“Run to your fitness, not your talent”
This is what coach Jon Poag (coach of a top 10 DII cross country team) was saying to his athlete I was treating in October 2020. I always love having other ways to say things so that eventually the concept really sticks. This phrase really hits the nail on the head for how to approach your training to reduce injury risk and peak at the right time for your target race that is months away. What we are saying here is the following:
Why does this matter? Running to your talent/ goal when you are not yet physically and aerobically ready to do so is a great recipe for early over training. Tendon inflammation is the most likely “injury” and this will usually take about 4-8 weeks to show up. Other possibilities are fatigued muscles that can strain or bone stress injury which can lead to required no running time in order to heal the bone. Any injury significantly impacts consistency which is really the only way to get faster. While injury is the more obvious risk we push with running too fast for what we are fit to do right now, there is something a lot more likely to happen.
The most likely scenario is the silent assassin that will take away from reaching your goal in future months will be over training fatigue. You can possibly get by with no injury, but you increase the risk of being too fatigued to train towards those target paces. Like accidentally withdrawing 1$ more/ day from your bank account than you put in, you will slowly and sometimes not even realize how the bank for training is being depleted. In a couple months, this leaves you feeling like you are just too tired to hit the paces you used to hit a month before. Or maybe you are really good at planning ahead and know what paces you need to hit on what dates to be “on track” for that pace goal later in the year. You check your garmin/ Strava report and see that you were right on schedule for a couple months, but now you are starting to be slower than you need/ want to be for your June training.
So, trust the process. Always ask yourself during the pick ups at our workouts “For this 5K interval pace that is only 3 minutes long, could I continue to hold it until I finished 3.1 miles TONIGHT in THESE conditions, AT THIS FITNESS level of mine RIGHT NOW?” If not, slow down!! (or go faster if you know you are going too slow). There is no official timer, medal, or prize for running a great Tuesday night run. Train to your current fitness knowing we will get you to that target ability on race day.