One of the bigger areas of debate among runners and coaches is the tradeoff between quantity of miles (or kilometers, of course) and quality of miles. With the growth of the “run less, run better” and Crossfit approaches to training, there is a temptation to believe that you as a runner can perform your best by landing on the quality side of this argument in your training and cutting down your mileage to the “minimum necessary.” There are plenty of success stories claiming to prove that these approaches work.
It is, however, important to distinguish between what “can work” and what “works best”. Yes, you can improve your race results with a low quantity / high quality approach, particularly if you are a newer runner (and don’t run with so much intensity that you get injured), or a runner who has been away for awhile but has a good aerobic and athletic base. But these gains are going to be limited in scope and over time, as your returns on investment will begin to fade.
One error many runners make is in the management of their tune-up races. These training elements, when used properly, can be a powerful tool for providing physiological and psychological development, feedback on your progress, experience in managing pacing and other race-specific elements, and in dialing in your “A” race goal. However, they can also quickly derail your training if overused or scheduled and executed improperly.
There are a couple of more common mistakes in the management of tune-up races that you should watch out for (and it’s an area I work closely with Team Predawn Runner members in planning and avoiding).
In a world full of distractions, developing the willpower to stay focused on the priority at hand isn’t just helpful. This is a different willpower than that required to maintain a long-term commitment to a goal, which has been discussed previously as perseverance. But improving our ability to focus is mandatory for accomplishing all that you want to in life or your career. It allows the development of good productivity and health habits.
You might even consider the inability to focus and concentrate to be an epidemic these days, judging by the number of self-help books and articles on the topic. Fortunately, if you are a runner, you have the perfect environment on a near-daily basis to do so.
Many runners use their hobby as an opportunity to escape and “zone out,” or to give their mind the space to sort through challenges and brainstorm solutions. However, the runner who cares about improving their race performance needs to develop the ability to focus at the task on hand, often for extended periods of time. Whether it involves holding a challenging pace for a significant portion of a workout, developing the ability to run by feel and becoming less reliant on the watch, or improving one’s running form and efficiency, a training season is every bit as mentally tough as it is physically.
Focus can be built through intentional practice, and running by it’s very nature provides just the situation for doing so. With none of the modern tools of technology (at least if you choose to leave behind your iPhone or iPod, and don’t count your Garmin), the opportunity to let your focus be drawn away is significantly reduced. However, it is still difficult enough to maintain mindfulness with your running, such that the practice you put into doing so should translate well in your daily life.
A lot of the recommendations in the article on practicing willpower apply fully to running. For example, it is difficult to concentrate on your form for the entire length of a run, or to pay attention to your breathing rate for the full time of a tempo run. Starting small – by focusing for a few minutes at a time – helps you build the concentration stamina necessary to eventually do so. Additionally, focusing on one element at a time – for example, keeping your back straight with only a slight lean – drives the changes you are attempting to make to eventually become automatic.
Gaining confidence in your willpower to be able to focus on a task at hand while out on the road or track helps build the discipline to do the same thing when in front of your computer. Keeping your mind engaged in a single task is essential in driving its prompt completion and the ability to move onto the next task. This is especially true when you grow fatigued through the day – this willpower you have developed on the streets combines with your enhanced stamina to allow you to maintain your efforts throughout the day. It is the individual who can maintain their commitment to completing a lengthy list of tasks that delivers results at the end of the day.
So the next time you are out on a run, try focusing on your form or pace (without relying on your watch) for a certain period of time. You may well find that the mental discipline developed through such mindful practice helps you resist that urge to check Twitter every 15 minutes, and allows you to focus on completing tasks more promptly and effectively. In today’s world, this as much as anything else will give you a leg up in your career and personal life.
It’s not often that I spontaneously buy a new type of running shoe. But that was the position I found myself in when I went with my wife to help her pick out some new shoes at the best shoe store in the area, Vertical Runner in Hudson, OH.
First, I think a bit of a lesson is in order – be careful in trusting the expertise of running shoe salespeople, especially when it’s not a running-focused store. My wife got her first shoes from someone who had been “trained by Brooks” on selecting shoes. While the young lady got one variable right (neutral running form), she missed a few other key ingredients. My wife spends most of her work day in high heels as a hospital administrator, and has never really run before. The Brooks Pure Cadence sounded good on paper, but the low drop and limited cushioning were a complete miss. Fortunately, the store took the shoes back after ~20 miles, so we decided to go to a better source for try #2 (note, I had intentionally removed myself from try #1, to let my wife find her own space in developing as a runner). Read the rest of Running Shoe Review: Pearl Izumi Project E:Motion Road N1 »
Many runners are in a relationship where they are the only one pursuing the sport. Obviously, partners in a relationship can have divergent interests, that either predate the relationship or developed over time. This is a good thing, as everyone needs their own “thing”, and their time to themselves. Plus, running is a hobby that consumes a lot of time, and it can be difficult to balance with other needs like childcare – though hopefully you are doing your fair share of more of the work and supporting your partner’s own hobbies.
However, given the great physical and mental health benefits of running, which you are hopefully humbly putting on display through your fitness and good demeanor, it’s probably far more likely that your significant other (for simplicity, let’s just assume it is a spouse, and more specifically a wife, since Mrs. Predawn Runner has just started running) will develop an interest in running than in, say, golf or poker (especially poker). Or perhaps she just wants to have something more in common, something to talk about, or another way to spend time together.
A few Team Predawn Runner members have asked for help with their form of late. I’ve also been asked to provide some thoughts on the running form of one of the kindergarten soccer players coach. My response? Maybe it’s a little early to worry about that…
Form is a tricky topic and in fact a bit of a “bunny hole”, particularly when coaching online. That’s partly because form is highly subjective and individual, and therefore “messing with it” can often be counterproductive. Since it is a common concern runners have, it’s worth sharing a few thoughts on a “form philosophy” that I’ve built over the years. Read the rest of Nine Helpful Tips on Your Running Form »