Nuggets for novices

Posted on July 2, 2013

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running_rules_womens_graphic_t_shirt_sunshine__54096.1347859288.700.774I was asked recently whether I had any golden rules for being an ultra runner … what nuggets of advice I would share with novices … or indeed, any runner, as even when you’ve done a ton of races, you’re constantly learning new things, about kit, about training, about what works and what doesn’t, about yourself, both physically and mentally … I guess that’s one of the very lures of our sport, that element of there being no destination but rather a journey of discovery.

I thought about the question and struggled to reply with only three rules. ‘I wonder what the running greats would say‘, I asked myself? I found myself on Anton Krupicka’s awesome blog and these are the three nuggets that concluded.

1. It’s better to be 20% undertrained than 1% overtrained

Ideally, you don’t want to be 20% undertrained or 1% overtrained. Rather, you want to be peaking come race day and this comes through strategic build-up, training at the right volume and intensity plus proper rest, recovery and diet. In other words, keep the needle hovering just below the red! It’s a fine line to balance though and without a doubt, being tired from too much training is going to affect you more in a race than falling 20% short of peak condition. If you think you might be tinkering on the wrong side of the line, rest and recover as much as you can pre race and watch out for signs of stressing your endocrine system. These include poor sleep, irritability, diminished sex drive, apathy and depression.

2. When in doubt, leave it out

Some days the alarm goes off and you just feel downright lazy. I wrote about this recently. But other days, if you wake up and your legs really feel like jelly or on the flipside, way to heavy, then consider skipping a session and just cross-train instead. Or go for an easy recovery run instead of the planned tempo or interval workout. I don’t believe in ever forcing certain mileage or time goals on yourself … I guess this a big reason why I don’t do training programmes but instead train by how my body feels. Just do what you can, do what you feel like doing … if you’re legs feel trashed, your body is sending you a signal and if you ignore it, you run the risk of injury.

3. When you feel like Wonder Woman, it’s time to back off and take a rest

This is a tough one. When you feel like you’re flying, it’s very hard to pull back. The temptation is to keep pushing the envelope but if you go beyond the 10% rule (of never increasing your distance or mileage by more than 10% above the previous week), you run the risk of over-reaching at best or worse, over-training and injury.

I guess everyone develops their own rules to run by … and they too will change during our years as runners. But one thing is certain, the learning curve in the world of ultra running is a steep one and so much of what we learn, can be applied to our day-to-day lives … yet another lure of our great sport …

Happy running

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