One of the more fruitful pieces of advice I received early in corporate life was to clearly articulate the reasons for and objectives I was seeking to achieve each and every time I called a meeting.
Kicking off a discussion by stating those objectives and reasons was a great way to get to the point and avoid getting sidetracked. Later on, as I became more confident and a touch more senior, I could play that advice back in my mind, and to others, to assess whether I needed to be there. If it wasn’t clear what the purpose of the meeting was, several avoidance strategies and the occasional walkout were employed to save me from wasting my valuable time. Especially if there was a scheduled run or gym session to get to!
It’s a good idea to consider the very same questions before setting off to complete a training run. How does this easy run or harder training session fit in with my larger goals and long-term running plan? Asking these questions becomes increasingly important as you begin to take your running more seriously.
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If you’re heading out for a couple of 30-minute jogs each week with a friend you probably don’t need to sweat the details too much. However, even the purpose here shouldn’t be forgotten: one example could be if your friend starts getting serious and you’re not. Suddenly a more socially-oriented exercise session becomes a stressful, hard, workout. At this point it might pay to find a new running buddy.
For the more serious runner, assessing the purpose is usually the job of the running coach, so if in doubt, put the question to them. Why are we doing this? If a reasonable answer isn’t forthcoming it might be time to look for a new running mentor. Just doing it because it’s always been done that way isn’t a satisfactory response. Are your goals aligned with your coach’s strategy?
If you’re self-coaching, you need to be aware of some common traps that examining your purpose can help you avoid. Completing junk miles is probably the most common mistake runners make and is very much akin to sitting in a meeting that you don’t need to be at. In both cases you’ll lose an hour of your life that you’ll never get back, for no benefit whatsoever. These long, slow plods that you add to your schedule to hit some arbitrary mileage target can often do more harm than good. A rest day, some cross-training or a gym session might well be more productive in the longer term.
The second mistake I often see is hard training sessions that are always the same. These workouts are often dressed up to look different, but on closer inspection they are done at the same pace and work on stimulating only one aspect of your running fitness. Often these are scheduled twice in the same week – an even bigger sin. You need to train over a wide range of paces to be a complete runner. Don’t avoid working on your weaknesses and paper over the cracks by doing the same training all the time.
Finally, if the purpose of a particular run is to run easy and recover, do just that. Don’t be tempted to run faster than you need to or race your training partners – let them go. Winning in training is one thing, but being able to bring your best on race day is another thing altogether.