Now is the time many runners consider what they would like to accomplish in their training during the New Year. Anyone training for Boston is certainly focused on following the prescribed training program but there likely is plenty of room for improvement.
We tend to think the solution to most of our challenges is to run more; if we simply add a few more miles than it will make up for not stretching and not eating well. The reality is that what we do away from running has as much impact on our training as our actual running.
One of the most critical and often neglected areas is the first 30-60 minutes of completing a run. Most of us are so thankful that the run is over that we surrender to exhaustion and become completely sedentary. Walking at the end of a run to allow your heart rate to gradually return to a normal range is beneficial. Changing into warm and comfortable clothes and completing a stretching program focused on your major running muscles (e.g. glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors, quads, thighs, etc.) should be your next priority. Eating as soon as possible will begin the recovery process from your run and begin to prepare you for your next run. Chocolate milk is one of my favorite post-run drinks. I prefer to eat a banana and peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread afterwards.
Another area to focus on is listening closely to your body and adjusting your training accordingly. I emphasized the importance of monitoring your resting heart rate each morning in the ABC’s Of Successful Marathon Training that each Marathon Coalition runner received. The goal should be to not push too hard when you have an elevated heart rate but to reduce the mileage and intensity of your run, cross train or take a complete rest day. Provided your eat well, stay hydrated and get sufficient rest, your heart rate should return to a normal range the following day. Most runners allow their training to be dictated by their work and life schedule. It’s more beneficial to base your training on how your are feeling and erring on the side of caution and missing runs if you’re not well rested.
Two other areas to consider as you’re planning your New Year are cross-training and nutrition. Runners naturally find comfort and gain confidence from running more than anything. However, cross training can be a nice complement to running if your body needs rest or you have a muscle imbalance that’s the root cause of an injury. I have relied on cycling and spinning as my main source of cross training. But water running, the elliptical trainer and yoga are also great alternatives. Many runners are also guilty of not emphasizing nutrition enough. What we eat has as much impact on our training as our actual running. No amount of running is ever going to compensate for a poor or inadequate nutritional plan.
Take the time to map out a plan that will build upon your current training program. Divide it into the things that you feel you’re doing well and the areas requiring improvement. Getting comfortable embracing your weaknesses is not always easy but the areas requiring the most attention represent the best opportunity for improvement and transformation.