Professionalism is something that everyone who wants to be good at something needs to strive and plan for every day.
In office life, such professional fundamentals include having an agenda for a meeting, taking notes and making sure there’s someone responsible for recording and monitoring the achievement of agreed actions.
If you’re a runner, being professional isn’t about being elite or a special talent, it’s about creating the conditions to get the most out of your training and athletic potential, however humble or great that may be.
How many times have you looked back at a subpar performance and wondered what went wrong? The professional runner will have the reflective ability to understand and learn from such setbacks. They will also have the information available to perform some analysis of the factors leading up to a setback or equally a spectacular triumph. This brings me to the first bit of professionalism every runner should adopt – the training diary.
Keep a training diary
The runner’s training diary is the most invaluable source of information; it gives an insight into the here and now, but also enables the long-term runner to look back and remember the mix, volume and intensity of training that delivered past success or lead to dismal failure.
So what should you record? It doesn’t need to be War and Peace, but you should note down where you ran, how far, how fast, niggles and any injury concerns, adverse weather conditions and what shoes you were wearing. The latter gives you an indication of wear and tear, but also gives you a feel for which shoe model suits you best – I always recommend runners rotate their shoes.
All of that should take no more than a few seconds to record after you get back from your running training – I personally adopt a low-tech approach, keeping an old-fashioned week to a page diary, others prefer technology and include data collected from the GPS unit and/or heart rate monitor. If you’re training particularly hard it’s worth recording your resting pulse rate first thing in the morning – a higher than normal reading is an indication of over-training and the need for a rest or an easier day or two.
Race day routine
Just like rushing to a meeting or presentation isn’t conducive to producing your best work, arriving at your goal race short of time and in a flap won’t help your running performance. Experimenting with and then sticking with a successful routine is a good idea, but you’ll always need to be a bit flexible to deal with some curve balls that can be thrown your way be race organisers. Getting there well in advance of the start time is the best defence against these last minute hiccoughs.
Warming up is something that individuals respond to differently, but the pros give themselves enough time to put in some easy jogging (10-15 minutes) and then a few just below or at race pace surges to get the body functioning at the level required for racing. Try and finish this about five to 10 minutes before your race – but if you’re stuck sardine-like with a thousand other runners in a big city fun run then clear a space and do a few body weight squats or jog on the spot to keep warm.
The warm up becomes more important over shorter distances, such as five kilometers; without the warm-up your body goes into shock in the early stages and the first few minutes of the race are unnecessarily uncomfortable. On the other hand if you’re running a marathon or a low key half-marathon then consider the first few kilometers as your warm-up. Starting easy and finding your rhythm in these long races is important and long elaborate warm-ups for these events deplete your energy reserves needed to reach the finish line in good shape.
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So being a pro is something every serious runner should aspire to. I’ve covered only two aspects here, but there are so many other basics that you can use to obtain small improvements over time – take the time to research and implement these into your running life.