Leveling Up as a Runner

“It never gets easier, you just go faster” – Greg Lemond

The above quote was made by a cyclist, but it definitely applies to running as well.  Is it true?

I do believe there is truth to this statement, increased speed is a byproduct of hard work and training.  Where running is concerned I believe this statement is a little limited.  Obviously speed is not the only factor to consider, there’s strength, endurance, experience, mental toughness, etc.

You can even draw some parallels to the video game concept of leveling up.

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In some cases the “Leveling Up” is very literal.  Nike+ has a system that assigns a specific color as your total miles increase.  The color system is definitely a great way to encourage motivate runners.  Some runners take it further and participate in challenges as well.

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Then you have the  ‘Level Up’ training system developed by Adam and Kara Goucher and provided by Run The Edge.  The program structures the runner’s training as an actual game in which you accumulate points by completing a mix of different workout options, all assigned a certain number of points.  Accumulating a specific number of points will allow you to Level Up and move on to the next level!

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For those who grew up playing video games, all of this Leveling Up can appeal to our gamer sensibilities and to a degree, our competitive nature.  One common theme I’ve noticed is that after a certain level is achieved, there are more requirements to achieve the next level.

For me, the concept of Leveling Up in running relates to fitness, and other gains that I mentioned early in this post, (speed, endurance, strength, experience and mental toughness).  Initially these gains can make running feel easier.  The key is recognizing when we achieve these gains and stepping up our running and training accordingly.

Post LA Marathon I discovered that I had leveled up, in different areas of my running.  My tempo run pace felt much easier to maintain, previously challenging hills were no longer kicking my butt, etc.  I couldn’t help but test my new fitness during some workouts, resulting in some personal bests.  Since, I’ve decided to make some adjustments to my running and my goals.  I signed up for a 5k ready to run a new PR.

Here are 4 points if you have recently “Leveled Up”

  1. Challenge yourself – If workouts that were once considered challenging are much easier it may be time to step it up.  Feeling stronger?  It may be time to add more hills or more challenging workouts to your training.  Increased endurance? It may be time to start training for a longer race!  Faster?  You may benefit from a new pace group or training with some of your faster friends.
  2. Increase your mileage – To continue to see fitness gains it’s often necessary to increase weekly mileage as well.  Think about going from a Novice level training program to Intermediate.  Though there are different mileage options on training plans to accommodate those with busier schedules, generally more advanced training programs will include increased mileage.
  3. Recover – While stepping up your training efforts as a result of fitness gains its also important to consider recovery.  Being able to perform more quality workouts also means that it will take a toll on your body.  And while increased fitness may lead to taking less rest days during the week, recovery should not be neglected.  Whether its in the form of a complete rest day, an easy run, or cross training, its important to give your body a chance to recover to avoid over usage injuries, especially while you’re pushing yourself to new limits!
  4. Adjust your goals – I’ve touched on goals in a previous post and they will be different for everyone.  For many runners this means attempting to run a PR in a race.  For others it may mean racing a new distance be it a 5k, Half Marathon, Marathon, or Ultra.

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If you are struggling with leveling up and achieving fitness gains there may be different things to consider.

  1. Nutrition – Fueling your body is just as important as your training.  If your nutrition is suffering your performance will also suffer, at the very least, you will not be performing to your full potential.  For those struggling in this area it can be as simple as making healthier choices, for others it may not be so simple and I’d recommend consulting with a Registered Dietitian or Nutritionist that’s familiar with the needs of endurance athletes.  I, personally saw great improvements after I incorporated using my NutriBullet and made other changes to my diet.
  2. Mix up your training – If the majority of your runs are the same distance, pace, terrain, etc. mixing it up is a great way to see improvement.  Longer runs should be slower, while shorter runs, faster.  Incorporating hills, trail running, and intervals can activate different muscle groups and lead to improvements.  Running on different surfaces is also a good idea.  A good running coach can identify areas on improvement and recommend different types of training, workouts, runs, to help get you to the next level.
  3. Rest / Recovery – Once again I must harp on rest and recovery.  If you are not seeing fitness gains one possibility is that you are not giving your body enough time to recover from hard workouts.  In addition to rest days, post run recovery is key.  Getting proper nutrients, proteins and carbs following a tough workout can help speed up recovery and maximize your fitness gains.

Best of luck to everyone, whatever your goals are, no matter what level you are at.  I believe that running should always be enjoyed, but its always nice to see progress!

Happy Running

– Eddie D

 

 

 

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