Fatigue can be a nasty word. Like anything else, too much is definitely not a good thing. Excessive fatigue can lead to over training, stress fractures, mental burnout and loads of other injuries. An appropriate dose of accumulated fatigue, however, is the prescription for a good training plan.
Most important among those things is adaption. No workout happens by itself. It’s surrounded by other workouts, life events, nutrition and sleep. It’s the build up of stress on muscles and depleted energy stores that make training work. Our bodies adapt to these tired or less than 100% states and get stronger. In fact, it can take up to 14 days to recover from a hard workout. But you’ll keep running. Easy running is incredibly important to help torn up muscle fibers repair. It keeps our bodies working without adding so much stress we start to break down.
We can also take advantage of accumulated fatigue when preparing for a race. Since you’re probably not going run 26.2 miles during training, use the previous day’s workout to help make 20 miles feel like 26. Running a steady state six to eight miler the day before your long run means you’re starting that run with six miles under your belt. It’s like starting at Mile 6 instead of the start line and both our bodies and brains benefit.
The mental toughness garnered from a pair of fatigue inducing workouts like that is a great tool for race day. We gain confidence with each tough workout we power through. Every run that’s one mile longer or 1% tougher tells our brain ‘hey, we can do this’. Once we’ve broken that ‘I can do it’ barrier enough, it goes away. We become familiar with the tiredness we’ll experience at the end of a long race and learn to push through it.
Now, let’s not forget to relax. We all need a down week every four to six weeks. It gives us a chance to heal significantly before going back to hard training. That’s also the goal of tapering. Get rid of all that accumulated training fatigue. Allow your body to make the final adjustments it can so you are in peak performance shape on race day. Fill up your fuel tank, let your muscles get as strong as they can and give your brain a breather.
Use accumulated fatigue to your advantage and reap the benefits on race day.
All runners know cross training is an important part of an effective program. The real questions are what kind is best and how often should it be done. The answer depends on you as an individual athlete but here are a few reasons you want to give cycling a try.
Cadence. Running at an appropriate running cadence has big benefits. Hitting 180 steps per minute can reduce injury risk, increase speed and create more efficient movement. It’s a lot easier to hit that rate of turnover when you’re cycling than when you’re running, especially in the beginning. Match your pedaling and the metronome’s beat to train your nervous system for faster leg movements then watch it happen on your next run.
Muscles. Pedaling away for an hour doesn’t work muscles the same way as running. Instead, it builds complimentary muscles that help turnover and strengthen your core. While both sports use your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves, cycling is a different movement with different muscle fiber firing demands. Giving those muscle groups a different job makes them more adaptable and able to tackle tough challenges.
Low Impact. Cycling is a low impact sport. It builds cardiovascular fitness without pounding your bones on the road. Giving your body a break from the things it’s used to doing help it heal and relax. That’s a huge plus for recovery. Riding a bike is also a good tool when you’re coming back from an injury. It keeps you fit without opening you up to the chance of re-injury.
Options. Picking a bike as your cross training tool gives you lots of choices. You can take an indoor cycling class with your best runner friends or hit the trails on your mountain bike for some peace and quiet. Try intervals on the road or a long slow ride to lunch and back. As long as you have a helmet, you’re good to go wherever your heart desires.
Grab your bike from the garage and go for a ride or find that next spin class at your local studio. Your body and your next race will thank you.
Do you need a pair of racing flats? The answer is maybe. The contrasts between training shoes and race flats isn’t as dramatic as the differences between basketball and trail shoes but they are there. More than looks or drop, the type of shoes you want for race day depend on what kind of runner you are. Here are 5 ways to tell if you’ll want to stay clear of racing flats.
You’re a new runner. Throwing on a lighter shoe won’t actually make you that much faster. Hours of training and hard work do that. A less cushioned, less supportive pair of racing flats is more likely to lead to an injury than a new PR.
Marathoners. The marathon is a long race and you’ll be taking lots of steps while beating your body up. Don’t make it worse by stripping away the layer of protection between your foot and the road. Happy feet are fast feet so give them a little love on race day with nice comfy shoes. The longer the race, the more shoe you’ll need.
Heavier runners. You’ll need that extra cushioning for support over the length of the race. The barefoot movement hasn’t been all its cracked up to be. Typically, less protection means more injuries. No matter what the scale says, your gait can have a big impact on how much pounding your bones take with each step. Swapping into a lightweight shoe on race day can change the way you move and lead to injury.
You’re injured. If you have any hint of soreness, fatigue or muscle strain, stick with your trainers. You probably won’t be pushing yourself for the race’s entire duration anyway. It always better play things safe than toy with making a minor injury more serious.
You didn’t train in them. Nothing new on race day, right? That especially goes for shoes. Whether you’re tackling the course in brand new trainers or fancy racing flats, definitely spend time training in them. Take them out for easy runs, a track session or two and maybe even a long run. You have to prepare your body for the demands of a lightweight shoe.
Most runners have heard of people who wear different shoes on race day. Racing shoes are quite common and can be worn for many reasons. Aside from giving your trainers a break, racing shoes can help you run faster and feel sexier.
Lighter.Training shoes come in all sizes and shapes but the one thing they usually all have in common is weight. Trainers tend to be heavier for a few reasons. The thicker soles and increased cushioning provide protection from the pounding of training mileage while lifting that weight makes you stronger. Lighter shoes offer less protection but have been shown to increase speeds by an average of 1 second per mile for each ounce of weight lost. Train in 8 ounce shoes? Racing in 5 ounce shoes could lower your half marathon time by close to 30 seconds!
Lower profile. Race day shoes are typically cut lower around the ankle and have thinner uppers. This helps them weigh less while streamlining your foot. Showing off those sexy ankles might be just the ticket to a strong finish line photo and new PR.
Lucky. Whether it’s a trainer or a racing shoe, some pairs just have that sparkle. Save shoes that make you feel pretty, fast or lucky for race day. You don’t want to train too much in your racing shoes but you can definitely race in those favorite trainers.
Of course, all of these benefits can be completely muted if you don’t ever train in your racing shoes. We all know better than to wear a new piece of clothing or try a new fuel source on race day. Shoes are exactly the same. Running workouts in your racing shoes should be definitely be part of your training plan. You’ll want to do some speed work in the lighter shoes as well as some longer runs to strengthen your feet for the stresses of race day.