Mon. Jun 24th, 2024

You Can’t Hoard Fitness

4 min read

There have been a few times in my running journey where a training period has gone extremely well. My energy was focused on each session, life didn’t get in the way and I was able to complete my program in full. As a result fitness built nicely and going into a goal race I felt ready to put my best race forward. Unsurprisingly, these are the races where I have achieved my personal best times or had some of my most satisfying results. When training was going well I needed to show up on race day and execute a good race, we can’t hoard this fitness for another day.

There have been other times when I’ve struggled to get all my training runs in. Life did get in the way, motivation waned at crucial times and I missed training runs. What manifests is showing up on race day with unprepared fitness and doubt in the mind. When you try and run long distances, self doubt can be the biggest enemy. When running inevitably gets difficult blocking out self doubt is a skill that every runner needs. We can cultivate this in training, which prepares us for difficult times during races.

There was a time almost five years ago, I was training for a marathon. Everything in training went to plan. I had been focused and motivated to run a great race. I had entered a marathon and given myself a structured plan to achieve my best result. I’d hit every goal in training, every long run went to plan and my fitness had built exactly in line with the races timeline. Many of the people I trained with commented on my fitness and predicted a fast time in this marathon. My most recent marathon was my personal best and I felt fitter and more ready for this one. 

Race weekend came and the weather was horrendous, rain and very strong winds. For much of the race I’d be running into a strong headwind that would likely slow me and sap me of valuable energy. Certainly not ideal when you are gunning for your fastest marathon, but you can’t hoard fitness. If I didn’t give my best effort because of difficult conditions I wasn’t going to be able to use this fitness in another race. Today was the day, now or never. I ran this race and yes, there were some difficult sections of running into a headwind, that slowed me and sapped energy. but there was also times with a strong tailwind where holding goal pace was easy, some of these times were late in the race and this definitely helped. In the end I ran a personal best time by a minute. Had the weather been kinder I may have been able to run even faster, we will never know. But using this fitness to the best of my ability on the day that presented helped me run my fastest marathon, and for that I was very happy and proud.

When you look back at your most satisfying moments in your running journey, which moments are they? 

They may be similar to mine, where my fitness built nicely and I used it to the best of my ability. Or they may be when fitness was substandard, but you gritted your teeth and used a strong mental game to get through the tough times. 

When you prepare for your next race you will have built fitness through your preparation. If it isn’t your peak fitness, it isn’t a lost cause. The fitness you have will take you very far, couple that with a strong mind and you may achieve more than you thought possible. Whether it’s peak fitness or adequate fitness, you can’t hoard fitness. Use what you have to get the best you can from yourself on the day and enjoy your running.

Peak fitness is a fleeting feeling. It takes a good amount of hard work and structure to build and is not a permanent state. Once it evaporates, reset and find a new goal and start building again. 

Running is more satisfying when we move through each phase in an unclenched way, it is naturally more enjoyable. Being able to reach your peak standards all weeks of the year is generally not an attainable goal. With consistent mileage you should be able to keep fitness to a relatively high level and then structure training to peak for your goal events of the year. This leads to enjoyable running where you put less pressure on yourself and the ability to hit your goals. When you reach peak fitness, go hard at your goals as you can’t hoard fitness, when you have it use it.

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