Patience and Progress
Patience. One of the most important aspects of running
Improving as a runner takes time, patience, and intelligent training. There are no secret workouts or training methods to get instant success. In the vocabulary of a runner, patience is an unspoken word. Runners always want to run faster, run more miles, and crush their PR’s and they want it now. Unfortunately, this mindset couldn’t be more wrong. Not only does this way of thinking impact short term goals, thanks to frequent injuries and bouts of overtraining, but as some have learned, it likely affects long term progress as well. As we mature as runners we need to fully appreciate and value the art of patience. This shift in mindset isn’t easy and it doesn’t happen overnight. Hopefully, with the help of some hard, proven data, and a touch of informal evidence, this post can increase your knowledge as a runner and help you achieve your goals. Here are the 3 main areas where patience is most important:
Here are the 3 main areas where patience is most important:
• Increasing fitness during training - There’s this phrase that many coaches like to say often, “You should be able to say after every one of your workouts that you could have done one more interval or one more mile”. In a recent research study published by European Journal of Applied Physiology, they had groups of runners perform a series of workouts at near maximum intensity for 12 weeks. The researchers then had another group perform the same type of workouts yet at a much more moderate intensity. The results? The high intensity group improved 30% more than the moderate group after 3 weeks. Confusing, right? Well the researchers went a step further and recorded changes for 9 and 12 weeks. After 9 weeks, the high intensity group improvements were only 10% greater than the moderate group. More importantly, after 9 weeks, the high intensity group stopped improving and after 12 weeks showed the same level of improvement as the moderate group. Clearly, this research shows that while you’ll see rapid improvements from running workouts as hard as you can in the first few weeks, this improvement curve will level off and running at moderate intensity levels will produce equal, if not better, long term results. Of course, looking at that data, most runners would still choose the high intensity approach. If the end result after 12 weeks is the same, why not make the fitness gains faster the first 3-6 weeks? Well, the impact of injuries and overtraining on potential improvement is a big reasons why not to go with the high intensity approach. The harder you train, the more likely it is you’ll get injured or overtrain. So pretty much, if you have a set back, then your fitness will take a hit and will take longer to improve. That’s why it’s important to be patient and not rush the training.
• Racing / Pacing - Learning to be patient when pacing is difficult but it’s an essential skill to racing faster and improving your fitness. Properly pacing yourself during a race is one of the most critical skills a runner can develop. To maximize your potential on race day, you need to become a master at pacing yourself and learning to feel the difference between just a few seconds in your pace. Setting a new personal best can be decided by the smallest of margins. Running the first mile of a 5k 2% faster than goal pace is the optimal pacing strategy. However, running the first mile more than 5% faster than goal race pace considerably reduces performance. So much that you could even fail to finish the race. The proper race strategy for a marathon actually follows the exact opposite theory of a 5k. For a successful marathon race, you should target a pace that is about 2% slower than your goal marathon pace for the first 3 or 4 miles. If you’ve raced a marathon, you’ve probably encountered the term ”banking time”, which refers to running the first half of the marathon slightly faster than goal pace to compensate for being slow the last 10km of the race. Unfortunately, this racing strategy couldn’t be more wrong. The main problem with the this strategy concerns the use of carbohydrates or fats as a primary fuel source. One of the main factors in marathon performance is how efficient you burn fat instead of carbohydrates. Once you burn through your available carbohydrate stores, your performance will suffer and you will bonk. Unfortunately, the faster you run, the more carbohydrates you burn. Therefore, by starting faster than goal pace you’re actually burning through your available carbohydrate stores faster and you will almost certainly run out of fuel and bonk. The evidence is concrete. To race your best, you must be patient and not ruin your race by starting out too fast.
• Recovering Injury - Every runner deals with the reality of getting injured. Did you know that 80% of runners eventually deal with an injury. It’s an unfortunate reality of a sport that requires countless miles and repetitive training. It’s no surprise that runners always want to resume training with big goals and aggressive plans after an injury. All runners expect huge jumps without a few hiccups or problems along the way. Unfortunately, this focus and desire to jump back into full training quickly means we push too hard too soon and get re-injured. Coming back from a long, or even a short, layoff is difficult mentally. When starting back up again you need to build up your training slowly. Be patient! If your normal training volume is, let’s say, 50 miles per week, you should be near 25-30 miles per week after 4 weeks of training. I know you’re going to try to rationalize and counter with the fact that maybe your injury wasn’t that serious. I understand you want to push the envelope, but the rules and principles to training remain the same. You have been away from running and you can’t just dive in head first at full speed. Also, you’re going to have ups and downs. For every week that ends with “very happy” there is another week, usually the next, that ends with “very tired”. You’re going to have ups and downs, but you have to roll with the punches and not get too high with the good days or low with the bad days. Even during a smooth return to training, you will want to quit at least once a week, even more for some. This is a normal feeling. As long as you’re being patient with your return then good things will start to happen more often. Just keep getting up in the morning and do what you’re supposed to do. It will get easier. I promise!