Running does seem very easy sometimes when you compare it to swimming or cycling which involve more effort to set up (driving to the pool, dealing with traffic etc) or equipment. Just put your running shoes on, a pair of shorts and a top and away you go.
Being a triathlete is of course not that simple, you have the battle against fatigue, and also the worry that you are shortchanging your workouts for swimming or cycling by running too much. You always need to guard against pounding yourself into the ground and overtraining which could result in an injury.
Everyone has a “bad day at the office” at some time or another, and if you find yourself having a lot of bad days in a row then you could well be overtraining, this can destroy your body and your mental focus, and eventually start destroying other parts of your life like relationships.
When you cannot do your usual run or the times you usually do are not happening, your mind can start to play tricks on you and make you more moody than you usually are. So what is the answer if you notice these symptoms?
Well, you should not beat yourself up over it for a start, even athletes that are experienced can let overtraining and fatigue creep up on them when they are focused on the prize, so you need to step back a bit and drop the intensity of your running training.
Driving yourself into the ground trying to get over that “hump” is not going work, take it easy for a few days, regroup and gradually step the intensity back up again, most times you will find that you soon get back to your old pace again, and even improve.
If you are really training hard, racking up the hours in the pool or on the bike, then you may well find your run much harder than usual. One trick for preventing this, but still training, is to run for 10 to 15 minutes and then take a “break” by walking for a minute to recover, then do another 10 to 15 minutes and so on.
This simple exercise gets rid of the pressure built up in your body, and gives your body a little pick-up, you will find that you finish strong and feel much better at the end of the run.
You should vary your run training as well, but especially if you are stuck in a rut, something different can be like starting a new romance, you cannot wait to get back to it and return with vigor and enthusiasm every time.
One way to accomplish this is to work on the weaker parts of your running first, as with most things in life, get the hard stuff done first and the rest should be a breeze. If you are more of a distance runner than a sprinter, work on your sprint training first for instance. What you must not do is focus on your weaknesses constantly, because this type of training could make you even more fatigued, you should spread these sessions out every few days, and concentrate on your strengths later in your training schedule.
For those people who insist that you should keep running even when your legs are extremely tired during training, because “that is what happens in a race”, they may be wrong. New research has shown that although this can have some benefits in the psychological department, it may cut down your endurance and speed. So instead, space your long running, cycling or swimming workouts a few days apart so you have enough time to recover and you will find improvements in your strength, endurance and overall speed as you hit your peak.
You also have to learn to listen to your body, we all know we have to ignore it sometimes when it wants to give up, but when you are training and parts of your body are creaking you should listen. Hopefully being sensible about your training will prevent bigger problems in the future, if your back pain will not go away, or your knees require constant pain relief, maybe you should take a rest and get the pain checked out, a few days training missed is better than something serious happening that could potentially ruin your whole season.
So there you have it, small changes can make a big difference and get you to peak fitness for your next race, and without injury. Just remember to keep an eye open for the signs that your schedule needs tweaking, and adjust it accordingly to reduce the chances of overtraining and fatigue.