We all want to improve our running performance. Even if we’re in the sport just for fun, it’s always nice to see some gains. It does wonders for motivation and affirms that what we do in training is indeed the right thing. Here, Exercise Physiologist and avid runner Peter Feain tells us some hard truths about what often holds us back from getting the most from ourselves.
1. You’re addicted to running not performance
If you are happy just plodding around and never actually reaching your full running potential that’s fine, you will stay fit and healthy. But if you actually want to run well, smash some PB’s, win some races, make some teams then you need to focus on being addicted to performance not running. This means sometimes taking rest days to recover, freshen up, taper. This also requires you to make your easy runs easy and really pushing your hard sessions, instead of just doing every run at your 4.20/km medium intensity pace. You should also add to the list that you need to eat for performance. This equates to quality protein, complex carbs and all your micronutrients. Loads of runners make the mistake of thinking they run every day so they can eat what they want. Shift your mindset from getting your running fix, to running performance.
2. You don’t trust your coach
How many runners have you coached in your life? Yeah that’s right, just one – yourself. This is often the case with newcomers to the sport. How many athletes has your coach taken from average recreational runner to sub-elite/elite (including you) – often hundreds! Yes you know your body better than anyone but your coach has years of experience in getting the best out of athletes and has a greater understanding of physiology and training adaptations. You need to work together, but remember your coach has an objective, bird’s eye view of your training with a long term plan laid out for you to run your best. Have faith in the plan and trust your coaches judgement.
3. You don’t listen to your body
So yes you know your body better than anyone else including your coach, but you still don’t listen to it (hence why you should trust your coach). Listening to your body means paying attention to soreness, niggles, fatigue, stress, emotional state, fitness and adapting your training/recovery /nutrition in order to best match your current state. Are you actually fatigued and tired and need to back it off or are you being lazy and can actually get out and push through it? Has that niggle hung around for a few too many days now and it’s time to get into the physio or is it just typical soreness because you run 100mile a week? Is that work stress taking its toll and you need to take a mental health day? (because let’s face it, hitting running PB’s is more important than work!) Listen to your body and do what it needs to adapt and perform better. But in doing this, obey rule 2 and consult your coach along the way.
4. You don’t prioritise recovery
Without adequate recovery your dedication and focus to get out and run every day is wasted. Running is just the stimulus, the body won’t adapt and produce faster running times if you don’t give recovery as much priority as you do your training. This means getting your massages, doing your foam rolling, staying hydrated, getting your protein in, and wearing your compression tights after a hard run. But more importantly it means going to bed early. Turn your ipad/laptop/iphone off and go to sleep! Would you cut a session short so you can flip through Instagram on your phone? No. So why would you waste precious recovery time on social media or watching TV? Sleep is the most important recovery tool we have – it’s infinitely better than anything else to improve recovery (unless you’re mates with Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, who can hook you up). If you aren’t prioritising recovery, sleep in particular, you aren’t serious about running fast.
5. You are too impatient
We want to run all of the kilometres and all of the PB’s right now! But that’s not how the body works, push it too hard too soon and it will break. Get frustrated at not running winning times already and you will lose mental focus and motivation. The key is to be patient. Every good athlete has put in years of consistent training, thousands of hours and made countless sacrifices in order to improve by the smallest of margins. You can’t rush it, be patient, have your eyes on the prize and stick to the long term plan.
By Peter Feain, Exercise Physiologist.