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Sometimes Life Throws you a Curve

Coach Janet Hamilton, MA, RCEP, CSCS

Training when your upcoming race has been postponed or cancelled

By now most of my athletes have found that their upcoming Spring races have been postponed or cancelled due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. This is the case not only for my US athletes, but those around the globe!.  Time to shift gears. 


First of all it's important to respect the anxiety and added stress that a pandemic can impose on your and your loved ones. Be gentle with yourself. Stay in your normal routines when you can, going to bed and waking up at your usual times. Eat healthy foods, stay hydrated, and if you're healthy and can go out and train keep doing that! We all know that our running helps us maintain some emotional balance as well as physical balance so keeping it in the mix makes good sense.


If you were training for a long distance race like a marathon or half marathon, check to see if the race director has set a new projected date for the race.  In the case of some large marathons, dates have been set so you have a known target on the horizon.  If you don't have a race date - then shift into a mode of mileage maintenance that makes sense for the type of racing you do.  Your coach can be a great guide in this regard.  You don't want to beat your body up by over-training but you do want to maintain the level of fitness you've worked hard to attain.  Remember that your weekly mileage base forms the foundation for the higher intensity stuff.  Speedwork volume is best prescribed with an eye toward your total weekly distance.  Dropping the total weekly mileage means dialing back on the total volume of speedwork as well.  


The paces you run in training should have a purpose in mind.  Most of the running at easy paces is focused on building or maintaining not only aerobic fitness but also tissue strength. Don't discount the value of "easy miles".   When you decide to do faster paces do so with an eye toward what you are working to achieve.  Is it "pace awareness" so that you can learn your proper race pace and lock in on race day?  Perhaps your focus is on pushing your fitness to the next level with some shorter high intensity intervals?  Give some thought to what you are trying to accomplish and remember that every pace has a purpose and not every run needs to be high intensity.  Remember too that the volume of high intensity work needs to be determined based on the total weekly distance. If you don't respect that you'll increase your risk of injury. 


Perhaps you were training for a road race when this pandemic hit.  Maybe this little pause in racing will give you some time to take to the trails for some trail running?  Trails build strength.  The uneven terrain forces you to use stabilizing muscles in your legs that might not get as much work on a nice predictable road. When running trails, relax the pace and focus on good form as you run up and down hills.  In addition, the somewhat softer terrain of packed dirt can be a little easier on your bones.  On the other hand, if you've been battling tendon overuse injuries, perhaps shifting off the trails and onto a more predictable and firm surface like roads will take some of the load off those tendons and allow them time to heal.  Ideally - doing a variety of terrain through the week may give your body the best balance.  

Dedicating some time to your strengths and weaknesses

As we get closer to race day we often shift away from focused strength work and into more of a strength maintenance mode. Perhaps this window of opportunity allows you some time to go back to the basics.  Resume some focused strength training 2-3 times a week to work on areas that might be your unique weaknesses.  For many runners, the focus will be on the hips.  Think of your hips and your "core" as being strategic partners and take some time to get back to the basics here.  Ask your coach what areas you need to focus on.  

In addition to the strength aspect,  take stock of what your needs are in terms of flexibility.  Have you been battling a sense of stiffness and tightness as your training was ramping up for that race?  If so - this shift in training focus opens up the opportunity for you to be a little more attentive to your daily flexibility routine.  Take that extra time to check in with all your muscle groups and see which ones need attention. 

Future planning

Look ahead on the calendar - several months ahead because this pandemic may linger - and select a couple of races.  You may want to experiment with some distances you've not run in awhile.  If you're a marathoner, when was the last time you played with a 5k or 10k distance?  If you typically race 5k or 10k - perhaps now is the time to step up to a half marathon?  Think about your future race goals and share these with your coach.  


How you deal with the inevitable curve-balls life throws your way is up to you but your coach can be a real asset here. The coach can evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, evaluate the race distances you've selected and help you plan a sensible progression to get you there.  They can also be the voice of reason that helps you avoid the problem of over-training.  Reach out to your coach today and make a sensible plan for how to deal with the shift in plans this pandemic has caused.

Stay healthy and let's get through this!

Email me - Coach Janet Hamilton


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