Last week I talked about overtraining syndrome and it's various causes, symptoms and remedies. This week, I want to add to that topic by suggesting that we can try to avoid entering into a state of overtraining, by recognizing when our bodies are not physically capable of meeting the objectives of a training run, and then having the ability to quickly set new objectives.
Too often I think many of us tend to fall into a rigid preoccupation with checking off every training run with a smug sense of achievement, especially when we know we have exactly fulfilled the objectives of each of those runs. But is the achievement worth it, if in the process, we have over-stressed our joints and muscles on days when it was clear that a reduced level of training was needed?
Getting back to one of the points I highlighted last week, where I mentioned that I might occasionally head out for a run, but due to excessive heat or humidity for example, or the onset of illness, or the presence of some type of personal crisis, my body fights all efforts to cooperate. Under such circumstances, it's not always best to fight the resistance and push through on each workout, but it's also no reason to throw the towel in and give up altogether. Some quick modifications to my scheduled workout goals can help satisfy the need to train, but more importantly, also reduce the risk of injury or illness.
Here are some ways to modify your training goals:
1. Easy pace, short runs on a flat route - break up the distance into quarters; fast walk the first quarter, run at your usual easy pace for the second two quarters, and slow jog the final quarter.
2. Easy pace, short runs on a hilly course - run at regular easy pace on flat and downhill sections of the course, and walk the uphill sections.
3. Tempo runs - reduce tempo pace and/or tempo distance, according to how you feel. It's also a good idea to leave the garmins and other timing devices at home; that way you're not tempted to try and meet a set pace.
4. Speed workouts (fartlek/interval/track repeats) - reduce intensity (goal time for each repeat) and/or the number of repeats. You can also increase the recovery time between repeats.
5. Long runs - in lieu of a long run, it's sometimes best to settle for a nice easy run that's half the distance of your long run distance. If you're determined to do your long run however, then at least add 20 to 30 seconds to your regular long run pace, and opt for a route that takes you on a double loop so that you have the option to stop after the first loop if it becomes obvious that you won't be able to complete the full distance.
A final few words of wisdom I've read in other blog posts or books:
"Never be afraid to reevaluate and adjust your goals. It is far more important to be honest with yourself about where you are at than to set unrealistic goals that lead to self-defeat."
Teri Larsen Jones - US National Waterskiing Champion
"...pro-runners are comfortable with adjusting their expectations...... they have the ability to turn a lemon workout into lemonade"
Greg McMillan - World Class Running Coach
And finally, my favorite:
".....some (workout) sessions are stars and some sessions are stones, but in the end they are all rocks and we build upon them."
Brett Sutton - World Class Triathlete Coach