Runners Can Thrive Being Predictable: Why ‘predictable’ monotony doesn’t deserve such a bad rep in our sport

Can you predict what this runner is about to say next?Let’s face it, I’m pretty predictable in that I’m pretty happy with my own little routines. It’s not that I don’t enjoy adventure, I like to think I’m usually up for some adventures if they come my way, but at the same time I don’t find doing the same things all that boring. I sort of figure if it makes me happy, then where is the bad in that?

woman on track

I can predict she'll be starting a run...

Confession: I think that most runners are comfortable routine. Isn’t running a sport filled with monotony? Sure we mix up our workouts, we have various routes, we stretch the box of left…right…left as far as it can go. Hey, even track mixed it up when it decided to toss a water jump into the schedule. But let’s face it, when you break it down runners have to, to a high degree, be fully comfortable in routine.

Taken to the extreme it can turn into a bad thing, getting stuck on HAVING to run the exact same route and getting competitive with yourself to run a faster time can ruin your easy days, yes. Yet you need some order behind that training schedule, there is a method to the madness. We all vary on how much predictability we are comfortable with; though we all have workouts we use as key indicators of our fitness, our old faithful easy run route, having the same rigid warm-up routine actually helps quell pre-race nerves.

So you see, being a bit predictable isn’t such a bad thing. It gets a bad rap, this predictability thing, and I guess if you’re marked by a stalker or serial killer, yes, having the same running route at the same time every Tuesday may eventually bite you in the butt, but that’s a whole other thing.

* Route Markers. I vividly remember the first ‘real run’ my dad took me on. By that I mean it was over 1.5 miles and in my mind it was an epic distance. I was dying and he told me, “Hey, you see that?” He pointed to a brick building, it was the gym where growing up we’d go swimming, “We are about one mile from home, and when I see this building, no matter how tired I am, I know I can make it home.” I always remembered that, and every time I ran past that building that day forward, no matter how tired I was, I knew I was going to make it. You see, having the same route can be the perfect mental mind game; you have ‘markers’ that you come to know, expect, and when you pass them they offer a little boost. No matter how tired you are, you know you can keep going…then you make it to the next ‘marker.’

* Fitness Indicators. There is a reason that you train in phases; there’s base building, strength workouts (tempos, long repeats), sharpening (speed workouts), tapering…etc. Your body also thrives on consistency, with smart conditioning you get the best results. As you make it through the cycles, you probably have benchmark workouts within each phases that indicate how great of shape you are compared to yourself of years past. You know that when you’ve been able to run such-and-such time you did your mile repeats at XXX pace. Then when you run those same repeats faster…you know you’re ready for a PR and you get excited, can’t wait to race and chase that PR.
fast runner
* Know What Works. When it comes to races, do you really want to mess with what has worked in the past? It’s not the time to see if five chili dogs are going to be your winning pre-race fuel, also not the time to see if you should try those new spikes for the first time. A predictable pre-race, even pre-hard workout, routine sets you up physically for the best results and mentally too. Mentally the routine of things makes the run similar to any other day, and it gives you something concrete to focus on rather than those nerves. Find your pre-race predictability and then thrive in the routine.

* Just Do It…to Improve. The secret to getting faster and better? Consistency. Let me be your thesaurus and tell you that is another word for predictability, routine, monotonous running. You have to make your muscles predict that you’re going to be running another mile, another day, and repeating. Accept this, embrace it, because you know you love our sport, okay. Motivation can waver on a given day, but let’s face it you know you’ll be filling the future pages of your training log.

Is predictability such a bad thing? If it makes you a runner, it can make you faster, and it can offer you up some awesome PR’s, I sort of think you may agree this whole predictability thing isn’t such a bad thing. Well, unless you are a marked runner for a stalker or serial killer. ;)

1) Name one thing that makes you predictable.
Is it bad that when my family walked up to the ordering station at Costa Vida the worker knew all the orders? Strength in numbers at least…hehe.

2) What is one thing that is good about predictability when it comes to running and training?

3) What is an example of predictability going AWOL and actually hurting your running and training?
Overly obsessive of the pace of your easy runs…run easy enough to recover.

4) Now, even if you have some predictable traits, do you consider yourself pretty adventurous? If so, in what way?

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16 thoughts on “Runners Can Thrive Being Predictable: Why ‘predictable’ monotony doesn’t deserve such a bad rep in our sport

  1. This post makes me feel so much better about my own predictable tendencies! I really do love routine and knowing what is what, and whilst I’m all for mixing things up too on occasion, I’m glad to hear it’s may not be such a bad thing after all :)

  2. I run the same route almost every single day, and as long as I live in the city along the lakefront I have no plans to change that route anytime soon. Sure every now and then I veer off onto a new sub path, but I just cannot tear myself away from the lakefront. Love it love it love it.

  3. I’m really predictable in most areas of life, and I thrive on having a routine for work and workouts. But I think I’m pretty impulsive when it comes to moving to new places, starting a new career, things like that.

  4. yes! read your predictability with food. it seriously pains me to go to a restaurant i love and try something new because then i will be sad that i didnt get to eat what i was really craving from there in the first place. so funny.

    also. love your example of running with my dad. so often when i am running i will be reminded of things he said to me (when i used to hate running but went with him anyway because he was my dad…haha!)…like hills. he always used to tell me how he loved them. i thought he was nuts. and now i feel im a stronger uphill runner than downhill. i called to tell him that the other day and he just got the whole told you so attitude going on. haha. same with the routes i love to run when im back home…i like to stick to the ones we used to run together:)

    as far as routine. it messes me up so bad when i dont run on days i already have deemed “running days” in my mind. but im trying real hard to maintain a routine im comfortable with but also learn to vary paces (easy vs hard) and listen to my body and take a day off if needed…even if its a “run” day. breaking a routine is hard though. it gives me anxiety;) haha!

    • yea, running with the pops are some AWESOME memories, and glad u get some of those too! :) try not to give usrself a panic attack out there if ur running sked has to be a weeeee bit more flexible and u have to listen to the body…u’ve been running long enough that u know when the ‘right’ time to taper back is. ;)

  5. I am definitely a creature of habit… superstition too! The pre-race fuel is part habit, part knowing what works, and part superstition, haha. I also like knowing mile markers and things like that too :).

    • completely with u on the mile markers thing…we were using those way before the garmin trend made it easy to know wat dist. u are at. ;)

  6. complete creature of habit – predictable in everything!

    I liked this post because I sometimes wonder how I can get faster – do I have to be posting supremely awesome workouts? killing myself? make myself super tired?

    It’s nice to have a reminder than consistent work day in and day out is what leads to progress…

  7. I always have a cup of tea by my side. I think I drink more green tea than is recommended, but hey I get cold really easily and it keeps me warm! I suppose I am also predictable in that on a Saturday at the markets the coffee shop guys know that I have a cappuccino when I first arrive and a long black before I head home. Predictable behaviour or a ritual? It all depends on your view point I suppose.
    When it comes to running I run my best when I have a routine. At the moment the routine is in a bit of melt down because of some blood pressure issues but when I am in a training phase I really love the predictability of a weekly routine. That’s what next week’s for right?

    • oh no, are you okay?? i hope the blood pressure issues u speak of aren’t too serious…i can’t have anything wrong with my chickpea!! take care of urself girlie, and for the time being live in the now and keep taking it week by week! big hugs! :)

  8. Haha um I’m predictable with my litttle quirks or things I have to do before races.
    One thing that is good about predictability, I can track my progress from one year to the next.
    Obsessively tracking every run and trying to beat it every day.
    I’m predictable but adventurous, I love to go exploring on my runs and don’t mind running off the ‘beaten path’ to have fun.

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