New Year, New Running Plan?
Many of us will be in the same boat right now. Having enjoyed the Christmas spirit, caught up with friends and family it is now time to face the truth that we need to seriously change our exercise and eating habits to get back in shape again. January has that effect on many of us, we go all guns blazing into a new routine to get fit, lose weight and generally live a better lifestyle. It is admirable that we put ourselves through this each January, many of us succeed for a short while, many fail to make it even through the month. Why is it that we struggle and what can we do to help improve our progress?
The basic goal is simple. You are super keen to feel better, sleep better so you feel full of life and bounce out of bed in the morning. As a result of these changes, you will have more energy to train, play with the kids, at work and generally be feeling great. Unfortunately, the fact is during the first part of the process you feel worse. It takes about three to four weeks before you start to actually feel the benefits, and unfortunately many of us have fallen off the wagon before we get to that point. This is certainly a complex area to address however there are some simple changes we can make that will help us maintain the plans we set out.
Firstly, is the programme you skilfully set out to complete on the 1st January achievable long term? Think about your other commitments – family, work, training, hobbies. It is a busy world we now live in and having the time to add on extra exercise can be difficult. Our Running team always talk about consistency of training to achieve the results you are looking for. If you can train four times a week and maintain that programme then you will achieve the results you are looking for. There is no quick fix, no one month to solve a problem, yes you can kick start a programme however it is what happens in February and March that really makes the difference. By this stage the consistency of training will start to have effects and the mental approach to exercising will assist in your benefits. So, sit down and work out what you can realistically do in a week without any issues, especially now we are moving into February, then if you get an extra training session in you feel great, and certainly much better than looking at your Strava and seeing that you only managed two of your seven training sessions you had planned. Be wise with you planning.
It always helps to maintain a plan if you have a buddy. This might be someone to run with, hopefully at the same level as this will give you that little extra boost to get your trainers on and head out the door. Half the battle during the winter as once you are out there running you will always feel better. If that doesn’t work for you a running club or group can help, our Strava group (Running Logic) might be just the thing to help you with a little extra competition while also having access to Running Coaches for top tips and advice. It all helps keep you on track
Secondly what is it that you are trying to achieve? Too often we charge in full blast and increase our distance too quickly (running), on the back of a lighter December training programmes. Our bodies need time to adapt to new training sessions so if you find after your first few weeks of your new super intense sessions to achieve all the goals in the first five minutes that you are tired, super hungry and struggling for motivation to complete the next training session then you are probably pushing your body too hard. Our tissues need time to adapt to new training so smashing out six running sessions in the first week is probably only going to lead to an increased injury risk in the first instance. Again, if you’re not training you are not going to be moving closer to your goals. In the second instance you are probably over training, even in this short period of time, and will find you are unable to keep up with the plan. You will lack motivation, feel tired, be grumpier than normal and you are unable to complete your training to the standards you expect. You need to re-think your programme. To start with work out your key goal, build strength, improve endurance and that can be the focus of your training week but you should complete different training too. It challenges the body, improves your overall progress and stops you from being dominated by one training method. So runners really should be doing some body weight strength training to help build tissue tolerance and tendon strength. Walking is a great addition to any programme at this time of year. You really need to work out what you are really trying to achieve and then add in a mixture of training around your main focus and you will feel that extra spring return to your step pretty quickly.
Finally, how do you feel after your training sessions? Remember you should be feeling energised, taller stronger and ready to take on the world. Yes, indeed you have to push yourself to get results but not to the point that you are smashed into the ground. If you find post your training session that walking up and down the stairs is painful or difficult, sitting to standing is suddenly taking on a whole new challenge and you are now rolling out of bed in the morning onto the floor the chance are you are pushing a little too hard. The DOMS – delayed onset muscle soreness – is a real thing but there is a difference between complete and utter fatigue of the neural system (that is another whole blog discussion) and the effect you are aiming to as part of building your body in terms of fitness and strength. Listen to your body it is super clever and knows when training is going well and when you are doing too much. If you find you want to train but your body is struggling many of us could benefit from a Pilates session, mobility work or as discussed, a good walk. Walking moves the joints through good ranges, helps recovery and you will feel energised and ready for your next training session. It is often hard when you have set targets that are hard to achieve to complete a training session as simple as a walk or stretching session however it will really help your other sessions and get you to a better place in the long term.
The purpose of writing this now is to help keep you on track. I trust you have got off to a flyer with your training and our aim is to help you stay there. So sit down and look at your plan and be realistic. Is it achievable, is it maintainable and is it mixed enough to help you avoid injury? What changes should you look at making to help you build the consistency into your training week and allow you to build a programme that changes your year and not just January. Make those changes now and listen to your body, you will achieve so much more.
One final point, and this is from the experience of recent surgery. It is easy for us to complete the training we enjoy and avoid the tough stuff we should do, having someone train you, balance your sessions, target your weaknesses to build them into strength and help you manage your training week can be an amazing way to progress to your targets and goals. Keep that in mind if you are struggling to keep the motivation going.
Building Better Athletes