By Andrew Miller
Are you actually improving or just training really hard?
Sometimes it takes an outside perspective to notice, but here's a few questions to help you determine if you are overdoing it.
- Do you underperform on race day?
- Do you get sick or injured frequently?
- Do you often feel unmotivated to run?
- Do you usually feel lethargic after you run?
If you answer “yes” to more than one of these, you are likely leaving a bit on the table when it comes to running performance. If this is you don’t worry, we are about to give you some tips to help you get a little bit more out of your running. Even if you answered “no” to all the questions above, we’ve got a few tips to help you train smarter!
The underlying theme in training smarter, not harder, is that you need to give the body specific stresses to adapt to, then give the body a chance to recover. From a practical standpoint, this means doing a couple hard runs per week and keeping the rest of your runs relatively easy.
Structure and consistency are where you will see the most improvement. Most runners have the most success building their training around one long run and one speed session per week. Add in a few easy runs and you will be looking really good! This might not be groundbreaking info, but consistent training with structure to guide you is how you will see the most improvement. You don’t need to train harder or do more. You just need consistency and a method to your madness.
Use your long run to mimic the race. Do your long run on terrain similar to the terrain you are going to race on. Use the same gear on your long runs that you will use on race day. Get your race day nutrition dialed in on your long run.
Practice hiking. Hiking is not as exciting as running, but if you are running a trail race, almost everyone will be hiking at some point! Ultramarathons or particularly hilly races will require a lot of hiking and having the skill to hike fast can save you a lot of time!
Practice downhill running. Downhill might be as hard as uphill, but if you are looking to run faster on race day, it doesn’t matter where you are gaining time. Downhill is a great spot to gain time without much extra effort. If you practice one fast downhill per week, that will go a long way!
Take it easy on your easy days. Make sure you have 3 or 4 days per week that are easy. These can be rest days or easy runs. Regardless, your body needs a chance to recover if you want to see continual improvement.
Andrew Miller lives in Oregon where enjoys running and volunteering on the local trails. Andrew has won 16 ultramarathons, including the 2016 Western States 100, and works as a running coach at andrewmillercoaching.com