If you’re looking for a magic bullet to improve your 10K time, I hate to break it to you, but it doesn’t exist. There are thousands of little tips and tricks to help you, but these tips aren’t supremely helpful to you in a vacuum. You need a way to put everything together, to string everything you know together in a consistent, repeatable way that allows you to track your progress and grow as an athlete. Too many runners follow a training plan from a random magazine they bought at the airport (the plans aren’t bad, but your implementation might be), and expect results. That’s silly, because you need to account for life. Big things, like external stress, family life, lack of sleep, that pesky thing known as your job can interfere with your training plan in big ways. But sometimes, it’s the small stuff that makes a big difference…
Do you sit in a chair all day? With slumped shoulders and a hunched back? Having trouble with your posture while running? Oh, you never thought of that. It seems so blatantly obvious when I present it that way, but the truth is that it’s not obvious. People are so busy focusing on the big things in their lives that those types of things are very easy to miss. In fact, chances are you’ve been told in many ways, by many people to “not sweat the small stuff”. Don’t worry about it. Relax. And that’s good advice, you’ll go crazy if you stress over everything. But when you’re running, the small stuff matters. That’s why you need to create systems to automatically take care of things, so you don’t have to worry about them.
Enter the Running System
A running system can make your life easier. But what is it? In the simplest sense, it’s a process you follow to make sure you are running on a schedule that allows for optimal health and improvement which meets your goals.
Some examples of simple systems that cam improve your training:
- Tracking your runs. There are tons of products, apps, and software that can help you do this.
- Knowing your body. Setting a schedule that allows you to run when you have the most energy (whether you are a morning or night person) will help your training.
- Warming Up. Block out an extra 30 minutes of time you know you won’t need to get your run in. Spend the time warming up, doing stride drills, and stretching. Your body will thank you.
- Do a “Systems Check”. While running, you can go through a mental checklist of form pointers to make sure you’re running properly. Start at your feet and work your way to your head.
- Watch TV. Not a typo! You can do any mindless task while watching TV. Problems with stiffness or soreness? Do some foam rolling and self-massage during your favorite shows or events. Need to strengthen your core and legs? Do plyometric exercises during commercials!
Of course, systems can be more complex. I have a detailed meal plan that lasts for exactly 20 days before I run a distance race. This plan differs from my regular diet in very specific ways. All of my intake is charted. At the same time, I’m also beginning to finish my training specific to that race. And there are many other things that go into it, but I won’t bore you. The point is to let you know that systems can be as simple or as complex as you want them to be.
Remember, using a process will allow you to automatically take care of the “small stuff”, so you don’t need to worry about it!