Lessons Learned from a Running Coach
When I first started running, I was a far cry from feeling like I would ever need a coach. I didn’t run in high school or college and assumed I’d settle in with the mid-packer runners and stay there forever. But like all good runners, I was motivated to run better and faster and I really, really wanted to try and qualify for the Boston Marathon (forget about the fact that I was more than 40 minutes away from my then-qualifying time!)
I worked hard to improve on my own, but let’s be real, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing! After several unsuccessful marathons, I finally caved and did some research about running coaches. It turns out all types of runners use running coaches, not just the elite!
It has been about 18 months since I started working with a coach and the results have been dramatic. Not only have I dropped a bunch of time in all race distances, but I’ve learned more about running, racing, and myself than I thought possible.
Related: Why You Need a Running Coach
Lessons Learned from a Running Coach
Running coaches are filled with valuable wisdom and insight. Here are four things I’ve learned from my running coach:
Forget About Missed Mileage
Last year on the evening before a marathon tune-up race, I came down with a gnarly bout of the flu. I was stuck in bed for days and instead of racing and feeling confident about my impending marathon, I missed dozens of training miles. But rather than try to cram all those missed miles into training, my coach immediately said, “we’re not wasting any time worrying about missed mileage.” I was somewhat relieved but also nervous: will I be prepared on race day?
The answer, of course, was yes I was prepared on race day. Worrying about missed miles and trying to cram them back into your training plan will only result in stress, fatigue, and injury risk. These days, when something pops up unexpectedly that forces me to dial back my training, I let it go. Ain’t nobody got time to worry about a measly few miles!
Run Easy on Easy Days
A few years ago, I ran my easy days the same pace as my hard days. Technically speaking, I never had easy or hard days, I just ran! Once I started incorporating workouts into my training regime, my coach made it clear that I was to run my easy days easy so that my hard days could be hard. It took me a while to figure out, but now I run easy days at a comfortable, conversational pace that is nearly 90 seconds slower than (marathon) race pace. And on days I’m feeling extra tired? I’ll run even slower.
Save your legs (and perhaps even your race) and let go of your ego. Running easy on easy days will allow your body to recover more efficiently and able to run hard on your hard days. Train smart, run easy!
Rest is Training
I hate taking rest days, even when I am exhausted and absolutely need them. Instead of resting, I constantly find myself looking for other ways to be active such as riding my bike to grab a slice of pizza or going for a hike with the dog. This is a classic way to avoid rest and screw up your training!
My coach allows all activities in moderation, but when training is in high gear it’s time to focus on running and resting. While running we strengthen our legs and lungs, but those things are futile if we don’t allow our bodies to rest and absorb the hard work. Additionally, not getting enough rest can result in burnout or overtraining.
Never Too High, Never Too Low
My biggest takeaway from my coach this year has been her mantra: never too high, never too low. This has been an important strategy for me as I grapple with minor setbacks and injuries and struggle to accomplish my big audacious goals. It’s so easy to get carried away in a high moment during a workout or a race, and even easier plunge into a downward spiral in a low moment. Never let one mile, workout, or race let you get too high or too low. Running, like life, will have its ups and downs and it’s important to embrace both.
What Have You Learned from Your Running Coach?
I’ve learned so many important lessons from my running coach – what have you learned from yours? Share in the comments below.