This will be a short but very relevant post as we make our way past the hype of making New Year’s resolutions and even start setting race goals for the year. The reason many runners start neglecting their goals and lose sight of whatever they are working on the same reason you can’t start a marathon at your 5k speed and hold it until the end. I’m talking about PACING!
Now let’s say you set yourself a goal like running a new distance or running a familiar distance faster…
Some days, you’re going to have more inner resources to work with on that goal than other days. But you won’t have a consistent increase in things like energy, motivation, or even physical strength.
You might have been able to crank out your eight 800s at your speedy pace last Thursday, but today, due to lack of sleep and some mood problems and not eating right, or whatever… your body and legs are only going to be up for and easy shorter run, even with the same body/legs you felt so strong in for the track workout. In which case, you should only try to do your easy run (or no run at all if you need a rest day)!
When you pace yourself, you say, “Okay, given how I’m feeling today and what I can handle today, this is where the level of my goal needs to be”, and you adjust to today’s limitations or opportunities. When you’re doing well, you push yourself, when you’re struggling, you back off a bit.
One of my favorite running “theories” comes from “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running,” by Haruki Murakami. Murakami talks about this as it pertains to running but simply emphasizes the importance of “Stopping before you have to.” In this case, not chasing after your goal so fast and hard right out of the gate that it leaves you drained after a week or a month and you don’t feel like you can keep doing it. Remember to stop (or just take a break), before you HAVE TO.
With this sustainable approach, you sacrifice the dream of daily improvement and replace it with the much more realistic strategy of staying on track long term. You’re much more likely to stick with a goal that adjusts to real life barriers.
Frequency is the key to sustainable growth, much more than intensity or quantity. Remember that a training plan prescribe by yourself or a coach will have not much idea of how you are feeling at any given day or moment. Start looking are the bigger plan VS blindly following a plan that was set in place at the beginning of the year, month, week, whatever… Ask yourself what is going to get you closer to the BIG PICTURE (first you’ve even got to define the big picture!) more than what is just going to feel good because you “checked the box.” All that being said, sometimes the daily goal CAN BE to “just check the box” but… make sure that’s an intentional decision on your part.
If you pressure yourself to keep upping the runs or workouts, no matter how you feel, it’s only a matter of time before you simply cannot do what you ask of yourself, and that is the beginning of the end of your goals.
Billy is an easy going and adventure seeking endurance junkie, coach, and writer. Catch him enjoying everything from local 5k races, to UTMB, and former record holder for fastest time at the Antarctic Ice Marathon. When he’s not running or biking, he makes a living as a massage therapist at his own practice in downtown Burlington. Check him out at btvmassage.com.