You can drive yourself nuts trying to plan for everything that can happen over the course of training and racing. There are just too many variables. Trying to control everything invariably leads to the "What if?" game.
And I hate the "What if?" game.
What if it's raining? What if the pacers are off? What if an asteroid destroys the last half of the course? In the end, the “What if?” game creates stress, saps our energy, and leads to paralysis through analysis. By simply relaxing and focusing on the things that are within our control, we can be happier, more successful runners.
We've all fallen into the trap of focusing on the things we can't control. We get so caught up in worrying about the weather, the course, the pace, that we miss out on prepping for the stuff that we can control. Instead, we should redirect our focus onto something beneficial. Use some of the following strategies to become a more effective runner and racer.
Competence Builds Confidence | One of the biggest reasons we question our training is a lack of confidence in ourselves. As goal-oriented individuals, we tend to focus on everything that can prevent us from reaching our goals. The best way to avoid self-doubt is to develop confidence in our running. The first step to growing confidence is to follow an intelligent, solid training program. Another is running even when the terrain and weather conditions are tough in order to simulate anything you may encounter on race day. Finally, consistency in training will help you develop confidence in your capabilities.
Injury Prevention | Considering the forces your body withstands over the course of training, it's no wonder you’re tired and sore. While minor injury setbacks are not uncommon for runners, there are things you can add into your training to help keep you one step ahead of a big setback. Myofascial release and stretching are integral parts of any training program. Tight muscles put extra strain on your joints and can lead to inflammation at their attachment points. Recovery is one of the most overlooked aspects of training. Often we push hard, but fail to let our bodies properly recovery. Many of our "overuse" injuries are due to a lack of proper recovery. Think of it as an under-recovery injury more than an overuse one. Finally, adding functional strength training into your schedule will help your body more effectively withstand the rigors of training. If you can keep your body strong, you can alleviate many of the muscle imbalances that cause injuries.
Fuel Up | Runners either watch their diets way too closely or not at all. To become a well-oiled machine (read: a confident athlete), we need to make sure we are well fueled. Don’t fall for fads, and don’t feel that you need to be a dietitian to know how to eat. Just be smart. As an athlete, you're burning fuel. You need to replace the fuel you burn. Racecars don't go very far or fast if they're out of gas, and neither will you. Replace your spent fuel. Under-fueling leads to under-recovery, and under-recovery leads to poor performance. By being well-fueled with good fuel, you can hit the roads knowing your body is ready roll.
Worry about what you can control, not what you can't. Focus your energy into positive, mindful efforts. Enjoy your training. And kick that evil little "What if?" troll to the curb.
Tim Cary is Fleet Feet's Assistant Training Manager and coach of the Fleet Feet-sponsored Runnababez Elite team. Over his more than two decades of coaching, Tim has coached athletes to three national team championships, five national individual championships, two national records, and numerous All-American and All-State honors. Click here to receive Tim's weekly article via email.