Up until changing coaches at the end of last year, my training followed a very regular routine. I tended to do the same sessions on repeat on a 2-3 week cycle. Whilst this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it helped me improve, it did take away some of my enjoyment for the sport and prevented me from working all my different speeds.
On reflection, there were some pace zones I had never worked in. I had never done a steady run. I didn’t even know what steady running was. I assumed it was the same as easy. Steady running is essentially in between easy and tempo. I didn’t know this. I had also never done an extended tempo. The longest time I had ever tempo’ed for was 10 minutes at a time. I had never ventured into the zone of continuous tempos. The thought of these was definitely scary and something I didn’t think I was capable of. However, with a little bit of confidence, self-belief, and the right guidance, I actually surprised myself at being able to do it. They are now one of my favourite sessions! I LOVE extended tempos! I have also started operating regularly at paces faster than 5k pace, another previous unknown.
The lack of enjoyment I started to experience was mostly because of the comparison factor. I did every session so regularly that I would constantly compare each session to the last. I wanted each week to be faster than the previous one. Of course everyone wants to get faster, but it isn’t possible to be faster every week, progression unfortunately isn’t quite that linear. There is a time and a place for comparing sessions to previous ones, and it is helpful to track progress by repeating sessions every now and then. It can help you see improvements, however, doing the exact same sessions on a 2 week cycle caused me to compare each session way too much and stress constantly about the times and paces I was hitting. I would get down if I was slightly slower than the previous time I did the session, even if the conditions were bad. I would fail to take into consideration the variation in weather, what other training I had been doing, or factors that were taking place outside of running. This is because I had a constant benchmark of what times I should be running for what session, and I didn’t want to not hit them, or I felt as though I was going backwards.
Since varying my sessions, I have noticed a massive change to my mentality going into them. Rather than getting unhealthily nervous and fearing not hitting the times I did previously, I get excited by the challenge ahead of me. I have enjoyed each workout a lot more and finished them with a greater sense of accomplishment. It is such an amazing feeling when you finish a session that was a massive challenge you have never done before. There is a lot more enjoyment, less comparison, and much more eagerness to give it everything when the sessions change regularly. This means I go into each session fresh. I have nothing to compare against so I just give my all and know that is all I can do.
If I could speak to my previous self, I would say don’t be afraid to vary your sessions. Whilst unknown sessions can be scary, one of the best ways to improve is by doing what scares you. As with my word for the year (courage), strength lies in doing what scares you. I now find the prospect of going into an unknown session exciting. I love that feeling of knowing you are going to have to work as hard as you can for a new challenge, and that is exciting. Variation is important, not something to be feared.
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!