This month I seem to have been asked the same “What’s Your Secret?” question time and time again, so I figured it might make a half-decent blog post. Here goes:
Short answer – there are no secrets.
Longer answer – in no particular order, listed below are a few things that have worked for me over the years. Note: answers are tailored to my personal training habits and running goals.
- Have Fun – If I’m not having fun when I’m training, what’s the point? Sure, there can be challenging workouts to battle through, inclement weather to deal with and days when life just gets in the way, but generally speaking I love running and it’s a lot of fun.
- Be Consistent – I’ve been lucky enough to log over 3,000 running miles in 6 of the last 7 years. Okay, maybe not luck, but I do believe it’s this type of training consistency that has allowed me to perform well at a variety of race distances over the years. I’m not saying you need to log 3,000 miles per year to achieve your goals, but being consistent with your running, and mixing in regular recovery periods will do you more good than sporadically going for a run when the mood suits.
- Phone a Friend – Typically, I prefer to train solo (see #6 below), but there’s nothing like the accountability of meeting a friend or group of friends for a training run or workout. Long run miles tend to fly by when you have company, and the camaraderie can help force you out of those self-imposed comfort zones.
- Happy Feet – If your feet aren’t happy, your runs will be miserable. A few years ago I was fortunate to discover Injinji toe socks after a particularly rough (foot-wise) experience at the Rocky Raccoon 100 in Texas wearing traditional running socks. Coupled with shoes that were slightly too narrow, my feet were way too cramped during the race and ended up a blistered mess by the finish. Nowadays, I also run the majority of my miles in Topo Athletic shoes – a relative newcomer in the running shoe market, but their roomy forefoot and excellent fit works really well for me. Moral of the story? Spend time finding a running shoe/sock combination that keeps your feet happy, then stick with it.
- Be Adaptable – This applies to both training and racing. When training isn’t working out and you’re struggling to stick to a schedule, don’t be afraid to mix things up and change the plan. Training for a marathon but haven’t logged any long runs? Adapt the plan and switch to a half marathon. It’s important to be adaptable where races are concerned too. In the last 7 weeks I’ve taken part in 4 completely different races – a 100 miler in the desert, a local road 10km, a marathon on a Caribbean island and a 50km at the local state park – yet managed to perform relatively well in each. My secret? There is no secret – you just have to be prepared to train for the conditions as best as possible, then adapt your race plan accordingly.
- Go Solo – Yeah, I know, it kind of goes against everything I stated above in #3, but it’s no real secret that I prefer logging most of my training miles solo. When the going gets tough during a race, I love being able to dig deep and remember those challenging mid-week tempo runs in the rain, or the long, solo Sunday morning 30 milers. Having pushed through those battles on my own during training runs, it gives me great confidence during races that anything is possible.
- Get Social – I’m not talking about 1,000 “likes” on Instagram, or an inbox-full of “kudos” on Strava, but having positive social interaction with runners with similar goals, backgrounds and challenges, can really help with motivation and provide ideas to get the most out of your training. Just be sure to make the actual training a priority over social media.
- Fuel Up – Just like finding the right shoes and socks to keep your feet happy, it’s important to discover a fuel and nutrition strategy that works for you. Everyone is different, and what works for me (Tailwind Nutrition) and your friends, might not sit well with you. Again, experimentation is key, so try out those gels, chews, bars and powders, find out what works, then stick with it.
- Set Goals – I’m definitely a goal-oriented runner and need both short-term and long-term goals to keep me motivated. The goal can be as basic as getting out for a run 3 times per week, or as challenging as signing up for your first 100 Miler, but personally, I much prefer having something to work towards and set my sights on.
- Take Notes – Whether it’s a blog like runbulldogrun.com, an online tool like Strava/Garmin Connect, or something as basic as a traditional journal, taking notes and keeping track of your training will stand you in good stead for the weeks/months/years ahead. I love comparing training cycles year-on-year, discovering what worked well and what can be improved on, and am always amazed at the often-forgotten minor details when I re-read my race recaps. As you work through a training cycle, sometimes it’s not obvious that you’re making progress – having decent notes to look back on can really be a great confidence boost.
- Look After Yourself – Running is hard on the body, especially when you get to my age. It’s taken some time to adjust, but I’m slowly getting better about looking after myself. Self-massage utilizing the great products from Addaday, coupled with a regular visit to Rebekah at Balance Therapeutic Massage have helped keep the aches and pains at bay and allowed me to train well, race hard and recover fast. Other important factors include getting enough sleep, allowing sufficient recovery time between workouts, and for the most part, making pretty decent food choices, however, I must say, I’m not terribly obsessive about what I eat and do enjoy quality craft beer on a regular basis.
Hope at least a couple of the above notes were useful. Feel free to leave a comment in the box below, and here’s to a happy and healthy 2017!