When you are training for a goal race and logging lots of miles. You probably want to get the most out of your training. You want to push your body enough to improve, but not enough to get injured. That line can be very thin, and finding the right balance is difficult for many runners. For me, working with a coach has added a great outside perspective on my training. Something that many runners struggle with when the training gets tough and the goals are big. Sometimes we are too emotionally invested to really reflect on our own training. (You can read more about my decision to hire a running coach here). When you are training, you are balancing the appropriate training load that will break down the body and then recovering. This recovery is where the growth happens. Our bodies will rebuild to withstand the stresses that overloaded it, in the first place. So that, over time your body will begin to find that stress easier and more manageable. Many runners let their goals guide their training without taking into consideration their current fitness level and this can be a recipe for injury and over training. I have seen a couple variations of this problem, here are some examples;
- Running all runs at pace- many of the runners that I train with feel the need to run all of their runs at goal marathon pace. I get it, they feel if they run all of their runs at their goal pace, then they will be able to run the marathon at goal pace. If you are running your marathon at a comfortable pace, just to finish, this is fine. If you are looking to push yourself, then this style of training is counterproductive. Training at goal pace, constantly, will lead to over-training and possible injuries. A majority of your runs should be done at “easy” pace.
- Using training calculators/premade plans incorrectly-Runners will use premade plans and formulas without understanding how the plans were designed. I have a runner friend who loves to use Jack Daniels plans, but has never read the book. He will pick a goal time and plug that into the plan. This is exactly what Jack Daniels says NOT to do. Jack Daniels plans are hard enough, without training above your fitness level. This is almost a guaranteed way to end up injured. Sometimes, runners will also google goal times and plan. Want to run a sub 3 hour marathon, then follow this plan. The runner doesn’t take into consideration their current strengths and weakness. What is your current mileage before starting the plan? The premade plans are necessarily bad, but they will only help if they match up with your current abilities.
- Copying another runner’s plan- I have seen a lot of bad habits repeated because one runner mimics the training of another runner. If someone runs 95 miles, then golly they are going to run 95 miles this week. If someone runs X:XX pace, then they run their runs at that pace. Never mind that the runner they are chasing it over 10 minutes faster than them and has been building up to that mileage safely, over a long period of time.
All of these mistakes can lead to over-training and injury, or under training. Both leaving you short of your goal. Instead, you should train at your current fitness level. Taking into consideration the purpose of the workout.* Then training at a pace that is enough to stress that system without over loading it. Allowing for adaptations and growth.
*I have written previous post, about understanding the purpose of you workout. Check it out!
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