Run, Run, Run!
Summer is almost here, and that means all sorts of exciting things are on the horizon: barbeques, pool parties, and awkwardly navigating runners when walking at public parks. Running is one of the few sports that saw a massive boom during the height of social distancing policies, and it's not hard to see why; it's an accessible form of exercise that doesn't require specific gyms, venues, or teams to perform. Many races also adjusted their policies significantly, converting from big events along fixed routes to personal, app-driven races staggered over several weeks.
With this summer likely looking much different from the last, it stands to reason that there's going to be a lot of pent-up excitement for races. If you're getting running FOMO, fear not, because there's still time to train! While going straight from couch to marathon sounds like the setup for a bad time, being able to compete in a 5k, 10k, or even half marathon might be a lot closer than you think.
Here are 4 habits you can start TODAY to prepare yourself for the hustle of race season this summer!
Go outside. Right now. At this very moment.
Okay, you should probably finish reading this article first. In the 60% chance you're reading this article on your phone in the bathroom, finish all of that business too.
It's easy to get excited about the prospect of running a race, but that excitement doesn't mean anything until you actually go and run. Even if you just spend 20 minutes getting outside and actually running is a vital first step towards finishing a race. If you take away nothing else from this list, it's that you should actually be where the running is, and that's outdoors.
Learn How to Pace Yourself
This advice isn't just abstract, feel-good encouragement: learning how to concretely pace yourself is a vital part of mastering long-distance running. Every year, there's no shortage of inexperienced runners who enter races only to burn out around mile 2. This is because a lot of inexperienced runners think of a race as a matter of "running as fast as you can until it's over." These runners exhaust themselves quickly and spend the rest of the race watching "slower" runners breeze past them.
At the end of the day, the running speed that wins races isn't a fast one, but a sustainable one. While every runner is going to have their own unique rhythm and method of adjusting their speed, there are a few things that you can focus on as a newbie to build the understanding required to start making active decisions about your running speed.
As you train, use your running times to get a sense of what your easy, moderate, and hard speeds are. An easy running speed is a light jog that allows you to still communicate in full sentences as you maintain it. Although this sounds obvious, many first-time runners don't have the pacing to consistently maintain a light running speed, and developing one is super helpful ahead of actually racing.
From there, a medium speed is one that you can maintain, but have to focus on. This is a tempo where you can maintain your breathing but will strain if you go any faster. Don't expect to get out any full sentences here, but you should still be able to get out a few words from time to time.
Finally, a hard pace is exactly what it sounds like: running about as fast as you can. Many running coaches describe this kind of exertion as "90% of your maximum possible effort." Staying at your hard pace is challenging, and you likely won't be using it much during actual races, but it's useful in establishing a baseline when running.
Once you have a handle over these different paces, you'll start to naturally build your own sense of tempo, rhythm, and pace. Being able to both maintain a consistent medium and having a sense of when you should slow down gives you a massive edge over first-time runners!
Join a Program
Fighting off burnout can be a real chore once the initial energy and novelty wear off in your training. If you feel like you've hit a wall, or feel that your motivation is wearing thin, consider joining a fitness group. Having a group for accountability can be massive in keeping you on your training regimen, and professionally curated exercise programs can also help you smash through your plateaus.
The best part is that you don't even need to commit to a running program to see the benefits. If the prospect of running even more between your outdoor sessions sounds daunting, consider joining a class that lets you reinforce your cardio strength in other ways. Swimming, cycling, and HIIT training are all great ways to fortify your body for long runs without having to hit the trail every day. Doing heavier weight training can also be useful, especially if you're focusing on building leg strength, but make sure that this is a routine that you can maintain. Some runners absolutely enjoy running off the soreness after a brutal gym day, while others
Enter a Race, Even If You Don't Feel Prepared
The "even if you don't feel prepared" part of this bullet point is important enough to make it into the header, and there's a reason for that: having a tangible goal to work towards is vital in making progress. Committing to something is a huge point of actually doing it, and there's no way to substitute that. You probably won't feel ready for your first race, and that's okay. What's important is that you decided to do it and honored that commitment.
Are you planning to run any races this summer? Let us know in the comments