When you run, there is one guarantee: you’ll have triumphs and setbacks – and the latter can quash motivation.” Wise words from sports psychologist Paul Russell, but a decent training diary can make a big difference. It’s where you can commit to ambitions, plan out strategies and plant seeds of inspiration to see you through bad patches. Here’s what to include.
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In your Notepad
The ‘I want’ list
If your only goal is a sub-4:00 marathon or losing three stone, your enthusiasm is likely to wane when results don’t come quickly. Buffer each main goal with two small ones to achieve in the meantime: “I want to try a new form of cross-training”, for example. As for setting realistic time goals, physiologist Janet Hamilton says that, “in ideal conditions”, you can expect a three per cent max improvement from race to race.
The ‘What if’ list
“It’s not the setbacks but your response that determines whether or not you reach your goals,” says Russell. “Minimise the impact by thinking through every bad situation that might crop up; next to each, write how you will overcome it.” Be it injury, poor weather or missing out on a race place, facing your fears head-on will reassure you that everything’s in hand. And if the worst should happen, you’re ready to act.
“Doing your homework and learning more about running is enormously motivational; you’ll see people just like you succeeding with similar targets,” says Russell. Keep a page for noting down or stapling in inspiring quotes and useful tips gleaned from running buddies, forums and (of course) RW.
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In the Main Diary
“Even if progress seems slow, it’ll give you a big boost to look back on training stats and see seconds shaved off,” says personal trainer Scott Marsh (xceleratefitness.co.uk). Analysing information can also reveal clear patterns in your running and racing. Think about the following:
Highs and lows
If you run purely for fun or fitness, it’s fine if you’re hitting the same mileage every week. But if you want to race, step up to a schedule with a buildup and recovery period. Full and half marathoners build over 10-20 weeks; 5K-ers may do their highest mileage during base-building. All runners should dial down two to six weeks before key events.
Your average mileage
You may find that increased mileage actually hurts your performance, as the law of diminishing returns kicks in. If that’s you, avoid overtraining by adding new runs rather than repeatedly tacking distance on to your long run. It’s fine to double up with shorter sessions in both the morning and the afternoon.
Eight to 10 weeks before a race, look at your training intensity and volume. “Runners often ramp up their mileage too quickly or don’t allow enough recovery time after hard workouts,” says sports physician Dr John Martinez. Avoid getting injured with a step-back week every three to six weeks, cutting mileage by
10-20 per cent.
Examine your key workouts in the six weeks prior to race day. “You may find runs are scheduled too close together, or you’re not doing enough,” says coach Greg McMillan. Sleep, stress and nutrition also affect success.
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