4 Steps to Getting Through the Grind

Long runs and long workouts tend to scare people. It can feel intimidating looking down the barrel of a double digit run or mulit-mile repeats. We’re distance runners, we love this stuff, but large quantities of miles (especially faster miles) still intimidate us.

Running and that mental component, can’t escape the mind games. Our bodies are apt to surprise us and prove our limit-setting minds wrong…BUT it’s a matter of pushing past the mind crap (doubts/fears/discomfort) before we can be ‘pleasantly’ surprised.
skulls on a track
The best thing about running into new territory, be it your longest run, the most number of long intervals, or the most volume of hard running, they’re all scariest before you do them. Once you’ve conquered the best you’ve proven you’re capable of it and you get a new frame of reference.

Example: You’re afraid of running 10 miles because you’ve never run that far. You then run 10 miles and flash forward a few weeks and 10 miles doesn’t scare you at all. But 14 miles does…sooo, you run 14 miles and the cycle continues.

See how DOING something takes the fear out of it. Let’s up the ante.

You can run 10 miles but now you’re supposed to run them hard. EEK!!! New challenge. Time to fight through it:

4 Steps to Get Through the Grind

1) Relax: the first part is you gotta stop building the run or workout up into epic proportions. Say with me, “it’s just a workout (or race), all I can is my best, so that’s the goal.” Deflate some of that pressure and take the power away from the workout…give yourself the power by realizing that you’re going to give it your all and THAT is all that can be expected. Times are there for guidance and motivation to push…but you can’t let them put so much pressure on you that you implode.
running in circles
2) Start: easy peasy, right? Funny how fear sort of get muted the second the gun sounds and you just START freaking running. It has a way of shutting your brain down for a bit or at least taking it down a few notches.

3) Segments: your runner-brain gets overloaded thinking about the WHOLE run (26.2 miles…holy crap!!!) so you break everything down into smaller segments. Think of it like a meal with a zillion courses if you have to. Get through the plate, the miles, the quarter mile, the repeat.

4) Fight and Lie: running isn’t easy and training is painful. You break it down into itty bitty ‘plates’ but even each bite is still hard. (can I push this metaphor any further?) You need to just cycle through the above three steps on repeat…relax, roll, be confident, be smooth…start, click the watch on that next interval and go, make it until you hear the magic Garmin beep of another mile and keep going…segment, make it 100 meters more, run until you pass that guy, stick like GLUE behind the person in front of you and don’t think how far the finish line is in front of you.

Doing all of the above is really a series of lies. The good lies that you use to ‘trick’ your limit-setting brain into proving itself wrong. Your body CAN keep going, you just have to fight like h*ll long enough to show yourself you can do it.

The cool thing is once you get through the grind you’ve just re-calibrated what’s ‘suuuper scary’. Whatever you just did won’t scare you so much next time…

…but don’t rest too easily, Runners, because that just means later the ante will be upped. That’s okay, because you know the drill. ;)
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“The Big Three: Talent vs. Work Ethic vs. Mental Toughness- Which matters the most?”

“Effective Mental Strategy: Race better by out-thinking your brain”

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1) What’s the longest you’ve run?
2) What’s your favorite long repeats workout?
3) How do you get through the grind?

Kill Some Stress, Run Faster, Be Happier

The last few days my Adobe was acting up, legit like a two year old heck bent on crippling me. I couldn’t finish work that NEEDED to be done, I cursed the computer and slammed some fists. It had turned ME into a toddler. Hot mess.

Stress. Frustration. Anxiety. We can’t avoid it in life and we can’t avoid it in running either. There are ALWAYS going to be things totally out of our control. My tantrum wasn’t going to solve the computer issues, and neither is the wildest of fits going to cure a stress fracture. Sometimes sh*t just sucks but you NEED to deal.
stress fractures suck
In the moment that can feel impossible but our fast-paced lives have gotten to a point where the stress, anxiety, and frustrations churning through us are destroying us. Making us sick. Clearly even if you’re not on the verge of a stress induced heart-attack or breakdown, I dare say everyone and anyone has some sh*t going on that they would do well to unburden themselves with.

What do I mean by unburdening? You most likely can’t take away or change every situation, you can’t make money float down upon you or force so-and-so to get back to you with a quote that you NEED because your article deadline is hours away.

Unburdening can be more like shifting how YOU are dealing with the situation. Adjust and learn to let go. I’m sum it up:

Do EVERY single thing you can to control the situation and make it work how you’d like it to…from there, heed to the ‘que sera, sera’.

Injury?

You get hurt, injuries come with the territory in running. Do what you can to reduce your risk but you can’t avoid them. Here are your three steps:
1) Throw your dang tantrum. You deserve it. But put a time limit on your baby breakdown. Ten minutes, a day max.
2) Get proactive. Shift to problem-solver mode (logic and reason side of the brain, move out of emotional/reactive side). Come up with a cross training and rehab routine.
3) Do it. Move through that routine and ONLY take it a day at a time. Don’t dwell on XXX weeks or months. Look at your rehab like taking your medicine…spoon full of sugar that crap down. ;)

Bad Race or Workout

Also comes with the territory in running. Ironically the steps are eerily the same as above:
1) Mild upset is allowed. You deserve to be disappointed and that’s the same feeling that will motivate you to work harder next time. But don’t be a pouter, don’t be one of those jerks who ruins everyone else’s workout/race/day/etc. Cry on the inside like a champ. Haha.
2) Get proactive. Learn anything you can from the experience, is there a reason it was bad? Reassess your training if need be.
3) Move on. Keep on trucking. Some days your legs just don’t show up for whatever reason. Learn what you can the move forward.
missing legs
Never let a bad workout or race turn you into a pessimist. That kind of perspective is what kills peoples’ passion and could ruin your love of running. No one wants that.

All that stress and anxiety [psst...don't get too nervous before races either, here's my post on that.] only makes things more of an uphill battle for you. So don’t make things worse on yourself. Unburden that sh*t.

Ironically, the more balanced and less stress you put on yourself in running the better you end up performing. There’s a little thing called over-thinking, My Friends.

Back to life because 99.9% of us aren’t running for our jobs. Which means our jobs and life events are brining us the most stress. [that extra stress will effect our running too...so if you're also wanting to run better you'll do well to unburden some life stress...logic holds there. Haha] But far too many of us let things that shouldn’t stress us out THAT much, well, stress us out THAT much.

I challenge you to let go of some little things. Lots of those things include wondering what someone else thinks about you OR complaining about someone else. A tip there, years ago I adopted the thing of not saying anything about someone else that I wouldn’t just say right to them. I’m a straight-shooter so rather than complain, isn’t it better to just go to the source and [strategically] say whatever you need to? Problem solved there.

Now for the curveballs and bigger things life will deal you often, we’ll circle back to what I suggested we do in running. Hey, like I say EVERYTHING circles back to running, right?! ;)
1) Baby tantrums. You can be entitled to a fist pound on the laptop but put a time limit on yourself.
2) Proactive mode. Do EVERYTHING you can to set yourself for the best outcome.
3) Move the heck on. You can’t control lots of things in life, namely other people. So…”let it go.” ;)
ryftreesitting
Stress makes you unhappy, it will also make your running harder. All the more reason to unburden some of that crap!

1) What is one little thing you’re going to unburden yourself with TODAY?
2) How do you handle BIG life stress?
3) Do you consider yourself a highly stressed and anxious person?

Running ‘No Fluff’ Zone: What the masses don’t want to read about

I had a fun dialogue with a friend and editor the other day:

“‘How to Train for a Marathon in 5 Minutes a Week’ and ‘Eat 20 Apples a Day to PR’ (clear exaggeration but you get the point). I know a lot of people like those types of articles but over the years I’ve have my fill.”

“Thank goodness you hate the ‘fluff crap’ kinda articles too. I die a little inside every time I’m asked to do one, writing that stuff makes my brain numb.”

unicorn runner PR

There were more little barbs in there and witticisms but you get the picture. The ‘fluff’ crap; it’s all over the web and even in the magazines and websites ‘we’ us ‘real runners’ read and subscribe to. We can’t escape it and let’s be honest the masses are looking for a kind of ‘quick fix’. So, the headlines screaming BIG rewards LITTLE work draws people in. It sells. Websites and magazines are businesses after all, so even though I’m sure it kills a few editors and writers every.single.time they must do a ‘fluff crap’ article, they do it. Gotta put food on that table.

The thing is though, which ‘we’ ‘real runners’ know is:

* there’s no magic bullet
* no super secret way to getting better and stay fit
* eating an apple at 3:19pm to drop 30 seconds off your 5k PR aint gonna do it

Most people don’t want to hear that it takes:

* a h*ll of a lot of hard work
* motivation
* motivation even when you aren’t motivated
* pushing yourself
* hurting in workouts and races

The sufferfest that is training and racing…that probably wouldn’t be a magazine the general public would just LOVE reading about. Better to think that a protein smoothie with chia seeds is all that’s required and will do the trick. Training and all that stuff, well…that’s second tier, right? ;)
running bright and shining
The ‘training fluff crap’ I think actually parallels what writer, coach, sports nutritionist, and athlete Matt Fitzgerald, writes about in his latest book DIET CULTS. I literally devoured that read in two days so do check it out, I think most fitness minded folks will relate to a lot of what he’s saying and laugh because as athletes we’re able to ‘sniff out’ lots of the ‘diet fluff crap’ mainstream media and individuals try to get us to buy into. I will revisit this book later because I’ve got both an article on RunBlogRun coming out and after that is published do a review on this blog. So hold tight, but in the mean time check out DIET CULTS.

Getting back to the fitness and running ‘fluff’, I find that it really is only doing a disservice to the individuals who really are motivated or the ones just starting out in the sport. Coming to the realization that it’s hard work over really anything else is a learning curve all runners go through. Experience teaches us that.

Every single runner has their own journey, the progression of getting crazier and crazier more experienced and for lack of a better term ‘hardcore into’ our sport. That journey makes each runner who they are and it’s important to learn lots of those lessons yourself. At the same time, it’s a shame that falling into the misconception that certain foods or cramming 4 months of training into 2 weeks doing a run only every other Tuesday WILL make you a better runner. Because by hiding the truth you’re only stunting the progress of the runner who really does want to be their best.

Certainly the ‘fluff’ sells and the driven, self-motivated folks who are ‘real’ runners [I only define 'real' runners not based on speed at all, but in spirit and how motivated they are...if you're a runner you know it in your bones.] are the minority. But the numbers of runners are growing and it proves there are eager, motivated people looking to embark on their running journey.

Welcome to crazy town.

So here’s some straight shooting for you:
* It’s going to hurt.
* There’s no ‘secret’ to getting faster and staying fit.
* Motivation is your weapon, consistency reigns supreme.
* Patience sucks but it’s required.
* Learn that unnecessary suffering isn’t going to make you better. Oh running, filled with all those fine lines we must tread.

But here’s the BEST part:
* There’s a sick sort of high and remarkable afterglow to that hurt when you’ve pushed through it.
* Nothing is more rewarding than watching yourself get faster and more fit.
* Realizing your body can DO things you never dreamed possible is far more satisfying than any pack of abs or what your vehicle of performance looks like.
* Running will effect, and improve you in all areas of life.
* Runners are tough as s*t.

It’s important to realize that clearly certain foods and a healthy diet will help your training, lifestyle adjustments (hello more sleep!) will too. But even a healthy diet with 10 hours a sleep at night is useless sans training. Take your ‘fluff’ and shove it. #run

More Reads:
5 Ways Runners Can Use Trail Running to Get Faster

What’s Fueling YOUR Run?

Runger: How runners can tame the beast and eat to perform

WEAR your motivation with Ezzere

Monday Running Motivation: Starting Line

Moments before the gun. All other runners slip away, left one.

runner starting line art

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More posts on MOTIVATION
Another post on Starting Line Confidence and How to Build Yours

Talk about one cute chicker from the weekend!! This super fast runnerchick was the top female and 5th overall in just her first 5k!! Can you say natural born runnerchick?! At least her Ezzere Get Chicking Tee gave them a warning…keep on smoking those runnerboys. ;)

ezzere get chicking tee running
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1) What’s usually one of the last things you do RIGHT before the gun goes off?

Runners Breaking Fences: Accomplish more when you free yourself

Our minds are experts in construction. They will build up fences quicker than nobody’s business. It’s actually a survival method, the brain ‘thinks’ it’s looking after our best interest, keeping us safe by setting limits.

The problem is that this survival method is archaic and antiquated, most of the fence-building is stopping us from pushing ourselves in work or running rather than stopping us from trekking too far from our caves, getting lost, and gobbled up by a dinosaur. ;)
running mental fence
In breaking down your fences you are freeing yourself. Because on the other side, THAT is where you can push yourself to your best. The other problem with fences is that they stop you from even dreaming, or imaging that something epic is ‘out there’ that YOU could possible accomplish THAT! Fences keep you safe, in a comfort zone, they also suck because they rob you of really feeling and experiencing.

We can easily relate this to running in a few ways:

1) Goals: if your goals aren’t big enough to scare you a bit, they should be bigger. That said, you should know that working towards something BIG is HARD. That’s the point, that’s what makes an accomplishment fulfilling though. Just don’t be fooled into thinking there won’t be times where you want to stop…that’s where true self-motivation and dedication is tested.

2) Going in over your head: everyone needs to be in the position of going in over their head, a few times, and get comfortable with the fact that, “Yea, I might bonk” because, “Yea, I might not bonk and break through to a new level.” There are times in races where you need to not look at the clock/watch/split and just race, get swept up in the faster group…this can be in workouts too.

Confidence is a funny thing for a runner, and the watch can do wonders for it but it can also sabotage you if you ‘think’ about it too much. Example: “Holy crap!!! We’re running XXX pace, I can’t hold this…what am I doing running with these people, I don’t belong here?!!” This runner can either be intimidated by the splits or check in with themselves and realize they were actually feeling fine until they freaked themselves out. They might blow up later, but they may not, they may have their best workout yet. Either way though, sometimes you need to just stick your neck out there, break the fence.

Important to note that, duh, you shouldn’t always go on some kamikaze mission in workouts and races. I mean, a 7 minute miler shouldn’t go workout with the 4 minute miler group…let’s be sane here. The point is that for the most part, runners DO need a little push every now and again to break through to the next level. Surrounding yourself by some faster people is a great way to do that.
dream bigger ezzere
3) Mental ‘fences’ pain signals: for runners the vast majority of fence building is stationed around hard workouts and races. Your brain wants to STOP pretty much the second you start…haha. Steve Magness wrote a really great post all about the brain, willpower, emotions, and how that relates to a runner’s mental toughness. It’s a long read but incredibly interesting, worth it, and touches on quite a few different points, tackling it from multiple angles.

He talks a lot about willpower and how fatigue is actually an emotional response rather than a physical one. Really interesting because when you think you’re ‘tired’ it’s really only your brain reacting, worrying that you’re GOING to be too tired later to finish and shouldn’t continue. He goes on with lots of ways a runner’s willpower and mental toughness to combat the pain signals from the brain are affected. Things that make us more easily swayed to stop rather than push.

Proper recovery like nutrition and sleep are two factors…another reason to think of your training in the big picture sense. But another big mental toughness inhibitor is stress. He phrases it more as using your willpower reserves up on less important matters, but the explanation is that your brain can really only handle so much. The more taxed your brain is going into a workout or race, the less it will perform. Read as: the weaker it goes into the race, the more likely you are to cave to its complaints to relent, slow down, or stop.

Go read his full article HERE because really, there’s so many interesting points that make you think. A runner’s mental toughness is something most all of us are fixated on because it’s not finite, it’s kind of like an intangible that’s hard to explain with science. But Magness is actually able to show how science is closing in on giving us some cool explanations and theories.

The bottom line is: Runners, scr*w those fences. Start breaking them down and in doing so you’ll find that’s where the truly epic sh*t lies.

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More posts on MOTIVATION
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A Runner’s Made in the Mind

Strip away the muscles, the sinew, the bones
The flesh.
Alone with yourself.
in your mind.
A step echoing amidst chatter
doubts.Refutes.
I am stronger than you say.
dirt track mile
Tissues beg for slack,
plead for mercy.
I want to stop.
But I do not.

Mind runs on.
Push forward against protest
myself and my mind.
Friend, nemesis, untrustworthy deceivers.
I must stop.
You may not.
Only one step more.

LIAR!

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The June issue of Competitor magazine features Meb Keflezighi on the cover, the story is excellent and I urge you all to read it HERE. Not all can race outside of themselves, but it’s the quest to continually push our own limits that every runner is in a similar battle. Keep rising to the occasion.

More posts on MOTIVATION
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A Gold Medal Mind: My interview with Dr. Jim Afremow

dr. jim afremowTo run and race your best it’s critical you’ve got the right mindset. Dr. Jim Afremow has made it his mission to help runners and athletes of all sports hone their mental training. Just as important and the physical workouts, an athlete’s mind can create a champion or turn into one’s own worst enemy. I wanted interview Dr. Afremow both because I respect his body of work and level of expertise and also because, let’s be honest, the psychology of our sport in straight-up fascinating! Often time elite athletes have trouble putting into words exactly how they get into gamer mode…so read on to hear a mental game’s coach put words to the ability:

JIM AFREMOW, Ph.D.

 

 

1)    What got you started in athletics, and what were your favorite sports growing up?

 

I grew up on sports and physical activity primarily through my father who appreciated the importance of having an active lifestyle. He especially enjoyed hiking, mountain climbing, and participating in Masters track and field. As a youth, my favorite sports included track and field, soccer, and golf.

 

2)    How did you foray into becoming a mental games coach and working on the sports psychology end of the spectrum?

 

Sports psychology provides the perfect opportunity to bridge two of my passions: sports and psychology. I have always been fascinated by human behavior and how all of us can learn to reach our greatest potential. I earned a doctorate in sports psychology and a Master’s in counseling, both at Michigan State University.

 

3)    You work with a variety of athletes in different sports, but in working with runners what are some of the most common mental hurdles they struggle with?

 

Mental toughness is equally import to physical strength when it comes to shining in sports. Adversity strikes all athletes in different ways at different times. Runners must learn how to stay focused and confidently move through any kind of setback, such as a mental block, performance plateau, prolonged slump, or injury. They must also develop ways to reduce off-field issues or concerns that interfere with their training and races.

 

4)    Confidence is a big one with runners and racing, and confidence tends to ebb and flow, be it after bad workouts or ongoing injuries. What are some of the techniques you use to help runners rebuild and remain confident in themselves and their abilities?

 

Confidence is a beautiful thing! Confidence in yourself and your athletic ability is critical to performing your best when it matters most. One strategy for boosting your confidence is to remember a particular occasion when you triumphed over a difficult challenge and write about how you made it happen—memory is the prelude to memorable performances.

 

5)    Race day nerves tends to be another big one, what are some of your suggestions for keeping your racing nerves in check?

 

First and foremost, understand that pre-performance anxiety is how our body readies itself to perform at its peak. So, recognize anxiety for what it is―that’s how humans are made. If you know that, it helps to normalize race day nerves. My new book The Champion’s Mind presents scores of practical tips to help you harness anxiety and use it to your advantage.

6)    In running and in athletics in general what is something you feel is an especially crucial mental component in being your best, if not THE best?

 

Have a big-picture goal and chip away at each and every day. “When you’re good at something, make that everything,” said tennis legend Roger Federer. All it takes is all you’ve got!

 

7)    What’s your favorite mental tip for runners to race and run their best?

 

During competition, the key word is “performance” because if you focus on performing (rather than on any results or other extraneous factors), then you’re totally in the present. Being in the present and staying purposeful lets you “own the moment” and maximize your abilities.

 

8)    What was the greatest lesson or piece of advice you’ve been given either from a mentor, teacher, or athlete that you’ve applied to your work?

 

One important lesson is that we either win or we learn. Forget about losing and focus on continual improvement. Give yourself credit where credit is due and celebrate what you did well. But then if you didn’t do as well as you wanted, say, “What did I learn from this that’s going to help me perform better next time?”

 

9)    Tell us about your book, your services, and your website?

 

The title of my new book is, “The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train, and Thrive” (Rodale, 2014). The Champion’s Mind explains “what” athletes can do to champion themselves and “how” they can do it. That is, how athletes can fine-tune their game mentally and emotionally to consistently perform at their best. If you want to discover how great you can be and how much fun you can have in your sport, don’t leave the mental game to chance or circumstance.

 

So, I provide individual and team sports psychology services for personal excellence, peak performance, and team success. Although my private practice is located in Phoenix, I work with athletes from all over the world. Important topics include confidence, concentration, composure, communication, and commitment. All athletes can and should learn how to think like a champion. For more information, please visit my website: www.goldmedalmind.net.

 

10)Ultimately, what is your goal in being a sports performance specialist? What gives you the most sense of pleasure and fulfillment?

 

To help people reach their true and full potential in sports and all other demanding endeavors. To help people grow as athletes and as people. Champions think gold and never settle for silver or bronze. They understand that personal best is their ultimate victory. Why settle for anything less?

Monday Morning Running Motivation: Please don’t waste

I grew up in a house where my mom HATED to see things go to waste. We were a household who left-over’ed and if we didn’t clean our plates we could usually count on Mommy-O to finish them off. She WAS a runner after all. The thing was, it killed my mother to put food in the trash or down the disposal.

Wasting is, well, a waste.

penguin and spilled ice cream art
This holds true in life. And with the human body, if you’re even an iota interested in physiology, anatomy, and sports science you’ve got to just take a step back and think, “Holy crap, the body is amazing. Like freaking incredible.” All the complexities, the systems working together, playing off of each other, people can quip the ‘miracle of life’…heck, it’s pretty dang remarkable what goes in to just digesting! Something enters the mouth, get broken down, gives you the energy to run, and then gets pooped out the other end. That’s pretty dang cool!

Not taking advantage of just how amazing and remarkable the human body is, it’s a waste. Obesity, a growing lack of exercise, a growing disinterest…bordering on HATE of activity is a waste, it’s sad. Here is this amazing human body machine…just waiting to DO, to perform.

A body can be worked. It can be run. It can be trained. It can be stressed by training and then, if given the chance to recover, it will GROW, become stronger, tougher, faster, and then eager to achieve even more. Keep doing that and watch how far you can go.

Physiology is quite amazing, don’t forget that. Don’t take it for granted either…PUSH yourself to discover your own potential.

A vehicle left abandoned is waste. Take advantage of the miraculously, mind-blowing things your body can DO and get DOing.

Neuromuscular Training For Runners: Quick feet box taps

Everyone wants to run faster, right? Part of getting faster is of course doing the shorter repeats; one must build that explosive power of course. BUT, there’s another part to getting faster and it’s training your BRAIN and nervous system to respond at a quicker rate.

A runner can’t utilize that explosive power to run faster without the nerve and synapse networks first being created to ‘tell’ your foot to move faster off the ground. Isn’t science and the brain cool?

The neuromuscular part of training isn’t something every runner is aware of, but if you’re not addressing it you can run all the 200′s in the world and not really be tapping into your full potential. I’ve written a few articles about the neuromuscular training and how it relates to runners:

* The Multi-Level Approach to Getting Faster
* Work on Getting Faster in Tri-Fecta Form

One of the exercises I mention are ‘Quick Feet Box Taps’. I got an email from someone who wasn’t quite sure if they were doing them right so I decided to make a little video.

You can also find it on my Instagram page. Start with a set of 15-30 seconds and see how many taps you can get. REMEMBER it’s QUALITY over quantity. If you’re getting slopping you’re going to start reinforcing bad habits and that will defeat the purpose. Work up to two sets and do the 3 times a week…preferably as part of your dynamic warm-up routine before workouts or immediately following the workout. It can be fun to watch yourself improve with more taps every week…you know us runners and that competitive spirit. ;) But again, quality over quantity…so if you have to start slow that’s what you need to do!

What, you love my shirt too?! Well, thanks…it’s my Ezzere Runner Face Tee! :)

Happy Saturday my runner friends. Get those feet firing off the ground, coupling neuromuscular training and speedwork, and watch your PR’s get faster! :)

Taper Troubles: Peaking right to run your best race

For runners, finding that perfect taper and method to peak right sure can be difficult! Which sounds kinda crazy because taking the taper at face value, one could think, “Well, I just need to cut back. I’ve done all the work, so let’s just coast on until race day and wind up with fresh as daisy legs!”

WRONG. Any runner can tell you tapering is a bit of a beast. Sometimes your legs do feel an extra bounce, other times they start feeling like dead weights and you start to freak out, “What the heck, why am I trucking bricks?!”
find your own trail
Some runners even build a little superstition around it, “The worse my legs feel on the warm-up the better they feel in the race.’ Not going to lie, I’ve experienced that one and can back the logic.

So let’s talk taper. We’ll even start from the most basic of basics up.

What is a taper? Training is done in phases, working backwards from the date of your big race. The closer you draw to your race, the more the goal of workouts shift from ‘building fitness’ to ‘sharpening’ and ‘honing’. A week before your race you’re not going to be able to increase fitness anymore, that work’s been done, so it’s a matter of maintaining fitness and then reducing the volume so your legs feel fresh come race day. [Tapering can be done anywhere from 1-3 weeks before your race, depending on distance and all that good stuff.]

Logistics: Runners who are tapering will cut their overall miles back, the volume of workouts decrease, and you’ll see workouts like 200′s, 400′s, or for marathoners, maybe a few longer repeats (ie: miles) at race pace. Just getting the wheels turning.
running in circles
Common Mistakes:

1) Not decreasing enough: If you’ve been training at 110 miles per week and your ‘taper’ is cutting down to 100 miles per week that’s really not going to leave you feeling all that fresh, right? Same goes with pushing your ‘taper’ workouts too much; grinding out your best 6xmile four days before your race day isn’t doing you any favors.

2) Decreasing too much: So the runners who think, oh I’ll just go from 110 miles down to 20 and I’ll feel GOLDEN! Wrong-zo. The body has a crazy way of adapting to us crazy runners and doing what we do. Dramatic shifts, the body doesn’t like that at all. Go too far from one extreme to the other and your body will be like, “wtf is going on?!” In the case of the runner above, they’ll actually be feeling sluggish because their body is used to much more stress. It actually NEEDS more miles to feel better. Crazy, huh? But kinda cool too.

Bottom line: There’s no perfect amount for everyone, it comes back to what works for you and your race distance. But a nice rule is that when tapering your mileage should be reduced by 20-25% of your average training volume.

3) Pre-Race Day Off: Many runners like to take the day before their race completely off. I would like to argue that, they should instead take the day TWO days prior to their race off. Why? Sometimes your legs will feel stale after a complete rest day, it’s better to do a short shake-out run and strides the day before to ‘bust out the rust and creaks.’ You still get a day off, but going into the race you’re not ‘creaky’. This is also why if you’re running a night race, lots of runners like to do a short (10-15min) shake-out run that morning.

4) No Speed-work: Taper logic might seem like you shouldn’t do anything hard…go into the whole week totally fresh and rested. Refer back to number 2 and realize that once your body has become accustomed to a certain degree of work (ie: stress) it needs the stimulus. Going 4-plus days without any faster turn-over will leave your legs feeling sluggish and slow. For races 10k and below, a good workout to do three days before your race is 8x200m with 200meter recovery. Any way you slice it, you still want some ‘sharp’ quality sessions leading up to your race.

Tapering is a tricky science, that’s why I firmly believe runners should have a coach they trust to do the sciencey planning stuff. Then the runner isn’t left ‘thinking’ all this out. Planning and wondering “is this workout right? Is this what I should do?” can get in the way of your workouts, and it can be liberating to give that ‘stress’ to someone else who KNOWS their stuff.

That way, runners can just turn their brain off and stick to what they love to do…run. Hey, running the workouts are hard enough, no reason to add more thinking than necessary to the mix. ;)

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More posts on RACE TIPS

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Make sure you’re looking GOOD doing all that training…Ezzere’s got your back there! :)
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