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Nothing quite feels like moving forward through space at a fast clip. Your body has suddenly become a force of nature.
Looking back now, I see how silly it was to waste precious opportunities to run in a pack. A runner friend of mine always says, “Nobody cares how fast you go on your easy days.” The problem was, I cared. I felt that if I wasn’t huffing and puffing, at least a little bit, then I hadn’t accomplished anything. I somehow convinced myself that because I had graduated from the “hobby-jogger” phase I could no longer run slower than 8:00 minute pace per mile. Despite having read articles by Arthur Lydiard and other prominent coaches about the importance of “running by feel,” I still ran with my eyes glued to my watch. I missed out on opportunities to get in touch with my body. I had fallen prey to a common enemy in many walks of life: ego.
Over the years this stubbornness dissipated, and my relationship with my body improved. I learned to yield to its appeals, and slow down. I left my watch at home for easy runs. I started paying attention to details like my foot strike, arm swing, cadence and breathing. “This feels like 7:15 pace,” I would think, and more often than not I would guess right. I practiced recovery runs, and began to understand that a slower pace did not mean I was losing fitness, but rather that I was giving my body appropriate time to recover and benefit from a preceding hard workout. I also ran with others again, regardless of the pace, giving more value to camaraderie and less value to numbers. In short, I learned discipline.
A year later I joined a running club that held weekly interval and tempo runs, and I had to learn how to learn slow down all over again. Even though I knew how to slow down on easy days, it was much more challenging to slow down on hard days. This process did not happen overnight, but took years of practice. It happened like everything else has in my experience with running. that is, slowly. With time, I discovered even more benefits to slowing down: I was able to increase my mileage more easily, my legs felt fresh instead of heavy, I recovered more efficiently from harder work, and (perhaps most important) I enjoyed the experience of running more! On days where I successfully slowed down, I ended the run feeling refreshed, light, and buzzing, rather than tired and cheerless.
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Squirrels scatter across the road at your approaching footsteps. Leaves flutter into the air and cars come to a screeching halt as you fly past them. Running fast can be fun, but it can also make you lose sight of a critical aspect of training: slowing down. In my early years I was a hobby-jogger who could go a little faster than his friends. I remember one run where around three-fourths of the way in, I picked up the pace and dropped both of my running buddies. When they came ambling up the top of the ramp where we finished, I felt proud that I was already done stretching.
Coach Plummer has guided both sprinters and distance runners in their training. He runs competitively for the Central Park Track Club and trains year-round for road races, indoor and outdoor track, and cross-country. He is also a USA Track and Field Level 1 certified coach.
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