I’ve been mentally composing this post for the last 3 months…
I do a “What I’ve learned this year” post every year, but I have a lot going on this year… I did a lot of things differently this time around and I had a great year. Probably my best running year so far. I was able to have the perfect marathon, and a huge PR, while also PRing at the Mile a week before, so it’s not luck or coincidence. Times are a-changing, and you might not agree with some of these or they might not work for everyone, but of course, the more we share the better!
Basically, there are two huge principles that govern everything else:
- Biomechanics! Technique is everything. And more so in this sport where we keep doing the exact same movement over and over again! My technique is not perfect but it has improved in heaps since I learned all about biomechanics and became a coach, and this is the first year I haven’t been injured. A miracle! If you’re not working on your technique to address weaknesses and do drills to fend off injury, the stakes are very high. I’ve been able to adjust my cadence from 130 to 190 in a year, and run races without feeling the effort. Efficiency is King.
- Be a Happy Runner. That means, no pressure, no expectations, no need to ruin your hobby with crazy demands. Have all sorts of social runs, have fun out there, and please do many other things that are not running. A balanced athlete and individual is always a better runner. It is not only about how many miles you run or how hard you push. Give yourself a chance to relax and bring other things into your running. And don’t make your friends and family hate your Running. Love (for your close ones and your run) should be a part of your routine, just like fueling and warming up!
The Other Key Players This Year:
- Mileage Compromise. This year I was able to keep my mileage down on recovery weeks/months. I was also able to do a lot more mileage than ever. No need to do 30 miles every week: there are weeks for 20 and weeks for 40.
- Speedwork. Fine, it’s necessary. It really does help. It makes you develop the other muscles, create proteins and hormones we need, teach your body certain processes, mechanisms, and efficiency, and it will make you faster. Make sure you select the appropriate workout though as you can’t do speedwork every day.
- Speed on Trails. I got used to doing some of my speed on dirt. Which means.. I recover a lot faster! A few weeks I was able to squeeze in two speed workouts!
- Drills. Drills. Drills. Drills. Perfect practice makes perfect. Rehearse every movement from your gait, perfection it, make it faster, make yourself super efficient.
- Run with a Group. It’s obvious: they’ll keep the pace honest. But besides pushing you, they’ll make it more fun. My two usual training partners are faster than me. As frustrating as it can sometimes to always be the one who is suffering, being the weakest link helped me a lot.
- Consistency. There are always hard weeks. Keep at it no matter what, even if it’s little mileage, or slow. Or cross-train if you’re into that. Keep in mind ligaments start breaking down after 2 days, so less is better than nothing.
- Specific Training. For Berlin, I did flat long runs. For shorter central park races, I did short hill sprints. There is just so much you could do: train smartly.
- Less Fuel. Not only I was able to run on a fuel-deprived tank, but I run better. Also, I don’t need as much food the day before a long run or a marathon as I thought. I did a few runs starving and I did a lot better that usual.
- Coffee before a short race. It works. (But I am the anomaly, I don’t usually drink coffee).
- Shorter Long Runs. There is a lot to be said for a 14 miler at marathon pace, or a 16 miler at MP+20, or a progression 16. Train smart, less can be more.
- Speed First, Endurance Second. Even (mostly) if you’re training for a half or full.
- Try New Things. All the stuff here worked for me this year, but might not work for you, and will probably not work for me next year. Our body adjusts and will create new puzzles to put together and jump over. Do some new cross training, change your routine. You’re not just a runner, become a full athlete. Build yourself into biomotor problem solver.