I get asked for advice all the time. Much of my advice is ignored. Often, as I’m telling something to a runner, I can almost see the wheels spinning in their brains thinking, “that’s great Coach, but what else you got for me?” It happens when I tell people something they don’t want to hear. Today, I’m going to tell you the four worst things that you can do to yourself as a runner — and most of you won’t want to hear any of them.
These are the four most common pieces of advice that come up when I’m asked either: “what am I doing wrong?” or “why didn’t I meet my finishing goal time?” And in almost every case, the response is a reluctance to change these very basic things. And it’s not as though these are surprising. They’re just back things that almost always are the things that lead to poor output of training, as compared to the runner’s expectations. They are in fact the worst things that you can do as a runner and they are also the most practiced.
Worst Practice #1 — Running Too Many Slow Miles — There’s sort of two pieces to this first issue. Most runners run too many miles or too many slow miles — or both. The problem here is that running slow miles just teaches your body to run that speed. When it comes to to try to “pull it out” and “push hard” in a race, the speed isn’t there. There’s not enough speed going into practices, so there isn’t going to be speed coming out on race day. The answer is run fewer, faster miles. This is the rub. People often hate cutting their miles and they often hate running fast. But it is almost certain that running faster in practice is going to lead you to run faster in your races.
Worst Practice #2 –Not Running Goal Pace In Practice — If only Coach Dean and I had a nickle for every time someone said, “I’ve been running 10:30 miles in my training runs. I hoped to run 9:30 in the race. Why didn’t it happen?” Bottom line is that runners need to spend time running goal pace in practice. It’s OK that goal paced runs are shorter than the race distance — in fact a 3-5 mile mid-week goal paced run is a great training practice — the idea here is to log mileage at goal pace. If you don’t do it, you can’t expect to run it in practice. I like to think of it this way: if I just wanted to go run world record pace, I couldn’t do it. I can’t do it in practice, so how could I do it on race day? They say practice makes perfect. This is a case where that advice makes sense.
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