Mental Preparedness

In my last post I talked all about how to get yourself ready to run, from a comfort standpoint at least. If you missed it you can find it here. Now let’s chat a little bit about getting yourself ready mentally.

Here are a few things that I had no clue about until after I had been running for over a year.

Slow and steady

Don’t over-do it. It’s easy to start running and to feel like you need to run everyday. Rest days are just as important as run days. You’re body needs time to recover and heal and it can’t do it’s job fully without rest days. Running 5 days a week with 2 days a week that are rest days is good, but you’ll also discover running 3 or 4 days with a day or two of cross-training and a couple days of rest works better.

When I first started running I thought that every run should be faster than the previous run. That’s not the case. For one, it’s unrealistic and for two, your body isn’t healed and recovered enough from the previous run and it’s a good way to get yourself injured.

Some runs will suck

You’re going to have days that feel harder than others and that’s perfectly normal. I feel like this may apply more to women, but I have no scientific backing on that. There are so many variables that can make or break a run.

  • The temperature
  • The humidity
  • The amount and quality of sleep you got the night before.
  • Do you run in the morning? Do you eat before you run or run on an empty stomach? If you usually eat something, try running on empty. If you usually run on empty, try a slice of peanut butter toast.
  • Do you run after work? Before dinner? After dinner? What did you have for lunch?
  • How much sugar did you consume prior to your run?
  • Are you well hydrated?
  • For the women, where are you in your menstrual cycle?
  • Has there been a change in any of your medications?
  • Have you started taking supplements that you weren’t taking before?

Mix it up a bit

Not every run should be all out hauling. There are a variety of run types:
Speed work: To help increase your speed. Best done on a track where you can easily start and stop at a measured distance. It’s also flat and free of traffic. Depending on where you live, Middle School/High School tracks are open to the public. Adding a speed workout once a week is more than enough.
Tempo run: You know that burning feeling you get in your legs when you run fast? That’s lactate buildup. Tempo runs, typically 4-8 miles total, help your body to learn out to flush out that buildup and hold off that fatigue feeling. This will be ran just a bit slower than what you would run a speed workout at, but faster than your easy run pace.
Recovery run: An easy slow run that promotes blood flow and muscle repair. Keep the impact low. Try hitting a dirt trail instead of the pavement. Great to do the day after a hard run.
Long run: Usually a weekly long run will take place when training for an endurance race, like a half marathon or a full marathon. It should be done at a slower pace. The idea is to build endurance, slowly.
Easy run: The majority of your runs will be done at an easy conversational pace.

Training Program

Consider finding and following a training program. Even a coach to 5k beginners program. Even if you don’t have any intention of ever participating in a 5k race, the training program will provide you with some structure and variety and help ensure you aren’t doing to much too soon.

Training programs for all levels can be found on the internet with a few easy searches. You can find a sample one here.

Keep it simple

Keep it simple. You can find programs that are based on distance, but also programs that are simply based on time. Look for one that fits your schedule. It’s more likely to work for you if you don’t have to completely turn your life upside down.

Running should be somewhat enjoyable. Whether you are doing it for general exercise, your health, or to spend some quality time with a friend or loved one, don’t let it get complicated. Don’t overthink it.

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