Guest post by Patrick Wales-Dinan
I was talking to an athlete today about training. That morning, he had set out to do a 8 mile threshold run. He warmed up and began his workout, but after about 2 miles his legs felt heavy and trashed. He properly recognized that it was not his day and called it quits. He finished up with 6 more miles of easy running. As we discussed the run, he told me he had decided he would try the workout again tomorrow. He said he called it quits after 2 miles because he determined that he would be rested and recovered enough to do the workout again the next day.
Now pause for a second; raise your hand if you think this is a good idea. If your hand is raised or if you have done something like this before, I am writing this entry for you. After thinking about this athlete’s decision, I concluded that this is likely a mistake many of us make in our training. We have this sense that we are making a smart decision by stopping a workout or training session when we feel terrible because we are listening to our body. But we don’t follow that up by asking, “What would be best for my body going forward?” Instead of resting the next day and preparing for the next important workout in our schedule, we go ahead with the workout the next day because in our minds we have to make sure we get that training session in that week.
All of this got me thinking about marathon training. Perhaps the most important element of training is often one of the most overlooked: consistency. People are always focused on mileage, marathon simulation runs, hydration and fueling, that they forget to make decisions that enable the most consistent training. Don’t get me wrong, all of these other things are essential to having a smooth and successful marathon build up, but without consistency, you cannot maximize the benefits of all other elements of training. I encourage you always to remember the value of consistency when making training decisions. How many of you have put a race on your calendar, whether it be a 5k, 10k, or marathon, spent weeks or months preparing, then along the way gotten hurt and missed a significant amount of time? This usually occurs because you pushed too hard or overextended yourself.
When preparing to train for a marathon, you must first determine your level of commitment. Decide how much time can you commit to training while still getting the proper amount of sleep, practicing good nutrition, and doing anything else you may need like massages, ice baths etc. Second, you should set realistic goals. I firmly believe that goal setting must occur after you outline your commitment level so you (and your coach, if you have one) can set a goal that makes sense given your level of commitment. Third, you create a plan to achieve your goals. Your plan should allow you to be consistent in both training and recovery, and you must have the patience and diligence to stick to it throughout your build-up.
Your ability to consistently train throughout your build-up will have the greatest impact on your success. Stay confident in your plan. Understand that the difference between success and failure won’t be a missed workout here or there, but rather being impatient, overextending yourself, and possibly getting hurt. Staying patient is a challenge for every successful runner, but with careful execution of a well thought out plan, you will improve your ability to consistently train through the duration or your race build-up and be better prepared for marathon success.