Runner’s Are Wont to Worry: Make sure you’re stressing over the RIGHT paces

Runners seem to like to worry. Perhaps it’s a bit of the self masochism in us, on some level we must like to hurt, so it makes sense the same attraction is there for worrying. Our brains never seem to never be happy, or feel quite right, unless we’re preoccupied with something troublesome. [Why it has to be a negative is a topic for a post of another day!]

Am I doing enough? Is that a ‘new’ pain? Is that an INJURY?! Did I go out to fast? Am I doing too much? Should I ice that again? etc…etc. A common one is worrying about paces.
deck of runners
Well that’s only natural, of COURSE runners worry about paces…and they should. Paces are numbers, they are concrete, they are the benchmarks that tell us if we’re heading in the right direction, if all of this work is paying off. For runners, numbers are what show us progress. Paces, times, the black and whites of our sport are what feed that runner’s OCD-neurotic monster. It fuels our motivation.

Runners thrive on numbers. So paces and miles, naturally. The problem is worrying stressing over the WRONG numbers. Let’s make a deal:

DO worry about the paces of your hard runs, races, and workouts.
DON’T worry about the paces of your easy runs.

Ahhh, there we go. Easy in concept but quite a different beast to wrestle when applied to the never-logical runner’s brain. ;)
garmin
It’s far too easy to get sucked into thinking all paces are created equal. They AREN’T. They don’t hold races for ‘easy’ days…they could but then why not just make it a real race?

You see, it’s the hard running that counts. It’s the fast running that counts for PR’s. Let’s force logic onto our running brains here:

If you want to run FAST then the days that COUNT are the HARD ones.

How do you make sure your legs and body are recovered and prepared to run fast and hard on the days that count? Well, make sure they are able to recover between hard workouts. That means your easy days need to be run at whatever pace it is that allows them to recover.

Simple. Logical. But simple and logical sometimes get mangled in the runner’s brain.

So next time your brain starts off on a manic stress-induced worry attack because *HOLY CRAP* the pace of my easy run was soooo slow. STOP. Pause. Ask yourself this:

What was the pace of my last hard workout or race?

If the answer was that the pace was in the direction you want your running to go, if it’s showing progress…then who the flip cares about your easy day pace?!

Stress about what matters.

If your runner brain must worry about something pick something a little more benign. Maybe worry about the fact that your watch tan is blinding me.

1) The runner brain often can struggle with simple and logical, what’s another instance you have?

2) How do you keep your hard and easy day paces separate and at the right effort level?

3) Some run watchless, do you go naked on some of your easy days?
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Brain Warp: Running mentally tough by changing how your brain interprets those pain messages

A runner’s brain is constantly being flooded by sensory input information. Feedback from the muscles, skin, lungs, eyes, ears, feet, nerves from everything. It’s a matter of taking all of these messages and warping them into what is in the runners’ best interest.
runner profile
The Physical Messages

Typically the loudest feedback responders are going to be from your muscles and lungs. Here comes relays from your cardiovascular system and lactic threshold responders. The muscles announcing they are being worked, those mitochondria are breaking down glycogen and supplying your energy to run on; they are attention mongers demanding to be credited for their work.

These are pretty basic, primordial messages to your brain. Instinctual. You can’t change that these messages will be sent and that they are mostly containing shouts of pain, complaints, and fatigue.

You can’t control what messages are coming in while you are running but you CAN control how you interpret them. A runner that is mentally tough is able to manage and get as close to ignoring certain sensory feedback as they can.

* Anticipate: Incidentally the ability to manage what your legs and body are telling you while you run starts before the first step. This is anticipating the uncomfort in pain. It is a reality, but it is one we must both accept and deny. Accept the race and workouts will hurt but deny that we will let that pain break us. Anticipating the pain is a lot different from fearing it.
* Realize: Once you realize that EVERYONE will hurt when they push themselves running, not just you, a runner doesn’t feel alone. Admitting pain is present is not a weakness, admitting that these workouts are tough isn’t a weakness…it only becomes a weakness when you start to believe you can’t do the workouts.
* Assess: As you run assess the messages you’re being told and start to ‘sort’ them. Pain of a workout is present and it’s a different pain from that of an injury. Sort the ‘usual’ pain into the ‘ignore’ pile and be attuned to the ‘different’ pain.
your brain on running
* Reassess/Rework: Now that you have the ‘ignore’ pile it’s time to reassess those messages and rework them. We’ve acknowledged you can’t STOP them from coming in but you override them through a runner’s coping mechanisms.
1) Visualization- By practicing how you will be running beforehand you condition yourself to stay positive and controlled DURING your running, racing, and workouts.
2) Self-Talk- Mantra’s work well, flip the ‘I can’t keep this pace up’ into something productive like, ‘I am strong’ or ‘I will not let this break me.’
3) Focus on Controllables- When the pain of running becomes more intense hone in on the ‘controllables’ like stride, form, and breathing. Counting steps or breaths acts as a distraction.
4) Goals- Always set goals for your running workouts and races beforehand. Don’t ambiguously go in because without concrete numbers or goals it’s easier to let your brain talk you into just ‘settling’ and giving up when the pain starts.
5) Selective Denial- We come back to runners living in a kind of state of denial. The lies of, ‘I’m only running one more repeat/mile/5-minutes/step’ get us to the next point, where we then lie again.

Confidence

A runner draws confidence from a lot of places: past workouts, a full season of training, race times, other runners they train with that have faster PR’s, etc. A large part of being mentally tough is being confident that you can WARP the messages coming into your brain and OVERRIDE them to push through the pain.

This confidence is built up the longer you run, the snowball effect. As with all other rules of running it hinges upon consistency, consistently proving you can push through the pain. There are margins for error and just like bad races there will be days where you don’t do a great of a job running and overriding the pain messages as you know you’re capable of.

You get through the bad days, learn where you went wrong, and then take those lessons into your next run.

Let your running be ruled by expertly brain warping that flood of sensory feedback from your body. Don’t let the messages steal your confidence because you CAN run and do a lot more than your body would like you to believe.

1) Anticipating the pain isn’t fearing it; fear takes hold of you and consumes your running confidence. What is a refute you use to keep this anticipation in check? (ie: remember times you’ve pushed through pain, mantra, pre-race hyping yourself up tactic, etc.)

2) Give an example of how you take assessing an incoming message you want to ignore and then reassess/rework it.

3) What are a few of the ways/places you draw confidence as a runner?

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Distance Runners Getting Their Speed Work On: The multi-level approach to getting faster

Getting a runner to be faster is an interesting undertaking. It’s actually a concept that coaches and athletes have been trying to perfect for centuries. As science has improved, training has evolved, we’ve created training phases and workouts that push the runner and train their body.

Simplistically it’s easy to sum it up like this: if you want to run faster, run faster. This is true of course, doing speed work and improving your base speed, is going to enable a runner to run a faster pace as the distance gets longer. As in, if you improve your mile time you’ll be able to run a 5k and 10k faster. If you don’t do speed work you’ll never improve your speed.
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Though as I said, that’s overly simplistic, and if a runner is truly wanting to see how fast they can be they need to open their eyes and expand their training logs to include ALL of the factors that make a runner faster. You see, the body is an interconnected machine, you can’t just concentrate on straight running workouts.

I’ve been working on a series for Competitor.com tied to speed work and the other techniques that enable a runner to, well, run faster. There are drills, strength work, and a neuromuscular component to getting faster.

Check out the series so far:

What Distance Runners Can Learn From Sprinters

The Neuromuscular Component to Speed Work

Distance Runners Staying SHARP During an Injury

In reading each of them you’ll see that the first step to getting faster is working on your shorter-repeat speed. You shouldn’t avoid those 200′s even if you’re a 10k and above runner. But that’s ONE step in the process.

After that you’ve got to build the synapses and teach the nerves to fire faster; your brain is ‘telling’ your legs and foot to move faster. But if you don’t build the connections the ‘message’ won’t be able to travel faster from brain to foot.
running fortune cookie
A runner’s form is also related, and the articles touch on that. Running faster takes POWER and EXPLOSIVE propulsion from your muscles. Your muscles also need to be ‘waken-up’ and eased into the movements of running. That’s why a proper warm-up is so important for your had workouts and races. There will be more on that specifically in upcoming articles.

So if you’d like to run faster, even if you’re a marathoner, it’s important to realize that it’s a multi-pronged approach. It will take time too, but consistency is the law of distance running and THAT is what will, in the end, take you to the next level.

Consistently incorporate speed work, speed-endurance, and endurance work into your training.
Consistently be working on your core and strength routines.
Consistency with foot-firing and ladder drills that play off of the short speed sessions.
Practice, improve, and then have a coach or be a student of the sport if you’re training yourself.

Without going on a long tangent, a big mistake many new runners are making is getting swept up in marathon and mileage mania. They just want to do more, more, more. That’s fine, but if you want to get faster you need to TRAIN to run faster. That’s where quality of miles becomes more important than just quantity.

I hope you enjoy the series so far and keep on the lookout for the next ones. Running is an action that can be broken down to be incredibly simplistic: left, right, left. Running faster can also be thought of in simple fashion: run faster. BUT it’s a lot more complicated, and to be honest insanely interesting, than just that.

To run faster you’ve got to be training your body to do so on multiple levels.

1) What’s a concept about speed work that you have learned from this series so far?

2) Have you done any work geared toward training your neuromuscular system to get you faster? Or is this a new idea to you?

3) If you’re training to get faster, what are some of your ‘staple’ speed sessions?
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Running is Repetitive, So Avoid Reinforcing Bad Habits

If I’m on an easy run I usually get something random stuck in my head. A phrase, a word, the same song lyric running a loop over and over until the run is over. It can sure drive a person mad when it’s of course a song you hate.
tired runner
Be it as it may, I usually can’t get the lyrics to most songs right anyways, so why not make them up? It all plays in time to the music, I mean that’s all we really care about, right? ;)

“(S)he’s going the distance…(S)he’s going for speeeeed!” Won’t lie, Cake you have my heart and I don’t care what music comes out until the day I die this will forever by my favorite song. It’s not about racecar driving either.

“Don’t you worry, don’t you worry, Child…the track has got a plan for you.” This is a newer one and it comes on the heels of two thoughts: 1) I need to get something other than radio in my car and 2) overplaying a song leads to psychosis. True fact.

Whatever it is looping through your brain to get you through those miles is just fine and dandy. Running couldn’t get any more repetitive…haha…but that’s got to be a part of the reason we love it! Some not so hot things that come with a repetitive motion:

1) Body Adaptation: The body is sneaky and starts to adapt, meaning if you’re running wonky, with bad form that just get ingrained in the body’s ‘muscle memory’. Keep practicing a bad habit and over time it will bite you in the bum. Probably literally.

2) Wandering Mind: Having random thoughts through easy runs is totally fine, a nice distraction. But you don’t want to be counting blades of grass during hard repeats at the track.
runner on track
How do we, as runners, combat these?

1) Muscle Memory Toolbox:
* Check your form, them start improving it. Post with a lot of info HERE.
* Find your muscle imbalances and work on improving them. Posts HERE and HERE.
* Body rehab in the way of stretching and massage. Posts HERE and HERE.
* Drills and strength work come hand in hand with form work. Check that out HERE.

2) Focused Mind Toolbox:
* When the pain sets in try and zone the heck out. Different from wandering mind and that’s explained HERE.
* Count your stride, breathing, and do a form-check as a means of distracting from the pain AND keeping your mind working WITH your body to get through those intervals.
* Mantras…here is where a short song lyric can help. ‘She’s going for speed’ or make-up your own positive affirmation like, ‘Smooth, strong, powerful’.
* Stay relaxed and don’t try too freaking hard. Crazy, but you can slow yourself down by just trying to force it. So stay relaxed as explained HERE.

Practicing both sets of tools during easy runs is productive, so try and cut that in between making up better lyrics to overly-played songs. Avoid psychosis…plus, don’t all runners just want to be better at, well, running? ;)

1) Name a tool that should be included in the muscle memory toolbox I didn’t include.

2) Name a tool that should be included in the focused mind toolbox I didn’t already name.

3) Favorite pump-up song? Or would you like to re-write some lyrics?
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Running Patient Keeps You In the Sport and WILL Reward You…In Time ;)

Running is wrought with the ‘two steps forward, one step backward’ tests and trials. I’d call it logic, but let’s be honest, most runners lost all logic about 5,000 miles ago. ;)

Progress forward is HARD fought, once you’ve been running for awhile it then come in seconds and tenths rather than minutes. Each new PR ushers you into another realm, and in order to break through and run through to that next level it takes more work than before, and the cycle continues.
deck of runners

Eventually you’re working to improve by 1 or 2%, and by that time it takes more than just running harder and running faster. One must run harder and faster of course, but also SMARTER, be more ATTUNED, and then PATIENT.

All that patience sure does wear on a runner’s mindset. Typically we want those rewards, those PR’s NOW…but failing to be patient and look long term usually winds you up either 1) hurt or 2) limited.

* Hurt: By running harder and faster smartly that means allowing the body to recover between those hard and fast workouts. If you don’t recover on your easy days then you start greying the line between HARD and EASY. You might think that going harder more often will help, but in fact you wind up being too tired to really NAIL those hard workouts. A bunch of grey running just leads to a bunch of grey racing, not sharp, quality races and workouts. Well, that is if you don’t wind up injured first. I’ll include overtrained under the hurt category, because watching your times slip really does hurt too.

* Limited: By limited I mean you’re not looking at the BIG picture. To gain those ‘little’ percentages forward means you need to widen your scope beyond just running miles. It means having an actual PLAN, including core work, drills, strength work, stretching, injury prevention techniques, eating better...all those ‘extras’. Running SMARTER means being curious, and learning about all the other ways you can improve in addition to running harder and faster.
runner by tree
Distance Paradigm

The other thing about training is there needs to be a balance between just running MORE and running FASTER. Volume and consistency is important of course, but so is being able to get QUALITY out of those miles.

If you DO care about getting more PR’s (someone asked me, so I’ll explain that as Personal Record) then you need to have a speed component in all that running. Some runners fail to think about running more quality, and get lost in the competition to just run MORE. That’s okay, but if you want to run faster you’ve got to get used to running faster, make sense?

Looking long term and being PATIENT means you can’t have it all, all the time. Get your mileage up to a decent level, but from there focus on getting more QUALITY out of those miles. Speed workouts will hurt, duh, but it’s the kind of thing that us runners are a little crazy about and sickly enjoy. Well, enjoy after they are done.

Stepping forward and back, parallels the HARD and EASY days…let the paces step back so you can recover and then jump forward again.

Stepping forward and back also parallels this disgusting thing called an injury; they are unavoidable to even the most patient runner. Take them in stride, get through them and be prepared to step forward again.

Running steps forward every time you get a new PR or hit better times in your workouts; on the heels will be the times when you take steps back with bad races, off days, and horrendous blow-ups of workouts. They happen…don’t let them derail you…because if you are running SMARTLY you can’t ‘lose’ your fitness after just a bad race, dispute that mental thought, it’s a lie.

Runners often want those gains NOW. But sadly, those gains have to be earned…earned with hard freaking work and loads of patience.

1) Fill in the blanks: I recently took a step forward _________________ and was prepared to take a step backwards __________________________.

2) Fill in the blank: I really want to run faster NOW, but looking long term I recently incorporated __________________ to get faster, the payoffs may take a little time.

3) When an injury DOES crop up it tests my patience but I get through it and grow as a runner by ___________________________.
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Running Mentally Engaged: Keeping your brain in check when the pain sets in

Running is tough. Racing is tougher…downright painful. The brain has a funny little way of dealing with that pain, it gets sneaky and tries to coax us into slowing down.

Runner Brain: “I want to run a PR, dang this hurts, but I’m going to put the work in and stick this out.”
Annoying Tired Brain: “Well, fine, if you’re not going to listen to my complaints and willingly slow down I’ll just find other ways to trick you into it!”
your brain on running
Oh the brain, you slippery little eel, you.

* Self-Defeatist Thoughts: This would be when you’re running and your mind starts screaming in your ear, “You seriously can’t keep this pace up for any longer.”
* Dwelling on the Future: This is when your mind has on repeat, “Umm, and HOW much further do you think you’re going to be forcing me to do this? Think again buster, you CAN’T last that many miles more!”
* Bargaining: When your runner brain and your sane tired brain get into a war, your lame-o brain argues, “C’mon, just ease up a little, trust me you’re not going to feel guilty or regretful about it, just ease up.” This is also known as a lie, because your runner brain knows you’ll feel regretful.
* Wandering: This is when your brain full-on goes on vacation, if you catch yourself mid-race thinking, “Wow, I really like the zebra print on that lady’s shirt, you see her, the one sitting on the 20th row of in the stands.”

A Wandering Mind = A Slowing Body

See, when the mind decides to check-out and wander like that what inevitably ends up happening is the pace starts to lag. Running through pain takes a special kind of focus, focus on forcing yourself to relax, to keep pushing, to stay ENGAGED in the race.

When your mind wanders it is sneakily distracting you from the battle race at hand. My latest article at Competitor.com is all about staying focused during a race so you then, race your best: “Got a Wandering Mind? Here’s How to Stop It”

Read the article, but I’d like to add that a wandering mind is much different from zoning out during a race.

tired runner

Aww, c’mon, I’m only joking…kinda. ;)


I’ve talked about how zoning out is a mental trick to pushing through the pain. Zoning out:
* Locked Eyes Ahead:
Find a runner ahead of you, stare at a single spot on their back and refuse to let any distance open up between you and the spot.
* Breathing and Form: When you zone out you think only of the tangibles you can control and NOT the pain from lactic acid. Thinking about standing tall, keeping your form in check, and breathing controlled are all tangibles to think of.
* Think Relaxed: When you zone out you want to let go of any tension; don’t have your fists and jaw clenched, don’t have your shoulders in your ears.

Finally, zoning out is the epitome of being ENGAGED in the race, you’re single-mindedly in it.

A wandering mind is where you’re brain is anywhere but in the race. It is, in reality, just a backwards trick that your tiring brain is using to get you to slow down.

Don’t fall for it. Running often comes down to mentally ‘beating’ your own brain. Push past the pain, get through those intervals, drive for the finish line, and stay present in your race…because THAT is how you improve as a runner. THAT is how you set those wonderful PR’s. ;)

1) What is an example of a trick your brain has tried on you to get you to slow down?

2) How do you one-up that slippery little eel of a complaining tired brain?

3) What is an aspect of zoning out? How do you stay zoned during a race and stay ENGAGED throughout?

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Running the Paces: Fitting the effort level to the numbers

I’m a runner who hates excuses. If it’s windy I’d rather run into the wind instead of having it ‘help’ me to a faster time. Sort of like if there is going to be a kind of handicap I’d rather have it work against me.
tornado runner
My line of reasoning is that I’d rather be EXTRA sure I could hit the splits myself. It’s silly logic, but hey, I won’t judge your running quirks so don’t be judging mine. ;) The thing is, EVEN though I hate giving myself excuses the benefit of the doubt, there comes a point where it’s NOT an excuse, it’s legit.

Wind. Heat. Frigidity. Altitude. These are legitimate factors that effect your running, racing, and performance. A 6 minute mile at sea level is NOT the same as running it at 6,000 feet, in a windstorm, and with sweltering temperatures. It’s just not.

Figuring out what your paces are equivalent to under ‘perfect’ conditions is tricky; lots of math and equations involved. But for training and race planning it’s important to KNOW those numbers.
jack daniels
Brain Rosetti, who founded The Run S.M.A.R.T. Project, recently told me about a new pace calculator their team just launched, The Jack Daniels’ Running Calculator (Daniels is one of the expert coaches offering private training services through The Run S.M.A.R.T Project; the others are all National and World class runners themselves with too many titles to prattle off here!).

The calculator is free for anyone to use, and doesn’t require any more math than a pre-K’er. You can take one of your recent race results, plug it in and the calculator it will give you some training paces to shoot for.

Additionally, you can have it factor in temperatures, wind speeds, and altitude. That way you are able to get a solid idea of the ‘effort level’ versus the actual black and white numbers. Because in going back to running that mile run at 6,000 feet in our windstorm the numbers aren’t the full story.

Now any logical “I want to run faster” runner will get smart and put in the goal race time and let it spit out the training paces. Works well for motivation as much as planning ahead.

I do have to say that I’m of the thinking that if you’re seriously training for something it is SO beneficial to have a coach to give you a kind of training program. Mostly because as a runner it’s far ‘easier’ to just run and take the mind out of it as much as possible. Let a someone else (a coach) do all the thinking; a runner who OVER-THINKS their training is headed for a disaster. Not everyone has a coach, so at least with tools like these more runners are able to wisely go forward in mapping out their own training.

That said, runners can be numbers nerds, and it’s fun to play around with. Did you know that if you wanted to run a 30 minute 10k you should be doing mile repeats at 4:55. If you’re at altitude that could affect it by 5.5 seconds/mile. ;)

1) Excuses are one thing but LEGIT factors are another. How do you try to factor the elements into your training? (ie: wind, temp, etc.)

2) Do you use any kind of race or training calculators?

3) Do you have a coach? If you’re training for something how do you come up with your training plans?

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Improve Your Running By Asking Yourself THIS Question

Before you step out for your next run ask yourself this, “What am I trying to accomplish?” Every run should have a PURPOSE.
vive la runnerchick
Defining the PURPOSE of every run is important for a lot of reasons:

* Motivation: The first obstacle with running is just DOING it. Set a goal, a purpose, REASON why you’re going out there. Whether it be to just have fun and enjoy the fun, to make sure you get some recovery miles in, build your base, hit the track, or toe the line for a race. It’s a lot harder to blow something off that is DEFINED rather than ambiguous. (ie: I guess, maybe, I could, like, go out and run, maybe?)
* Improved Workouts: If you’ve got a hard workout for the day, figure out the GOAL of that workout. Is it to improve your speed? Endurance? Hill strength? Know what the aim is, once defined as concrete it’s easier remember why it’s important to put in the WORK. Mentally, when it starts to hurt it’s a lot easier to keep pushing knowing that you are working towards a definite goal.
* Over-training: Setting a purpose for each run not only makes sure that you give it your best for hard workouts but it also has the same effect on those of us who tend to overdo it. Stop and think, “WHY am I going out for this run? Is it in the best interest of my long term plan, will these miles DO something for my running? Or, am I just running to run and these miles will just make me too tired for tomorrow’s workout?” See, the knife cuts both ways.

keep running

We keep running EVEN through those crummy runs.


* Perspective: Having the purpose set for each run makes our training look like a bunch of blocks, you’re building the runner you want to be. Some blocks are tiny and can’t hold that much weight (bad runs) but others are STRONG and make up for it (good runs). Thinking of it that way can help after those bad runs…it’s just ONE block…move onto the next.
* Fix a Weakness: I’m gonna send another shout-out to fixing your form and becoming a more efficient runner. Perhaps the last 1/2 mile of your next easy run should have the purpose of: “I will think of standing TALL every step of the last mile of my run.”
* Racing Long Term: Your training is not defined by a single run and your best race is NOT defined by a single run (day). No, what defines how well those races wind up is your cumulative training. Running is all about CONSISTENCY, all those runs leading up to your best race had a purpose, just like puzzle pieces that eventually make a kicak@$$ picture.

If you want your running to improve, set a PURPOSE for the run. Always know what you’re running towards because it helps get you out the door and GET IT DONE! ;)
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By the way this little trick works for de-stressing too. If you’re getting too wound up, putting too much pressure on yourself, and stressed about your runs think about it like this, “What am I trying to accomplish in this run?” Answers: “I want to leave my watch at home and run to enjoy it” , “I want to go explore a ton of new trails” , “I want to get OVER my phobia of the track, run for effort and not stress about splits.” See, it works. ;)
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1) Define a PURPOSE for your next run.

2) What was the purpose of your last run, if it was a hard workout, what kind?

3) Give me an example of a purpose for the run right after a really sucky run.
I’m not going to let the memories/thoughts of that sucky run effect my next run.
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Running and ‘Craming’: Race day ready with not as much time as you would have liked

The results for the ‘cramming method’ when it comes to running are a pretty mixed bag. Admittedly there are those lucky few blessed with a fair chunk of talent and with minimal training can whip out a rather remarkable performance given the circumstances. That’s not the norm and I’d like to also point out that the craming method = the hazing method. Read as: be prepared to suffer the consequences by way of pain uncomfort and soreness. Hey, you have to pay the price some way!

finish line face man running

Trust me, he’s hurting, but I think he ditched the can’t beast at mile 2.


Running rewards the consistent and the hard-workers BUT there are circumstances where you’ve got less time than you’d like before race day and you want to do all you can to make the most of that time available. My most recent article for Competitor: ‘How to Get Race Ready in Four Weeks’ shares how to get the most bang for your buck in 4 weeks of training.

This article pertains to 5k and 10k races; generally the shorter races are a little easier to ‘gutt it out’ and surprise yourself with a better than expected race. True fact: you really can’t fake a marathon, even with months of warning…haha.

In getting back to running a race with a deadline looming, different scenarios will offer up very different prospects:

* Coming off of injury: We’ve all been there and if you’re injured early in the season, or during the point where you’d be doing the ‘meat’ of your training, you would be surprised just how WELL cross-training like a demon can prepare you for the race. Take your running workouts and just adapt them. By the time you get healthy enough to run, transition smartly and with even just 4 weeks of ‘real’ running you can have a really great race.
runner legs
* Running but not training: Say you’ve been consistent but not doing any real workouts or mixing up the paces. Then your 4 weeks of training will mostly be getting those legs accustomed to faster paces and the mental training component of embracing the hurt of training, it’s different from just straight running. The good news is that ultimately if you’ve been consistent and are not out of shape, you’re tuning up and you may not be in PR-busting shape after 4 weeks but you’ll be well on your way and then motivated to keep that momentum up.

* Slacker: Okay, got to call out the runners that show up after summer vacation to report to their schools’ teams having not run a single step. Here is where that nice hazing term comes in, I know of some runners who, having diligently trained over the summer, take a sick kind of glee in watching others pay for their slackerdom. Like I said, you have to ante up somewhere and usually slackers have to pay double for their little hiatus. That said, at least if you’ve been a runner you have the muscle memory on your side so with 4 weeks of actually focusing you could wind up at least not totally embarrassing yourself. Then just keep up the hard work and hopefully learn your lesson just once. ;)

Along with sharing the workouts that will give you the most bang for your buck (spoiler: threshold workouts) the article has a 4 week training program guide too. So if you’re looking nervously at the calendar, take a breathe (hopefully you’ve been cross-training! Hehe) and know that you STILL can make it to the start and finish line with your ego intact and have at least a respectable showing…and potentially a really awesome one! :)

1) Was there a time where you were on a time crunch for your race; what was the circumstance, how did your training end up going, and then how were the results?
I had been injured for pretty much all of one cross season but was able to get in some land runs and workouts a couple of weeks before one of the big races. Since I was really good with my cross-training I actually did PR, so again, don’t underestimate cross-training! :)

2) Was there ever a time you feel to slacker syndrome?

3) When is your next race and what are some of your staple workouts in your training?
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Tackling Your Long Run: Always easy or is there a time to put the hammer down?

Oh, the long run. I’ve always loved long run days and the feelings of entitlement we get for the rest of the day: slothful laziness and inhaling as much food as we want. With distance training the staples of the week usually shape up to be one or two key workouts and the long run.
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Lots of current running sources will say that long runs should all be done at an easy pace, similar to recovery days. I can see that, hammering out double digit miles each and every week could be a quick way to dig yourself into a hole or wind up hurt. If you keep going into the next hard workout still not recovered and then your speed and interval work starts to suffer…there goes the snowball effect.

However, and this is just my opinion and past experience, getting out there and making those legs work on that long run every so often can do some really great things for you too. The key is being smart with your overall training. If you’re going to use the long run as a quality run, don’t do it the day after or before another hard session. Common sense people. ;)

Kick-up That Long Run Effort

* Progressive Long Run: Just like the name implies, think of this as just a longer progressive run where you keep cutting down the pace as you go. Take the first two miles at your easy pace and from there pick it up. Depending on how hard you want to make it, you could be moving darn near all out towards the end. But if you do that, reserve at least one mile at the end to cool-down to at least start flushing out the lactic acid.

* Middle Interval Play: It’s easy to turn your long run into just an extended workout; using the early and late stages as warm-up and cool-down do mile repeats, 2-mile repeats or slow/fast 800′s. Examples: warm-up and cool-down then 6xmile with 3 minute recovery; warm-up and cool-down then alternate the middle miles with fast/easy half miles. As you get more advanced and fit start putting more pressure on those ‘easy’ portions.

* Middle Tempo Run: The name is pretty much a dead giveaway here, for newer and younger runners you may stick to 2 or 3 tempo miles within your total long run but for more advanced runners, and those planning to race longer, you should aim for more. The benefit of turning your long run into a tempo style run rather than doing a straight tempo workout, is that you go into the hard tempo with more miles already in your legs and the fatigue is more in line with what you’ll be experiencing come race day. Examples: 14 miles total with first 6 easy/moderate, 7 tempo, 1 mile easy; 14 or more miles total doing a 10 mile tempo, to make the tempo harder add more miles to the front and extend the first easy phase.

The Mental Component:
Another reason I like making long runs hard is that they test you mentally, and, especially if you’re planning on racing longer (10k, half, marathon, etc.) they simulate what you’ll be going through on race day much better than doing all of your long runs easy.
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You still don’t want to make each, weekly long run hard and you want to be smart with your overall training. Don’t do a hard long run workout the day after or before another hard workout…you obviously won’t be recovering. Rather, think of your training in three week cycles and maybe do a long run workout every third week.

It’s base season for lots of runners before cross-country, so here is a point in your training where some long, hard runs would fit right in. Though, the last little disclaimer I’d like to add is that for new runners (those still only in their first, second or third year running regularly) and younger runners (through high school, an exception could be juniors or seniors who have been running for years), it’s very easy to get incredibly motivated and want to do EVERYTHING hard, or go the more-more-more route; but running is a sport where patience wins out in the big picture. For you guys, stick to them easy long runs…enjoy them while they last. ;)

***Tip For Beginners: If you’re still not yet ready for long run workouts, you can start out experimenting by adding in some short surges or strides within your long run. Sprinkle in some 30 second strides within those middle miles.

Be smart. Be patient. Then go attack some long runs. :)

1) How do you approach your long runs?

2) If you like making some long runs also workouts, what are some of your favorite ways to do that?

3) What point in your training cycle/season are you in? Cross-country coming up, late track, road racing?

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