The training you complete will illustrate the background of the year’s picture, and the races will add the final brush strokes.
As we wrap up the year, many of us begin thinking about next year’s training and racing. Some have received notification that they were selected in a race lottery, while others have gotten the opposite response and have to decide “what now”. Regardless of whether you fall into one of those two camps, or if you’re simply excited about a new year of running and racing, the future is a blank canvas. The training you complete will illustrate the background of the year’s picture, and the races will add the final brush strokes. As we write our training plans and pencil in race dates on calendars, it is important to remember that we should immerse ourselves in the process, avoid overtraining, and always remember that in itself, training is supposed to be fun.
Immersing ourselves in training requires buying into the plan and understanding that the process of preparing to race is as important as the race itself. Don’t train for the result, train because you get to go out and run! Train because in our sport there’s very little difference, other than effort, between preparation and competition. Believe in the process and trust that it will help you accomplish your desired goals on race day. Instead of visualizing how the finish line of the race is going to be, visualize each day’s training. If each day’s training is our focus, we will be prepared when we toe the line on race day.
After immersing ourselves in training, we must remember that the underlying goal for all training is to reduce perceived effort. We want to make every pace feel easier, even making “race pace” more relaxed. As we train, runs of similar effort should become faster. More is not necessarily better though, and we must pay close attention to our bodies. When runs of similar effort (over time) become slower, this is indicative of overtraining. If we ensure that we’re tracking our workouts, and slowing down or taking time off when we find that easy pace is no longer easy, then the risk of overtraining can be minimized. We can also avoid overtraining by building rest periods into our training schedules, which will provide the added benefit of allowing adaptations to take hold, and make us faster.
Run a lot of miles,
Some of them faster than race pace,
Rest once in a while.
-Michael Joyner, M.D.
While being fully immersed, but still avoiding overtraining, we should do everything possible to keep training fun. Let’s face it, 99% of us are never going to be professional athletes (though our “sponsorship” codes through MURCA are very nice). So, why do this, if it is not for fun? When fully immersed, the daily training regimen may be a grind with challenges along the way and modicums of discomfort. We can make it fun however by chasing Strava segments, exploring amazing vistas, and experiencing nature at its finest. At least a few times a week, make sure you are having fun while training, whatever your definition of fun may be!
If your 2019 training plans can encompass immersing yourself in the process, avoiding overtraining, and ensuring that you’re having fun, then the foundation has been set for a good year. You will be ready, whatever starting line you may find yourself on. Whether you measure success in finishing times, or finishes, you’ll be ready to win.
Author’s Note: Though formal citations have been avoided, the basic premise for this article came from two books that I read during my deployment: How Bad do You Want it? Mastering the Psychology of Mind Over Muscle, by Matt Fitzgerald, and Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, by Alex Hutchinson. Both books are thought provoking and well worth adding to your reading list.