, are you even slightly faster?

Some people don’t need a goal. They feel good when they run, so they run. Others need that carrot out there dangling in front of them swinging in the breeze as we bounce along the road. I find that having one big goal and lots of little steps or mini goals is the best way to keep carrot people motivated. If their goal is a marathon, having some 5ks, 10ks, and a half marathon not only boosts their confidence it also keeps them training.

So how do you get your motivation back? You go for a run. And then another. And then another

Ups and Downs of Coaching

coaching

Coaching runners is very rewarding. I love to see them succeed. Their joy at dashing across a finish line they never thought in a million years they would reach is amazing. You come to understand their weaknesses and their strengths. You spend time working with them to improve their ability and their drive.

You are excited at each second they cut off their mile. You’re thrilled when they finish a 5k and feel like they could do another one, when a month before they were the big bad wolf at the finish line.

When they don’t meet their goals and beat themselves up over it, your heart aches for them. When they are injured and frustrated that they must let go of a goal for three months or even a year, it hits you like a shovel in the face.

Coaching is also very hard. When you look at your runners, you see so much untapped potential and skill. You know they can do it, but sometimes they don’t believe that they can.

You want them to want to get better as much as you want them to get better, but that’s not really their goal. You want your runners to love the sport as much as you do, but some of them just don’t and you have to love and accept them anyway.

As a coach, you can give them all the tools and all of your spare time. You can educate them and cheer for them from the sideline. You can write their training programs taking care to not push them too hard or aggravate any chronic issues they may have. You can send them motivational quotes every day.

But it’s them who has to toe the line and not just on race day, but every day.

 

The Dreaded Red Light

red light

When you’re running on the roads, do you stop at all the red lights? And if you do, are you running in place waiting for the light to change?

I’m not advocating crossing the road on a red light of course because you could get hit or get a ticket from a well-meaning police officer concerned about your safety and ability to run the next day.

However, I’m also a realist and know that many runners and cyclists blow through red lights. If you are going to run through a red light, check to make sure the intersection is clear. Don’t rely on someone ahead of you to check the intersection. Ever. Check for yourself and make sure you have enough time to make the crossing or that there is no car in sight. Remember to check for those who are making a right turn on red as well.

Runners who run through reds should be well lighted and easy to see regardless of the amount of light out. Wear a reflective vest, day and night. More importantly, wear both a head light and tail light from dusk until dawn. The early morning hours when light is creeping across the sky and the early evening when the sun is going down are the times when the light makes it the most difficult to see as a driver.

Alright, so if you do stop on every single red light, should you stand still or run in place so your heartrate does not drop?

I see runners do both. I don’t run in place waiting for the light. You’re not standing there long enough for your heartrate to drop by more than a beat or two a minute. You’re body temperature won’t drop that much either for those runners who are worried about getting cold in the winter months.

The only time I consider running in place is when it hurts to start back up. As an ultrarunner sometimes it is just hard to get back going. At those times, I will be the one on the corner running in place.

I don’t stop my garmin either. One of my training partners stops his garmin every time we stop running and he forgets to restart it about half the time. It’s silly to stop it to use the bathroom or wait for a light. These things happen during runs and races, so get over it.

 

Overtraining

recovery

I know I have harped on overtraining before, but I’m going to do it again because the runners prone to doing it, and tend to be the runners who have a difficult time taking it to heart and hearing the wisdom behind the advice.

I’ll make this seriously simple. Here is the bottom line, overtraining causes injuries and is the fastest way to put a stop to your running for three to six months.

That is all.

 

Active Rest

active rest

I can’t sleep, I bounce around, and am scattered when I don’t do something to burn off the extra energy. Do I really have to sit on my ass and do nothing on my rest days? We all know that feeling of electricity beneath our skin when we taper for a race. Some of us “suffer” with the same energy even on rest days.

So what do you do? Active rest is the answer to your woes. Engage in something other than running. The idea is to use supporting muscles or opposing muscles when implementing active rest. This will get you the most bang for your buck and allow your running muscles to rest.

Cycling, swimming, and yoga are all good choices for opposing muscles while team sports such as basketball, football, and kickball will rely on those supporting muscles. This will also open your social circle. There is research that suggests basketball actually is the best activity for increasing bone density.

Having strong opposing muscles prevents injury because your big strong running muscles do not overpower them and it prevents overuse of the running muscles. Strong supporting muscles also prevents injury because you are able to recruit them when the primary muscles become tired and when you are on uneven or technical terrain.

Including other activities in your life will help prevent boredom and burnout.

When you are using active rest, be mindful of your overall fatigue. Some days you just have to sit on your ass and do nothing because that is what your body needs even when your mind says go, go, go.

So don’t be afraid to get out there and expand beyond running. It will make you a stronger runner both physically and mentally. The same applies to cycling and swimming, really any primary sport.

 

 

Running with Dogs

running dog

Seeing the smile on your dog’s face as he bounds down the trail or road is one of life’s greatest joys. Their flapping ears, wagging tail, and sparkling brown eyes will always lighten my heart and lift my spirits. Having your furry best friend as your training partner who never complains, keeps pace with you, and never says a discouraging word can help you get through those tough miles.

One of the things we have to remember about our wet nosed training partner is that they are no different from us when it comes to building miles, resting, hydration, and fueling during a run.

I see a lot of people out there running long miles and I can only hope that they have laid down the foundation for those miles with their dogs. Sure, we can see when our dog is limping or lethargic, but if you get to that point you have pushed them too hard too soon. Of course, they never tell you that and they will always go out with you with enthusiasm, which is why we need to be mindful of their bodies as well as our own.

Follow the ten percent rule, carry water for them, and allow them rest days. This can be hard when you have been running for awhile and are much more advanced than they are, but if you want your furry friend along you just need to follow the same rules as you did for yourself when you started running.

Since they don’t have shoes, you should be checking their paws for any stickers, dirt, or cracks. If you are running on roads or sand, make sure it’s not burning your dog’s paws. Dogs can get sunburned too, spray on sun block is much easier to apply than lotion. Bug spray will help keep mosquitos and ticks off. Definitely, keep them on a heartworm prevention medication.

You can get a collapsible bowl for their water, and there are packs for them to carry their own gear. Keep in mind that dogs don’t sweat, they pant. You may need to let them lay in the shade for a few minutes or in a cold stream to prevent them from overheating especially for our dark furred friends.

Stay up on your dog’s veterinary appointments making sure they have a clean bill of health. Inquire about a high-energy food for your dog and make sure you tell the vet how many miles they are running and what type of miles, trail verses roads. This will help your vet know what to look for with your dog.

There are some breeds who are better runners than others. A dog with long legs and sleek short coat are going to have an easier time than short and stout. A heavy fur coat is probably not the best choice. Pick a dog with a lot of energy who is friendly to both other dogs and people because you will encounter both while running.

Dogs can be trained to stop and sit when they find a snake on the trail or another threat to both your safety and theirs.

I’ve read articles that recommend limiting the amount of miles your dog runs to a half marathon, but I’ve seen happy healthy dogs complete as many as 50 miles. Again, if falls back on training and taking care of your dog’s healthy as you would for yourself or a human child.