Apart from the theory about when summer is supposed to end, anyone thinking that it may actually still be here would be, sadly, very wrong. A brief single-day last hurrah last weekend and it was gone. Anyone out running yesterday will testify to the dismal autumnal conditions. But that’s not so bad, what it does though is serve as a reminder that the autumn racing season is nearly upon us and that as most of us have probably been gorging on too many holiday beers and BBQ chicken wings, perhaps now is the time to think about those races we booked all those months ago….Whilst training plans give us the physical conditioning to be able to take part on the day, there are plenty of other ways in which we can help ourselves, whatever the race distance. Some that I’ve found useful I include here.
Time: Allow enough time to train. Rushing the training just leads to disappointment, through injury or failure to meet your expected time on the day – if the training has really gone out of the window and you still want a great time, perhaps consider a different race and defer?
Consistency: Life always gets in the way of running, but choosing specific days to run on will get you in to a regime and force you to be consistent. Get back into the swing of it, and schedule runs again. If you know every Tuesday you have a club run, you will do it. Same goes for the other runs, schedule them all, and work life around them where possible not the other way around.
Comfort zone: The truth is that you can’t improve without going outside of your comfort zone, but that shouldn’t actually mean pain. Hill work, speed work, tempos are all designed to do just that – take you outside your comfort zone temporarily. Know the difference between pain and discomfort.
Variety: Be prepared to change things about from time to time. Boredom is what kills a lot of training plans (as well as summer holidays) You simply loose the plot half way and this happens to lots of runners. Try to throw in cross training, a swimming session for example or a biking session, or try moving all your runs about in the diary for a week, to mix things up, or if you normally run on the road, try a trail. This will trick the brain into thinking its not so repetitive. Group runs can be good here also, but not too many as you then become too reliant on them.
Nutrition: There are basically two types of people here. Those that run so they can eat what they want, and those that eat healthily to aid their running. Depends on how serious you are about your goals, but its never too late to cut down on a few bad things in the build up to a race, but don’t go mad. You don’t want to change your entire diet and bring on GI distress. No, you don’t want that.
Pacing: Practice running at your actual race-pace. So many runners have a “I’ll just see how I get on” view of the world, which is ok in fact. Fine for them, but if you are serious about smashing it, then this is a very useful tool – you already know the time you want, so use this pace and try running it. How far did you get? Not as far as you wanted eh? Try again next week. Further? Ok so you see how this can be a good tool to getting you the pb you want.
Rest: I will bet that most runners have been in a position where they thought, shall I run today or rest, I missed that important session, so I need to catch up. Remember, rest is really, really important too. Always ask yourself this: if I run, what do I gain? If I rest what do I gain? if you know your workout will be compromised because you are ill, tired, fatigued from a big session, then rest. Its that simple.
Race day: Never ever break the rules here. Only eat what you’ve eaten before, only wear what you’ve worn before, don’t do anything new. Ever. Eat a good breakfast and try not to think too much about the race. Enjoy.