It has often been said that one of the biggest challenges of running a race is actually making the start line! Your chances of standing on the start line fit, healthy and ready to roll are massively improved if you train smarter and not necessarily harder. With that in mind, here are the five most common training sins that runners commit.
Ramping up the volume and/or intensity too quickly
With mantras like; ‘No pain, no gain’ and ‘Train insane or remain the same’, it’s easy to get carried away in an attempt to push your body further and faster. However a sudden increase in the volume and/or intensity of training is one of the biggest predictors of lower limb injuries. Your body’s tissues, (muscles, tendons, ligaments and bone) need time to gradually adapt to the load that you place on them and too much strain too soon will result in injury. A good rule of thumb in terms of volume is not to increase your weekly mileage by more than 10 per cent per week.
Not building a base
Many runners fall into the trap of hammering speed work before they have built a solid endurance base. This means that they are often in great shape early in the season and are then unable to hold this form and become more and more tired as the season progresses. By spending a few weeks prior to your main training block clocking up some miles with easy or steady running, you will build a solid endurance platform, on top of which you can layer your speed work.
Running recovery runs too fast
If you want to become a faster runner then it’s important to incorporate some running at your target race pace or faster within your training. However, faster running is tough on the body and needs to be respected as it takes longer to recover from. Many people, elite athletes included, fail to realise that in order to reap the benefits of these faster sessions, your body needs to recover to allow it to adapt to and absorb the training.
This is where running slowly comes in, particularly if you run on consecutive days. In the days following a hard effort you should take your foot off the gas and ensure that you run at an easy pace. Roughly two minutes per mile slower than your best pace for a half marathon should do the trick. It has taken me years to master the art of running slowly when I need to, but I’ve found that slowing the pace down on my easy days leaves me physically and mentally refreshed and ready to tackle my next hard workout more effectively.
Less is often more when it comes to running. Many runners are afraid to rest as they fear that they will lose all of their hard earned fitness in an instant! However, gains in fitness actually happen when you rest, not while you’re training. Your body needs to recover in order to allow the physiological adaptations to a training stimulus to take place.
Incorporating a regular rest day or a very easy day into your training will enable you to physically and mentally recharge your batteries and you are more likely to achieve better overall performance and consistency. Remember, rest is a form of training too and you should approach it with as much discipline as you would your harder workouts.
Underestimating the value of consistency
Consistency of training is probably the single most important factor if you are looking to improve your running. Many runners make the mistake of thinking that it is the one-off monster sessions that will get them into shape. However what they fail to realise is that fitness is built upon weeks, months or even years of consistent, solid work. Rome wasn’t built in a day! There is very little to be achieved from being a hero for a day or even a week, if you are then unable to train for several days or weeks after.
One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learnt over the past few years is that not every workout that you do has to be spectacular. It’s okay to hold back on some workouts and not run eyeballs out if it means that you’ll achieve better consistency in the long term. I hope these tips are helpful. Train smart!