October 14th, 2015

// Complete minimally to perform maximally – Guest Blog by Steve Morley

Complete minimally to perform maximally

Guest Blog by Steve Morley


It’s marathon season. Adult distance runners are a funny lot. They’ll declare sometime in the year “I’m going to run a fall marathon”. They may even commit to a training plan. What happens though is that they are like a dog that sees a squirrel. They focus on the squirrel. Then another squirrel goes by, and then that’s all they see.

For a distance runner the squirrel might be a local 5k race that happens the week before. It could be some event that happens like a corporate relay fitness challenge, or a charity 15k run. These are all great things to do, and can be incorporated into the training plan. That’s the key. If you get a training plan from an online source, and you print it off and put it on the fridge that’s good. What happens when life gets in the way? You have to drive the kids to track practice, or they have to stay late and band, you have a conference to go to, all these things can make you modify your training plan. You should modify it.

That’s not what happens though. You’ll do all of those things, and then you’ll try to cram in your marathon pace long run next Sunday. So as a result of juggling a full life you get hurt. Some people will muscle through the injury and they’ll do the workout, and get even more hurt.

Probably very few of these plans mention cross training, like non-impact activities like biking or inline skating, or even cross training by doing hill repeats or the occasional speed session.

The body of an adult distance runner is funny too. Even adults adapt. Those muscles that do the same thing over and over again adapt. They become more efficient and as a result they have to do less work to produce the same output. There is less overall muscle recruitment so therefore you need to change up what you’re doing, to trick your body into working harder.

Stare at the fridge, is your training diet in need of some super charging?

So what are you going to do about it?

You may not do anything – this time. Consider the principle of adaptation again. The training plan says you will do a 25 minute tempo run on Thursday. It’s in your plan, and you know from last Thursday that your tempo pace is X, so therefore this Thursday your pace will be X. What many people fail to consider is that their fitness improves with training. If it didn’t, everyone would perform the same and everyone would arrive at the finish line at the same time.

So given the principle of adaptation, your pace for any given workout throughout that plan your times will change. For the tempo run example, a far better indicator of how to perform, would be perceived level of exertion. In the example of the 25 tempo run it should feel comfortably uncomfortable and you should feel like you could do it at that effort for an hour.

How do you compete minimally to perform maximally when all these squirrels are around? It seems like every weekend brings on a new race, and you could jump into many of them, and while you might be fit and see some great results, if the marathon is your thing, then doing one of these events “out of season” will negatively impact your goal that you have set for yourself. A goal without a plan is just a dream.

Pick your events. A 5k doesn’t really fit, so pass it by. You might say “well I can just do this race as a tempo”. Then the gun goes off and you’re racing it, and then it takes 3 days to recover to get back on your training plan. Then the next weekend is a 10k, or a duathlon, the cycle perpetuates itself and you never get back to your plan, and then when race day comes you are so tired, that you don’t even want to be on the start line.

Remember what’s on the fridge needs to be modified as your life is modified. If you had the greatest of intentions to follow this training plan 100% of the time and life throws you a curve, take yourself off the hook and reboot your goal. Listen to your inner voice and trust what it is saying to you. Have a three tiered goal strategy. Have a goal that you can drive home after the race is done where you aren’t saying things like “I should have done”, or “I wish I had done”. Next have one that is a little more challenging, even if your training didn’t go as planned. Finally have one that is for when all the planets align and everything goes right.

On the day of the race, when you’re warming up, remember what you did to get to the day of the race. If doubts creep in on what you may not have done, refocus back to what you did do. The hay is in the barn. Go have fun.


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