I just got back from getting to go on another long run today! I remember to cherish every day and the opportunity for running to be a part of my life. My point is that running is something we get to do, and we should be thankful for it!
For those looking to get better, it's important to take the opportunities when you have them, and make running a part of your daily schedule! I often hear of guys saying they don't have time to run, but I think this is a lazy way out of trying to become better. It also says that it doesn't mean much to you if it's not important enough to do. Going way back, I can remember running every day by myself going into my sophomore year. Raining, hot, cold it didn't matter I got out every day. If I was on vacation, I ran. I have run in Germany, Austria, Japan, England, and Ireland. Anywhere you go, you can run. You just have to decide if it's important enough for you to do it.
The result of my training that summer going into sophomore year was going from an 18:55 5k my freshman year to 17:00 my sophomore year. I never regret any run I have gone on!
A great reference to becoming better is 'pounding the stone'. If you take a hammer to a stone, it may take 100 times to finally break the stone in to pieces. But it wasn't just the 100th hit that made the stone break, rather it was the accumulation of all the hits before that. Consistency in what we have the opportunity to do is what will lead to improvements and big performances.
The next time you think it won't matter to skip a day or a week, think again. Every run you go on matters, and the more you can make it a part of your daily schedule, no matter your circumstance, the better chance you will have at achieving your goals.
The best part is that consistency takes no talent at all. It only takes discipline and accountability by you.
"There are no stressful situations, only stressful reactions."
Perception of effort and pain has a major impact on performance. This is true while you are racing for sure, as it is the mind that makes decisions on whether you will slow down or speed up at certain points. This is why we train, we are essentially training the body to make pain more tolerable at faster paces. At any point of a race though, you need to build that mental toughness to push beyond what only your mind can limit you from achieving. This is why we need to focus not only priming our legs, lungs and heart to be stronger, but also thinking about our thoughts while we are practicing or pushing through a tough run.
The most interesting part about how we feel while racing or running is that our thoughts prior to any activity will greatly affect our perception of that activity once we start. This has been scientifically backed (if you're nerdy enough to read the whole article). A test was done on subjects that flashed either red, green or blue lights before applying a slight burning sensation on the hand of the subject. Over time, the subjects realized that certain colors corresponded to certain pain, and they were able to measure these subjects' brain activity before being applied the burn. The subjects started experiencing a higher perceived pain when these colors flashed, and even primed themselves for it ahead of time.
As a recent example, this weekend was hot, but rather than fearing how the heat will affect you, it's best to create the understanding of the conditions you'll face and go into it knowing you can still have a good run. If you look at the uncontrollable elements as restraints, you will greatly inhibit yourself from having a good run or race. Your first few runs in the heat may be difficult, but your mind and body adapt to different conditions and thus make you more capable of conquering any type of condition. As we know in fall and spring, the weather can be anything but predictable. It's best to recognize the conditions, go through it once mentally in your head, but then focus on what you can control and know that the conditions are not something that will affect you against a field of other runners facing the same conditions. In fact, you can gain a huge advantage on others by staying focused on your efforts and responding to difficult in race moments with positive self talk that you can achieve your goals.
With training, you can get a huge bump in performance by going into workouts and runs with an understanding of what you are about to experience, but with a confidence that you can handle the task at hand. Going into a hot run with a positive mindset can set you up for an awesome run, and maybe even faster than if it had been a nice cool day. There is tons of literature on marathoners performances in adverse conditions, and how it's the mind of the individual that actually enhances or inhibits the performance. This can be most recently seen in the windy, rainy and cold Boston Marathon where both champions Des Linden and Yuki Kawauchi both came there to win, and ran their race not thinking about the conditions. Many great athletes dropped out of the race, not because the conditions had a physical toll, but rather these runners had a higher perceived effort and pain level from the conditions. They didn't prepare mentally to feel worse at mile ten than they usually would feel at that point in the race in cool and calm conditions. They were plenty fit, and the body was plenty primed, but their perceived effort was so high that the brain told them to shut it down. The message here is that some intervals or workouts you may not feel your best early on, but it's important to use those situations and realize you can bounce back on later intervals or miles. This can happen in a race where you feel more tired than usual early, but end up getting through the bumpy section and running your best race ever.
Lastly, for newer runners I keep reminding you all to be patient! With that, it's important to keep pushing yourself beyond what you thought was originally possible. Many guys have walked/ran the first couple weeks which is okay, but now it's time to start thinking about what drives your decisions to walk or slow down. Is it that you really can't keep running, or is it a fear that you have a lot of road left to cover and are afraid to burn out? My advice, don't be afraid of the unknown. Prep yourself to get a bit more uncomfortable and keep pushing beyond what you thought your limits were. This is exactly the reason why our coaches don't preach to "raise the bar", but rather preach that there is no bar at all. Nobody has a limit to what they can achieve, whether it be running or any other skill. It just takes a ton of consistency and some positive mental talk to take yourself to new levels.
Keep working together, having fun and becoming dedicated to each other and our goals.