Run less, run healthier, run better.
This past week, I had to skip my 12-mile run due to muscle fatigue and lack of sleep. In realizing how unconcerned I was about this, I was inspired to write a blog post to explain why, essentially, I am not worried AT ALL about missing a run.
Let me preface this by saying: I am no expert. I rely heavily upon the advice of my wonderful Coach, Rick Muhr, who has been guiding me as a member of the Charity Coalition for the past three training seasons.
I am, however, an expert of how my body feels and I have come to realize that the less I run, the better I run. It seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? But I can tell you with proof that this is true for me.
In my first season of running, I was plagued by shin splints. In fact, I was sidelined for the bulk of the training season because of it. There were many reasons for this, two of which were that I was wearing the wrong shoes and I was inexperienced so I was not ready for the increase in training. I was forced to do most of my “running” on the stationary bike. I would do intense double spin sessions 3 days a week and would do a longer bike session on Saturdays (as long as it would have taken me to run the scheduled distance, i.e. 3 hours of biking for 17 miles of running)
I ended up finishing the marathon about 45 minutes faster than I thought it was going to to take me.
In my second season of running, I was a fitter, more experienced runner and my times had improved dramatically. I’d gone from a 12:30/mi to 11:15/mi in a matter of 6 months. Because of this, I grew excited at the idea of a marathon time goal. I worked really hard to achieve this goal and followed the training schedule pretty much to a T. And I was running much faster.
However, I ended up injuring myself during the first week of tapering. I was told by my Physical Therapist, the wonderful Jake Kennedy, that the injury really had just been on the brink of happening and it finally just gave in- I ended up on crutches for the final weeks of training.
So, after that second marathon, I spent the summer running hard, running often…and re-injured my body. I finally thought to myself: Maybe if I run less, I will be healthier. At this point, I was averaging a 10:30 pace in my shorter races (5k, 10K) and I was beginning a training regimen for a half marathon in October. I made a conscious decision to train by not running much at all- no more than 4 miles a few times during the week (speed training), a couple longer runs (an 8 miler and a 9 miler) and the rest was biking, elliptical, or absolutely nothing at all. I wasn’t sure how I’d perform in this half. In fact, since I hadn’t run much, I thought I would do pretty badly.
October 7th arrived. I set out. And the further I ran, the better I felt. I was running my final miles 2 mins/mile faster than my beginning miles. I finished that half marathon at a pace of 10:16/mi, the fastest I’d ever run ANY distance over a 5K.
It became pretty clear to me that my body thrives when I give it rest. The less I run, the healthier I am, the better I run. I think it all has to do with the fact that I was gicing my muscles a chance to rebuild, a chance to strengthen and a chance to catch some zzzzzzz’s all while keeping my cardiovascular shape in tact.
Now, I am not saying this approach is for everyone. But I do think it is a great example that sometimes less is more, that resting can actually improve your running if taken at the right times and for the right amount of time. It is important to listen to your body- and because I have finally learned how to listen to mine, I have become a much better runner!