Anything worth doing takes time, right? Well, that’s what I used to think, especially when training for an upcoming race. “The only way to get faster and to be well-prepared is to train longer and harder,” I thought.
Quality vs. Quantity
Since earning my coaching certification a little more than a year ago, I started digging into training best practices and the research that supports running form improvement. And that’s when I decided to focus more on the quality of the workouts over the quantity of the mileage.
Let me explain. For years and years, I was a solo runner, and training for a race just wasn’t my thing. I was perfectly happy just running whenever I felt like I needed to let off some steam or burn up some calories. It always made me feel great. I ran by myself most of the time because none of my friends were runners.
But a few years ago, I found it easy to connect to my local running community thanks to social media. As a result, I found myself running with other people a lot, and really enjoying the camaraderie. And when people run together, they talk…and share…and learn a lot about each others’ running and training habits.
I found that most of my friends that were serious about their running performance hired coaches, even though they were already accomplished athletes. And many of them followed training plans when they wanted to get prepared for an upcoming race–like a marathon, 50K, or something even longer.
Good Runners Run Well on Any Terrain
I also noticed that whenever I would sign up for a trail race that would take place on unusual terrain (like dunes made up of sugar sand), there were always a few entrants that came to race, never having stepped foot on the trails of the race venue. And you know what? It didn’t matter. If they were great runners in their neck of the woods, the terrain didn’t matter much; they were still amazing runners even on difficult terrain.
“But I’m Soooooo Busy…I have no time to train!”
All of this got me thinking about ramping up my training. But I didn’t want my training to take a lot of time because I didn’t have a lot of time! I wanted to learn how to train smarter and not have to run a hundred miles a week! I wanted to create a training program (for myself and others) that would take a minimum amount of time per week yet be able to yield maximum results.
But before I created the program, I needed to focus on some basic principles. I’m sharing these with you so you can benefit from them too!
My 7 Train Smarter Principles
Principle #1: Don’t Ignore Cadence.
Your running cadence or leg turnover rate is an essential component of your running economy and hence, your running speed. Make sure your training program incorporates a way to measure, monitor, and optimize your cadence.
Principle #2: Know Your Stride Length.
If I asked you right now, “What’s your average stride length for a one mile comfortable run?” would you be able to tell me? You must know how long your stride is so you can learn how to maximize it. Garmin does a nice job of calculating your average stride length for you, which is the distance you cover with every step, and I find their data to be quite accurate.
Principle #3: Don’t Just Run–Train.
So many people head to the internet looking for a “free training plan” when they’re preparing for a race. They’ll look at the distance they need to run but either ignore or can’t figure out what their target pace and exertion level should be. So they wind up “doing their eight” but get little benefit or improvement from it. Before you go out for your run, understand how to pace yourself at the right level of effort for that particular workout so you won’t wind up wasting your time.
Principle #4: Set Realistic Goals and Try to Reach Them.
The first thing I have participants in my training programs do is collect baseline data and then set SMART goals. This isn’t as scary as it sounds. We simply run a one-mile or a 5K distance, record our time and pace, and reflect on what we want to improve. Then we write realistic goals on where we want to be at the end of the program. We measure and benchmark our progress every week. It helps to keep us focused and motivated and wanting to succeed!
Principle #5: Run with Friends at Least Once a Week.
I’m a big fan of running meet-ups, and group runs once or twice per week. And since I’m training for a longer-distance race at the moment, I also plan a long run on the weekend that I can do with friends. Running with others helps to break up the monotony of my training runs, and it’s fun to get caught up on personal things after a long work week.
Principle #6: Get Comfortable Running Solo.
If you want to get faster, you’ll have to learn to run by yourself, or at least, do your own workout. When you train, you need to push yourself to your limits–not someone else’s– and if you run with others all the time, you’ll be pressured to run faster, or slower, than what’s right for you, and you won’t get much out of the workout.
Principle #7: Headphones Can Be Your Best Friend.
I know a lot of people “poo-poo” running with headphones because they feel it isn’t safe, or it “ruins the reason they run.” But I think these people are missing out on a great training tool. There are plenty of ways to run safely with headphones-you can put one in one ear and keep the other one out so you can still hear your surroundings. You can use bone-conducting headphones that don’t obscure outside noises. Or you can run in a very safe place and keep them both in. It’s up to you. Just don’t give up the joy of listening to music or an audio-book because of fear. Think outside the box!
So if you follow these seven principals the next time you start training for a race, I’m sure you’ll be happy with your results.
And if you’re interested in learning more about my training programs, CLICK HERE to keep in touch and learn more.
Keep running to the beat!
Hey, leave a comment below and let me know how you like to train.