When you only consider the end result, sometimes you can be too intimidated to start.
Progressive training, or gradually improving fitness over the course of many weeks in preparation for a key race, can be a difficult concept for many runners to embrace. All too often, the desired end result becomes the sole focus of the endeavor and runners fail to take into account the necessary steps along the way as well as the challenges and obstacles that may arise over the course of a training cycle.
When I write training schedules, I rarely write more than three or four weeks at a time. Primarily, this is because training almost never goes as planned and it doesn’t make sense to plan for what will certainly change. However, on the occasion that I do need to write a schedule more than a few weeks in advance, I inevitably run into the same problem – athletes get intimidated.
When runners examine a training schedule, their eyes inevitably find their way to the last six to eight weeks of training. They see the big workouts, increasing mileage, and tough long runs and hit the panic button. Oftentimes, I get an email that sounds something like this:
“Coach, you’re crazy! I can’t run x miles at y pace – I can barely do that for 3 miles now. Maybe you sent me the wrong schedule.”
I understand the fear these runners face. When you only consider the end result, sometimes you can be too intimidated to start.
Your takeaway: Don’t worry about the workouts, mileage, and long runs in your training schedule that aren’t in the immediate future. Focus on one workout and one week at a time. Each week, you’ll get a little stronger and a little faster and when those intimidating workouts arrive, you’ll be ready to tackle them with confidence.
Results Don’t Happen Every Day
Once new runners get over the feeling that running sucks because it always hurts, training becomes less of a chore, and positive race results help to reinforce that enjoyment. As your weekly mileage rises, workouts become faster and personal bests start dropping seemingly every time you race, running becomes more enjoyable because you’re seeing regular, marked improvement.
Then, almost out of nowhere, hitting personal bests starts to get increasingly more difficult. You’re working harder than you ever have in training, but not seeing the results you expect.
Your takeaway: Don’t measure your progress in daily, weekly, or even monthly blocks. Training adaptations don’t happen that quickly once you’re already fit. Instead, reflect on how far you’ve come in the past year or the past six to eight months. Look back a year and compare your workout paces, long run distances, and weekly mileage to look for signs of progress.
There’s No Skipping Steps
In today’s culture, we’ve been conditioned to want and expect things instantly, and running is no different. In training, we all want to run more miles, run workouts faster, qualify for Boston, set a personal best — and we want to do it now! That mentality, however, and the type of desperate training it fosters, inevitably leads to injury and overtraining.
As runners, we have to start at the beginning, take small steps and gradually progress our training toward future goals. And, of course, we must be willing to take steps back sometimes and adjust if unforeseen obstacles such as injury or illness get in our way.
Your takeaway: You have to start from the beginning, even if the beginning seems so far away from your ultimate goal. For example, if you’re constantly injured, take a step back, start from the beginning, build you aerobic base slowly and let your muscles, tendons and ligaments adapt to the mileage. Likewise, don’t try to skip steps or take shortcuts. If you have a race coming up and you’re not ready, don’t force training you’re not ready to handle. Always take the next logical step in your training. If you do so, you’re guaranteed to reach your goal.