No, I’m not having a runner tantrum or questioning the meaning of life. Training is going really well and I’m looking forward to a solid Phase III. Asking “what’s the point” however, is one of the most critical questions an athlete can ask of a coach and of themselves.
Every run should have a purpose. As such, every run has an appropriate length and pace and (spoiler alert) as hard as you can doesn’t count. I just came out of Phase II, where I was focused on getting my long run to 2:30 and on building the strength to do some big workouts in Phase III. This strength came from a steady diet of intervals with 90% rest, tempo runs and most importantly, recovery runs. Early on in Phase II, I almost derailed myself because I started to push the pace on my easy runs. I should know better but my foot called me out on the behavior and I’m back to running my easy runs somewhere between 8:30 and 9:00 pace. Yup. I race over two minutes per mile faster than I do most of my mileage.
One of the biggest challenges as a coach is convincing athletes to slow down on their recovery runs. People want to push, want to rush the acquisition of fitness or recovery from an injury. They get about two weeks out of this approach, three if they’re lucky. Think I’m being dramatic? Just read a few running blogs and look for the trend. People celebrate the return from an injury or pick a goal race, pop up their mileage way beyond the 10% rule, start hammering workouts and low and behold, just don’t know what happened when they are totally out again three weeks later.
Last year, I decided to start telling my girls about the point of each workout and run and found that in so doing, I was able to alleviate anxiety. I think we have a natural tendency to assume that a particular run or workout “determines” our future success. In reality, a goal race depends on workout stacked on workout stacked on workout and showing up every day and asking ourselves what we’re aiming to accomplish that day and then executing that. One run does not a training cycle make.
How do you make sure that all of your runs have purpose? How do you structure training cycles? What are your tricks for not pushing it too far, too soon?