by Steve Crowder
If you could give just one piece of training advice, what would it be?
I would sum it up in two words: be consistent. Over the years I have studied different theories, observed the training of many other runners, and tried various methods myself, and the one thing I’ve learned is nothing is more important than getting out the door every day. Certainly some training plans are better than others, but I do not believe that there is a key workout, a key week, or even a key month of training. The real key is consistency over long periods of time. A popular expression says, “All roads lead to Rome.” I think you can apply this to running. There are many roads to success, so the most important thing is getting on a road and staying on it. Of course consistency is easier said than done. However, I believe there are two main keys to being consistent, and those are staying motivated and remaining injury free.
Many runners start out with good intentions, only to lose focus and wind up skipping workouts due to a lack of motivation. If you have ever experienced this, there are a few things you can do. For one, pick a goal race and set a goal time for that race. It is much easier to force yourself to head out in adverse weather or when you’re a little on the tired side if you know you have a race in the near future.
Also, try to find some training partners to hold you accountable. Many local running clubs organize group runs, as do some running specialty stores. If you have someone looking for you at a certain time each day and expecting you to be there, you’re a lot less likely to blow off a run.
Finally, schedule your runs ahead of time and approach them like other tasks in your day. If you have a meeting at work, you go to that meeting whether you feel like it or not because it’s a scheduled part of your day. Approach running the same way. Set a time and go get it done.
The other key to being consistent is staying injury free, and there are several things you can do to help accomplish this goal. First of all, learn your weaknesses and work on them. While they vary from runner to runner, most of us have problem areas. It may be tight calves that need stretching, a weak back that needs core strengthening exercises, or knees that need icing from time to time. Regardless, take care of the little things.
Additionally, remember to change your shoes. This also varies from person to person and shoe to shoe, but in general, you should never put more than 300-500 miles on a pair of shoes. More than that might save you a few bucks, but it will also increase your chances of injury.
Finally, run within yourself. I actually believe this is the biggest key. Remember that no single workout is going to make you fit. Sure, you can run a couple more miles than what you had planned, do an extra interval or two at the end of your hard track workout, or push yourself to the point where you’re about to collapse, but in the end the short term gain may be lost to an extended break due to injury. Work hard, but be smart about it. Twelve weeks of good training will beat five weeks of phenomenal training followed by an injury every time.
In summary, what you do is important, and you should work on finding what type of training works best for you. However, what you do is not as important as just doing something on a consistent basis. A person who only has a stick pole and worms for bait but goes fishing every single day will catch more fish than the person with all the fancy tools and gadgets who rarely goes to the water.
Steve Crowder lives and trains in Fincastle, Va., with his wife and two tail-chasing dogs.