Wondering why the extra training you are doing is not making you quicker?
Can’t seem to crack that old PB or get under a particular goal time?
Just want to run faster but progress is frustratingly slow?
Maybe it’s your fault…
One of the more common things I hear from runners is that they thought they were doing well, training hard and getting some good quality running done. The truth is they probably were! If they were running regularly and enjoying the process, then there really isn’t anything wrong with that – except unless they weren’t seeing the results they wanted.
The biggest difference between what they were doing when results were slow and what they could be doing to make stuff happen is something called SPECIFICITY.
The concept of specificity is that the training should be geared toward a specific goal outcome and be specific in training the body to achieve that.
As a beginner distance runner, our goal is usually to train our bodies and our minds to find the magic pace. The one you can sit in and feel comfortable. It is the pace that you feel like you can hold all day. When you first get it right, the sensation is remarkable. You finally feel like you have arrived as a runner. Your brain says “Oh yeah! You CAN do this thing. Now, go and find some events to complete so you can feel even better!” And this becomes the addiction of the distance runner, to chase that feeling of limitless endurance that comes from finding your groove and being able to maintain it for the longest time.
If your goal as a runner is to simply complete long runs/races and survive them intact, then sitting in the groove is perfectly acceptable. After all, you are in it to cross the line, and cross it you will.
If however, your goal is to be able to run far but also progressively faster over time, or to come back to a previously completed race and do it better, then you need to do things differently.
My advice on this is not going to be well received by some people unfortunately… But it is necessary nonetheless. To be able to continue to improve with your training and to get faster over time, you have to have a WILLINGNESS TO HURT.
My training programs are always geared toward goals. Goals require stepping stones to progress through to get to the end result. This means that pushing yourself harder than you are right now is what is needed to be better than you are right now.
I’m as guilty of this as the next person at times, as it is very easy to sit in that groove and cruise along letting the feel good running endorphins pump through your body. Ask any runner who finishes races in the top 10% of the field and they will tell you that they include training that takes them to their perceived limit and sometimes beyond. It is this ‘nudging of the wall’ that helps us to expand our abilities. I mentioned Specificity earlier… Well, spending some of your training time pushing your effort up to your limit is very specific to your racing ability. You will of course want to run your races at your best possible pace, so why not practice this in training. Run hard to race fast.
The mental side of this is often the hardest part for runners though, particularly those who just run for fun (as I said before, there is nothing wrong with that at all… it just depends on what you want to achieve). If you are willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone, you will soon realise that you won’t actually burst into flames or collapse in a heap on the ground. But if you do, you’ll at least have a truer indication of where your breaking point is – and I guarantee that the next time you do it, you’ll do it better.
So the next time you lace up your running shoes, consider Hunter S. Thompson’s take on things and give your body a chance to show you what it can do.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”