Want to become a stronger runner in 2017? Here are 7 questions you should ask yourself.
Am I training at the appropriate paces?
Training at paces that are too fast for your current fitness level are a fast track towards injury and burn out. Just because you can run a certain pace doesn’t mean you should run at that pace. Be honest with yourself as to where you are at and adjust your paces accordingly. This calculator can help you if you are confused about what paces correlate to your goal time.
Am I running too fast on my easy runs?
The comfort zone is a pace that you naturally gravitate towards. It doesn’t necessarily feel hard, but it’s also not easy at the same time. If you always run in this zone however, you won’t see the improvements you could see if you slowed down your easy runs and sped up on your fast runs.
Am I going fast enough on during my speed workouts to reach my goals?
Don’t think you can go any faster on your fast runs? Often this works in reverse to what runners think! If you try to speed up your fast runs it’s not going to happen quite like it should until you slow down your easy/recovery runs. At first it may feel painful to slow down that much on those days but once you start giving your body a break on the easy/recovery days it will be ready to push on the hard days. Once you are pushing on your hard days you will want to take it easy on your recovery days so you actually recover. Think of training like a circle and make sure to keep it rolling forward versus working against yourself and pushing the circle backwards.
Am I fueling my body properly?
“You are what you eat,” is something that all of us have heard countless times in our life. There is good reason that this statement has stuck around: it’s true. Think of your body like a car. If you want it to feel good and move fast-for-you then you need to fuel it with premium fuel. Eating Cheetos for breakfast and calling it a meal is not going to get you to the finish line any faster in the long run (trust me, I’ve tried it).
Are my goals realistic?
From almost the moment I ran my first marathon I set my sights on the goal of a Boston Qualifying (BQ) time. I had no direction as to how I was going to get there and being that my first marathon was a 4:20, it was ridiculous to think that in one year I could reasonably run a sub 3:40 (the standards were easier back in 2003 when I started running marathons). Had I focused on taking small chunks of time off, I may have reached my goal faster. That’s not to say you can’t take huge chunks of time off. I dropped my marathon time from a 3:59 to a 3:36—but at the time that goal was reasonable based on where my fitness level was. The BQ goal wasn’t realistic when I was pushing hard for a 4:20.
If I run what I consider to be slow, does it really matter?
The motivation behind setting the of a BQ time almost immediately after running my first marathon wasn’t what it should have been. I was so desperate to be considered a runner—to have my running friends accept me in to the community—that I felt that getting faster was the only way for that to happen. I was blind to the fact that a. I already was a runner, b. I had already been accepted in to the community and c. no one cared if I ever qualified for Boston. While training to qualify for Boston can feel fulfilling when you reach that elusive goal, it’s not the be all end all of being a runner. If you run, you are a runner. You don’t need to run Boston or be fast to take yourself seriously. I’m light years slower than Shalane Flanagan but believe I love the sport of running just as much. I’d like to think she would agree with me that it’s not speed that makes a runner, it’s a love of the sport and the commitment to get the best out of yourself.
Would becoming a stronger runner make me happy?
It doesn’t matter if you are training at the appropriate paces, going slow on your easy runs, eating more vegetables or coming up with great goals if all this doesn’t make you happy. I’m not talking about the oh-I-just-got-50-likes on my Instagram photo happiness, either. I’m talking the type of happiness that can only come from your core. Do you feel excited to wake up and train for a race or does every day running feel like a major chore. If it’s not bringing you the joy it should, consider that maybe 2017 might be the year you try something new! You don’t have to quit running all together. The great thing about running is that it’s always there—you can take time off and come back to it when you are ready, when it gives you the internal joy it should.