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Control The Controllable

Think back to a day when you had an utterly amazing run. Maybe you conquered a tough course or kicked it up a notch on the pace. Maybe you saw the sunrise over the horizon and felt transformed as if you weren’t running but gliding across the surface of the Earth.

Where do you think this monumental, shout-it-from-the-rooftops run came from? Did it just magically appear as a special gift from the marathon training fairy? I sincerely doubt it. (Side note: Marathon fairies only come twice a training cycle to sprinkle their magic dust- the night before your last long run and the night before your marathon- duh).

I encourage you to take a moment to consider what was different about you during this day to cause everything to seamlessly come together. That’s right YOU did something different. YOU were in control that day. YOU did something (or several somethings) that engendered a successful training run.  This great run didn’t just miraculously appear; rather I urge you to consider how YOUR choices brought about the noteworthy memory.  

In fact on that wondrous day YOU did something incredibly rare that is found in the best athletes’ training habits: You controlled the controllable.

Allow me to explain.

Far too often runners believe that the success of their workout is out of their control. Many frustrated runners will allow external circumstances like the weather, work stress and family obligations to unnecessarily impede their training. To be clear the aforementioned variables (work, family, weather) have the power to impact any athlete’s training success. The real question is this: what daily decisions do you make to actively improve the quality, enjoyment and success of your training runs? Successful athletes do not live in a stress-free training bubble, rather they are aware their daily/weekly commitments, plan ahead and most importantly adjust their training plan as needed.

The most consistent athletes have learned how to quickly adapt to changes in their environment to ensure a quality training run. What do you do when life gives you lots of lemons, a summer full of 90 degree days with 90+% humidity and boss who just called an early morning meeting? You mix yourself up a batch of lemonade flavored Gatorade, run to heart rate or perceived rate of exertion (PRE) instead of pace and either set that alarm for an hour earlier or you run late after work to avoid the hottest part of the day.

You don’t give up. You learn. You adapt. You control the controllable.

The successful athlete is proactive about his/her training and takes steps to set themselves up for success on the road. He sets an alarm, maps out a proper running route for the day’s workout, doesn’t eat fiber before a long run/ run with intensity, and has a protein recovery drink on hand.

On a tough day the brightest of athletes acknowledge what life stressors they can and cannot control, adjust their training plan as needed and are even willing to adjust their pace/workout expectations if need be. The reality is that you can’t control everything throughout a training cycle. You can’t control summer’s 90% humidity or the fact that you have to wake up at 4:30 am to fit in your run before work. You can, however, train to heart rate instead of pace. You can go to bed by 8:30 pm to ensure a rested run, purchase a flash light and vest for safety and run with a friend/training group for accountability during winter months. Proactive training leads to consistent training.  Consistency leads to feeling in control. The acts of both feeling and being in control on the run inevitably lead to long-term success on the road.

Remember the day of that utterly amazing run? I bet that on that day you were well rested, fueled properly with a modest breakfast, adapted your run expectations to the weather conditions and allowed yourself to enjoy the run. On that day you felt (and were) in control. On that day you controlled the controllable.

The benefits of being and feeling in control of the success of your run are second to none. Don’t let chance play a larger role in your run success than necessary.  Control the controllable.

Tips to Control the Controllable.

  • Schedule your workouts into your planner.
  • Prioritize nutrition/recovery.
    • Properly fuel before a long run; don’t run on an empty stomach.
    • Plan your recovery meal.
    • Pack healthy, nutritious snacks for workday.
    • Sleep at least 7.5 hours/night.
  • Be flexible. Adjust training expectations when necessary.
    • Ex. 1: Running mile repeats on the road vs. the snow covered track in winter.
    • Ex. 2: Running to heart rate or PRE vs. pace during muggy, humid days.

Routinely using a foam roller also "controls the controllable" by preventing injury!

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