Work smarter not harder is one of my all-time favorite sayings.
I mean, who would want to work harder to complete a task when you could use your brain to figure out an easier way to reach the same goal?
Yet so many of us fail to look at the bigger picture to try and find a smarter way to get the job done. And yes, I’m guilty of this too.
Be Smart with Your Training
Working smarter and not harder is sound advice in most areas of life, and running is certainly no exception.
And no, for the record, I’m not talking about slowing down/running easy instead of always pushing your limits in training.
Yes, that’s important too. And I’ll keep stressing it now and in the future.
But today I’m talking about a different area that can be difficult for runners to navigate: adding distance.
The Struggle with Adding Miles
When you are building up toward a new race distance, obviously you are going to have to do longer and longer training runs.
I think it’s safe to say that when you’re adding more volume to your weekly long runs, the hardest part is usually the last mile or two.
I remember when I was training for my first marathon, my biggest struggle was always the mile or two that were more than I ran the previous week.
If I did 10 last week with the goal of doing 11 this week, the first 10 would be smooth sailing. But as soon as I was working toward that last mile, the wheels fell off and I was struggling.
And that seemed to happen every time I bumped up my mileage.
But that last mile or two doesn’t have to be that bad. You know that, right?
Start Easy. Like, Really Easy
If you find yourself struggling in the later miles of your long run, week after week, it’s time to try a different tact.
Remember, train smarter not harder.
Instead of setting out to run your long run at a steady pace and hope you’ll be able to carry it through to the end of your run, put a structure in place that will help you conserve energy early in your run so you’ll have a little extra gas in the tank for the finish.
My preferred method: planned walk breaks.
Start out at your target training pace, and when you get to the first mile stop to walk for the next tenth of a mile.
Once your watch reads 1.1, start running again until you get to mile two.
If you can commit to some sort of run/walk pattern for the early stage of your run, you might be surprised how much better you feel when you get to those later miles that are typically the struggle for you.
Not only will you feel better physically, but you’ll also be fresher mentally.
That combination will make it much easier for you to finish that last mile or two.
Up the Ante? Finish Fast
If you’re worried about the walk breaks for the first 10+ miles and what that will do to your overall pace, you need to let that shit go.
That said, there is one thing you can do to help bring your average pace down a bit and hopefully make it easier for you to stomach the idea of walking during a run if that is something you struggle with.
Stick with the run/walk plan for the majority of the long run. But when you get down to having 3-5 miles left, go ahead and go.
No more walking. No worrying about your HR data.
Just push yourself to the end of the workout and finish with a good taste in your mouth, as those will be the fastest miles of your run by a wide margin.
There are No Bonus Points for Harder
Yes, sometimes you just have to grind it out.
But if there is a way to work smarter, you don’t get bonus points for working harder.
If taking a few walk breaks early in your run is going to help you finish your workout stronger, I don’t see any reason to make it harder on yourself by skipping the walk breaks when you don’t need them and then blowing up for the last mile or two.
But maybe that’s just me…
What are Your Thoughts on Walk Breaks During Training or a Race?
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