Monday, 20 April 2015

Training Smarter vs Training Harder

Slightly quick one this week, because I'm typing this out on my work computer after-hours - my home phone line decided to die this weekend, taking my DSL with it. But I'm not here to focus on the negatives.

I ran my fastest 10k ever on Saturday, breaking my previous record by about a minute to do it in 53 minutes and 4 seconds. It was kind of a relief, to be honest, because my running experiences last year weren't awesome. After having (finally) broken the 2-hour barrier for half-marathons in 2013, not being able to repeat that feat, much less break my record, was pretty discouraging.

And particularly when I considered how hard I'd worked - my second run took place in November, and I started training for it in July. I even logged over 86 miles of running in October, as I built up to it... only to discover that I hadn't trained for hill running. At all. Fu. Cking. Balls.

So I made a couple of changes to my routine for this run, with a focus on improving my endurance (I'd noticed that my pace tailed off sharply in the second half of a run). Given that a 10k's a little under 50% of a half-marathon, I was able to do three runs a week without spending too ridiculously much time on it, and gradually got my distances and speed up to the levels I wanted.

And the funniest part is that I did it all without a trainer.

I don't want to bash trainers here, because I only managed my previous personal bests because I was working with someone who really knew what she was doing. But it just underscores how important it is to work with a good trainer - I worked with three last year, one of them for about my entire training regime for the second run, and ended up getting pretty lackluster results.

The difference this year, I guess, is that I took more responsibility for directing my own training and got serious about fixing my specific shortcomings (core strength, endurance). Which, I guess, just illustrates the point that you can have the best equipment and support ever, but it's just a prop - you have to do the work, and figure out what works best for you.

Note, by the way, that this doesn't even necessarily mean longer hours - by the end of November, I was at the gym or on a run five or six times a week, whereas this year I stuck with four workouts a week, and didn't run at all in the week leading up to Saturday.

This is all transferable, of course, to setting goals elsewhere in life. Figure out what's holding you back, and then figure out how to get past it; working harder doesn't always beat working smarter (cliche, I know); and when things don't go as planned, give yourself a break and learn from the setback.

The other important thing is, when you do reach your goal, allow yourself that moment of feeling awesome, before targeting the next goal. But don't forget to get back to work.