Don’t take shortcuts, they take too long ~ Sonia Simone
We live a world of instant gratification, the world of the quick fix but we often forget that the ability to discipline oneself from this craze will lead to long-term rewards.
Take runners for example – for most of us, the long haul is a challenge. By long haul, I mean the rest of your running life – 20, 30, 40+ years. It’s never about the race as a destination or the next year or the next decade. If your end goal is to be healthy and keep running, patience is the key to progress – how you train and care for your body.
Running is a full-body workout and not like any other form of athletics where only one muscle group is used. In running, the biggest muscle that is put to use is your brain and we often forget to train it. Mental training is often neglected, and we all seem to want to get to the finish line without training our mind well. Mental training requires practice, self-observation, and introspection. Post-race, we need to dwell on what went well or didn’t and make a note (mental or documented) so that we can reflect, and course-correct for the next race.
Looking at this graphically;
So, why is patience critical?
A key reason why runners (new or sometimes experienced) get injured is that they expect to go from 0-60K in no time. To prevent this, I almost always follow the 10% total mileage rule – increase my weekly mileage by 10% or less while ensuring that my long runs jump by no more than that.
I met someone who told me that he did the TCS 10K in 44mins and now wanted to complete the Procam slam. His logic – I finished a 10K in 44m, so I will finish the 21K in 1h 45m and hence about 4h for the FM.
I listened in amazement and then went on to explain that our bodies need to be conditioned for something like this to be done or else, there will be a big price to pay. A week later, he came back and said that he understood his folly and how he was trying to achieve too much, too fast.
Improve and see results.
When I started training on the tracks for the first time, I headed to Kanteerava every Tuesday. The first 3-4 weeks were tough as I had never done these types of workouts, but I persisted. Slowly I improved and my 1KM repeat dropped from 8m to 6m 10s.
Progress in running takes time, and once you get to a certain point as a runner you’re better off measuring success in seconds than you are in minutes or hours.
The difference between a 5h and a 4h marathon is 60m –the same is the difference between a 4h and a 3h marathon. When you’re new to the sport, you may be able to knock off a lot of time from one race to the next but that doesn’t happen after you’ve been running for a while. You don’t just go from a 4h marathoner to a 3h marathoner in one training cycle.
Often runners who do an FM in about 4h 15m, think doing a 50K is not that big a deal but it is. After the 42K mark, the glycogen levels in the body are completely depleted and the body is in shutdown mode. To go on after this, you should have started refuelling at the 38K mark, so you don’t go into reserve mode at the 42K mark. I’ve seen people achieve a timing of 4h 30m for 42K but take 2h to finish the remaining 8K. This is often because there is no strategy in place but more a “Let’s finish 42K and then see what happens”.
You must approach the right set of people who could coach or guide you in achieving this. Also, understanding the course, where you need to accelerate and where you slowdown is key. People tend to go too fast right from the start of the race.
A common mistake we all make is that we fail to introspect about what went wrong when a race doesn’t go as per plan. As the failures pile up, we start having self-doubt and fail to tell ourselves maybe we have done things too soon too fast. Respect your body and give it sufficient time for recovery. Scale-up gradually, races are here to stay!
Patience in a race.
You’re all excited and pumped up, the pre-race jitters and the excitement of the crowd pushes you to go out too fast, you burn out too soon and pay for it later in the race. It’s pointless trying to be a lead runner in the first 10k when you are running a 100k race. Also, if you are an ultra-marathoner its ok to compete in 10k races. Shorter distances has its own joy.
When I see runners racing almost every weekend and are back to running as soon as they can after their race is done, I shake my head in disbelief. After a full training cycle and racing hard, you need to give your body a chance to recover and heal.
If you’re serious about running for many years, you need to come to terms with just how important adequate recovery time is to avoid injury and burnout as a runner.
Many runners can accept a rest day each week, but they still struggle with taking 1-2 weeks off after a race. But how about an active recovery? Swim, yoga or just a stroll in the park?
If you’re serious about keeping the long haul of your running in mind, these extra days of rest won’t make any difference in your overall fitness and in pursuit of your big goals. But by not taking them, you’re increasing your chance of injury which can derail your long-term running goals.
In the time of injury.
The temptation is to immediately start running the moment your body shows signs of recovery or improvement. Be smart and not attempt a run. Instead, work on complementary muscles and develop skills in a different sport.
Patience after an injury.
You were running x kilometres at an x: xx pace before you got injured. You were forced to take 4-6 weeks off from running. The inclination is to immediately jump back into the pace and mileage that you were at before your injury. While it will take lesser than 4-6 weeks to return to your pace, it will take some time to build back up to where you are.
Running is easy but DO NOT neglect the little things!
- Make sure you’re regularly foam rolling and stretching
- Do some strength training
- Get on the mat for some yoga and Pilates
- Eat well and get plenty of sleep at night
- Breath and Smile
None of these things in isolation is a make or break component of your ultimate success as a runner.
Patience is a virtue, in #running and life