Every week I get to work with some amazing female athletes. They are women who come from different athletic backgrounds with different goals. Some are runners who want to improve their times while others are focused on becoming more healthy and fit. What I love most about working with these women is that they want to be their best. They understand that to be their best is a process.
You see, training is not just about going out every day and putting in the miles or following a recipe for weight loss. It’s not subscribing to an exercise program that you find in the current edition of Women’s Health Magazine. It’s about knowing your limits. It’s studying how you move, having knowledge of where you are in each phase of your life and making smart adjustments to improve.
It may also mean cleaning up your diet, managing stress, and getting more rest. Personally I have had to make training adjustments over the years due to childbirth, a serious bike accident and other lifestyle events. As a single working mom in her 40’s I find that I need to manage my time efficiently so I can get enough recovery time between hard training efforts and be intentional about the amount of sleep I get. This makes a huge difference in how I perform at races. If I don’t get the right amount of sleep paired with good eating, I know I will most likely not perform at my best.
The BIG IDEA: In order to improve fitness you have to understand how to progress yourself to keep up with the demands of your goal while working within the boundaries of what your body can do.
A client of mine in her mid-50’s trained for Tahoe Rim Trail 100 last year. She had several years of running experience under her belt. She came to me because she felt after all the years of following her own plan, she wasn’t improving. She felt there were areas that needed tweaking and was willing to explore new training methods to improve her performance. Once I assessed her biomechanics, core strength and nutrition I was able to establish a plan that would not only improve how she moves but also how she fuels her body. What worked for her in her early years of competition had shifted and by studying her current state, we were able to make changes that would both accommodate her body limits while pushing her performance within those parameters.
As you continue to set your own training and fitness goals this season, I would encourage you to be flexible. Understand that regardless of where you are in your journey the best thing you can do is know your limits. Give yourself permission to evaluate and make adjustments that could ultimately pay off in years to come.
If you find yourself in one of these “crossroad” situations, where you need to make a change, ask yourself some questions, and give yourself some honest answers. There won’t be right or wrong answers, of course, but just evaluating where you’re at and thinking about what you can tweak may end up making a huge difference in your training and performance.
- How has my schedule changed and how have I changed with it?
New work hours? Did you get a new puppy? Did your daughter audition for a musical theater production and then inform you after the fact that parents have to volunteer 18 hours a week (maybe that’s just me. . . )? Serious running means serious juggling! Take a minute to take stock and be willing to make changes to get your runs in.
2. Am I following a run plan? Am I keeping track?
Whether you answer “yes” or “no” to this question, it is important for all serious runners to be keeping a run journal, so that you can come back to see changes in performance, even if it means you’re coming back years from now to compare and see what has worked in the past. (hm. . . .I just got an idea for a future blog post!)
3. What do I do to mix up my running each week, and is this still working for me?
For example: I have a client who needs to focus strongly on strengthening her quads, glutes and calves (familiar territory for many of you I would guess! Maybe that should be a post too. . . ), but lately she has been struggling with her performance and wants to run faster, so we shifted away from a strength focus to speed. Once a week we work on 1/4 and mile sprints. She HATES it! But guess what? Her times are improving.
4. How do I fuel before/after my workouts?
Every single human body is different and every single body needs a unique combination of fuel. Are you getting enough of the right kind of foods (ie. Good carbs, proteins and fats)? Do you drink enough fluids? Are you taking in enough calories throughout the day to prepare for the next big workout? All these are questions you should ask and evaluate in order to perform at your best.
Take stock of your body. How far can you push? Don’t ask that amazing body of yours to go farther than it can—be grateful for the limits you have! Now that you know the limits, work within those limits to capitalize upon what you can do. You are your own science experiment. The knowledge you gather about your body is your power! And you know what they say about knowledge. . .
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!
(Fist pump. . . Mic Drop. . . Let’s run)