Yesterday, I addressed five common training challenges that runners face and powerful ways to overcome them. Today we’re addressing five more common challenges we almost ALL face sooner or later, and simple, yet powerful ways to move past them so we’re running strong, training great, and keeping ourselves from wearing down!
You’ve become a mono-athlete.
Imagine if you were to eat just one food a day for the rest of your life. Overtime, no matter how healthy you ate, you’d certainly become malnourished or worse. Well, the same can be said for training. If you do only one motion, like running, or cycling, or whatever that motion may be, you’ll get really good at that motion, but then other things will start breaking down, or you’ll start getting aches and pains that just won’t go away.
Diversification – Think of man or woman in nature. We would run to hunt, bend down to forage, lift to carry water, and run like heck to avoid predators. We swam to cross creeks, climbed for fruit, and who knows what else. What we wouldn’t do is one motion day after day, month after month. This diversification of activities would keep us health, strong and limber. So mix up your workouts. Run one day, swim the next, or try any of a plethora of class or group activities out there… but like your stock advisor told you, diversify, diversify, diversify.
Though you’re getting stronger each day, you’re also getting tighter.
Listen to your body and give it what it needs. Particularly in the beginning, I like to think of cardio and stretching as yang and yin. When we can spend just as much time on recovery work as working out itself (50/50), we’re achieving perfect balance or harmony. In other words, for every minute of running, you should schedule in a minute of stretching. This may seem excessive at first, but it helps keep you from getting injured and helps you run faster too. For when you’re tight, you’re reducing blood flow to your muscles and connective tissue. This means not only do you run slower, you recover slower too. When you’re loose, you recover more quickly and don’t have to fight through the muscles to run fast.
Of course, there’s always a point of overdoing it… just look at all the injured yoga aficionados out there. That’s why the answer is BALANCE. You don’t need to be able to twist yourself into a pretzel to run well. And it’s actually counterproductive, because we need a certain amount of muscle tension and tightness in our tendons in order to spring ahead.
You’re emotionally worn out by your workouts.
Just as we need to balance the yin and yang of cardio workouts and stretching, we need to do the same between body and soul as well. Doing all physical workouts without taking care of your spiritual needs often leaves you bereft or empty in the tank. This means balancing physical workouts with meditations. Meditation isn’t time taken AWAY from working out. It’s time invested in relaxing the body, reducing stress hormones, eliminating inflammation, and helping calm and quiet the mind. The more relaxed the mind, the faster the body will run and recover. More importantly, it’ll help your heart soar. When you spend time meditating you get in touch with your inner self, something we rarely do when pounding along on the treadmill. This helps us relax, de-stress, and be at our creative best for everything that comes our way.
You keep getting injured no matter what you do.
Chances are, if you keep getting injured, on a conscious or unconscious level, you’re out of balance and not listening to your body. First, re-read part 1 and all of the above. See if you’re in balance, stretching when you run and meditating at least a few times a week (even 5-10 minutes a day can make a HUGE difference), and if you’re moving with good form. If so, then the answer may lie in how much your doing, the intensity you’re going at, or most importantly, your awareness of your body.
Chances are, you’re either focused on a result (watching your Garmin, your speedometer, the treadmill screen, or otherwise) or you’re pounding along to the music, vetoing or unable to hear the screams of your body in pain. If you keep getting injured you need to stop and listen to your body. It has a lot to tell you. It’ll tell you what you need to do, when you need to rest, if your form is off, and even why you need to slow down. If that’s difficult, then read on to #10.
You don’t feel good when you work out.
You need to check in with your body and with your mind. The simplest way to do this is to head for the mat for 5-10 minutes before each run, ride, or fitness class. Lay down, breath deep, and do a body scan, starting with your feet, working your way up your legs, then to your abs, back, arms, shoulders, neck and head. Ask how things are feeling. Ask what they would like and ask if they need a workout or need the rest. And then listen.
At first this may seem strange, hokey or futile. But in a short while, you’ll learn how to listen to your body and get great feedback, feedback that will make you happier, make your workouts more enjoyable, and help your body and spirit to soar!
You feel tired or weak during your workouts.
Often this comes from a lack of rest, poor sleep, stress or pushing through. But there’s one more common scenario we’ve overlooked. Sports drinks and energy bars. These “health foods” are often laden with sugar, corn-syrup, rice syrup, or syrup-syrup, and they cause you to crash hard. They may give you what feels like an initial “boost” (typically no more than a chemical dopamine I LOVE THAT!!! response triggered by a body addicted to sugar, as we almost all are. But then as the body puts out insulin to get the excess sugar out of your veins, it’s followed by a crash or sugar low (aka “bonking”). It’s amazing how many of us experience this, even at the gym. Suddenly we feel weak, tired, achy, or like we’re human zombies. If that describes you, chances are it’s the food you ate!
Don’t eat before you workout. Train your body to tap into your fat stores… After all, we’re carrying more calories on us than we could possibly use in one session at the gym. You may feel weak at first because you’re not used to it. But it’ll make you a stronger runner, a more efficient athlete, and keep the sugar blues at bay, not just for your workouts, but throughout the day.
Note: Don’t go for the sweet drink to replenish your “glycogen stores” after your workout. Instead, rehydrate with plenty of water. Concerned about electrolytes? Then add a pinch of sea-salt to your water. Sea salt is loaded with natural minerals, and adds a hint of sweetness to your water. Then when you’re home, eat a good balanced meal that’s not laden with sugars and sweeteners. Your body will thank you for it!
Starving before working out? Then eat some raw nuts, preferably pre-soaked in water. They’ll help you learn to burn fat, plus give you steady-burning fuel for the workout and beyond. Why raw and pre-soaked? To get the natural enzymes the nuts are packed with to help your body to digest and absorb all the great nutrients.
Note: A snickers bar is NOT eating nuts.
Follow these key tips and you’ll be running stronger, feeling better, and be at your best come spring, or for whatever your goals. Most importantly, you’ll be happier, healthier, and feel better about keeping up with your workouts.
Have fun, be mindful, and enjoy!