Why Faster Isn't Always Better 🏃‍♀️

Why Faster Isn't Always Better 🏃‍♀️

Managing your running load can be really difficult. It's easy to get excited when you're in the moment; you're feeling good, so you go a bit further or faster. Or perhaps you're time-poor, so you squeeze your run in when you've got a big day ahead. Maybe you didn't sleep well, or you're a bit under the weather, but you push yourself to get through your long run anyway.

Managing load is about more than following a routine or program. It's about being honest with yourself and tuning in to how you really feel, which is much easier said than done, especially if you're working towards a specific event or goal. How many runs you do and how far or fast you go are actually only part of the picture. Other equally important factors to consider are:

- Sleep: getting adequate sleep and feeling rested is crucial for tissue healing and repair. If you aren't sleeping well, it's important to try to get on top of this before signing up for an event or setting a running goal. There is a lot of information about sleep hygiene and preparing properly for bed now, it's just a matter of actually doing it and making sleep a priority.

- Nutrition: you need to eat properly to fuel for and recover from your runs. This can often mean increasing your intake or modifying your usual diet. A big mistake people often make is inadequate nutrition; this can lead to low energy, irritability, headaches, fainting and soft-tissue or bone injuries - none of which you want when training for an event! I highly recommend seeing a sports dietitian if you're unsure, especially if you are looking at introducing gels or new foods.

- Social life: consider a night out dancing, moving house, a big day of gardening, or a weekend away with friends as additions to your total load. Even though you're not running, you are loading your body. This can be a surprising one as it may not feel like 'physical load', but these things do accumulate and add stress to your body. It certainly doesn't have to be one or the other, just be aware of what you are doing when you're not running and factor this into your program that week.

- Sickness: there's a lot of this going around, and when your body works hard to fight infection, it doesn't have much left for repair and healing. If you give your body the chance to rest and recover when it needs it, you'll usually feel better more quickly and be able to get back into your program. When we try and 'push through' we typically get sicker and take longer to get back into the program.

- Stress: this is a big depleter, but running can also be a great stress reliever; just make sure you're addressing your stress in other ways as well so that you are not functioning solely off adrenaline - make time and space for relaxation - prioritise it in your weekly plan the same way you prioritise your runs.

In summary, it's tough to assess your own load, and often, we only realise we were overdoing it once a niggle has already appeared. Being aware of these factors can make a big difference and may help you balance things before your body forces you to. Running can become a very emotional experience, and it's important to take a step back now and then, assess things honestly and make adjustments if needed.

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