It’s beginning to get lighter earlier in the mornings and darker later in the evenings, and the race calendar is starting to fill up with races every weekend. That’s because spring has arrived, and it’s time to get back to full training if you have been in winter hibernation mode, but before you head out, first read these 10 essential training tips to help you attain your goals. – BY RAY ORCHISON
1 PLAN AHEAD: Getting out of bed each morning and thinking to yourself, “What should I do today, 800m repeats or 60 minutes easy?” is a recipe for disaster. Instead, approach the season with a plan. Start by planning the structure of your training, and think about the races you want to do and what goals you want for each. Also, identify which races you are going to use as training runs and which races you are going to race hard.
2 INTRODUCE CHANGES GRADUALLY: Any change in your training means that your joints and muscles have to adapt to the new session, shoe, running form or strength session. If you introduce the changes too quickly, or change too much, you will invariably pay the price with injury, so build up to it gradually.
3 CORRECT MUSCLE IMBALANCES: Most of us sit behind computers or drive in cars all day. Our modern lifestyles leave us weak in the areas we need the most when it comes to running: Glutes, calves and core. So, in order to avoid injury, focus on and strengthen these areas before introducing quality and distance to your training.
4 ADD QUALITY: You only get faster by running faster. By gradually introducing quality sessions into your training programme, you will begin to train the body to run faster at different distances.
5 THE KNOCK-ON EFFECT: If you can teach yourself to run faster over shorter distances before building up to longer distances, then once you start introducing longer runs you’ve enhanced not only your running form but your running efficiency. A faster 10km time leads to a faster 21km time, which in turn leads to a faster 42km time, which ultimately leads to a faster ultra.
6 TRACK DOES NOT MEAN FLAT OUT: At school, a track session usually involved some teacher with a whistle and a stopwatch shouting at you to run faster. That is not a track session. Track sessions are designed to introduce your muscles and energy systems to new varying paces, and this never equates to a flat-out session.
7 ALTERNATE HARD AND EASY DAYS: Continuous hard training will wear you down. Alternate hard days with easy days in order to benefit fully from the hard training.
8 YOU DON’T GET FASTER BY RUNNING FURTHER: Countless runners finish Comrades each year with new motivation to go back the following year with the goal of showing Comrades who is boss, and invariably the plan to achieve this involves more mileage. Distance running makes you slower, and as a result you don’t get faster by simply doing more mileage. You get faster when you adhere to the previous four tips!
9 RECOVERY IS KEY: Rest days should be the first aspect you build into your season plan. The purpose behind training is to take your body to new levels through a constant cycle of stress and adaptation. If you’re only ever stressing your body and not allowing time for adequate recovery, then your body never adapts and you end up injured, or never reaching your full potential.
10 LISTEN TO YOUR BODY: The older you are in training years – for example, if you’ve been running for three years then your training age is three – the more aware you become of your body. Your body sends you signals all day long, and the more experienced you are, the more you become aware of those signals. If you’re pushing yourself too hard for too long, your body begins to give warning signals, like niggles or signs of a cold, indicating that you need more recovery. If you ignore these warnings, you will end up injured or sick. Having said that, you will learn to distinguish between the body crying out for recovery and your mind trying to take the easy route. In the case of the mind, fight it!
If you follow all these tips, your chances of running smoothly and smashing your goal times or PBs will improve greatly. Now get to it!
Ray Orchison is a Joburg-based USATF and NAASFP certified coach. Find him at www.runetics.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.