Sorry it has taken me so long to put out another post, but I thought I would at least blog about some good info to make up for it. These 5 factors are vital to reaching your goals and getting to your best fitness. And they are in a specific order, so prioritize accordingly! :)
This is by far the most important factor in improving your overall fitness and racing times. Consistently getting yourself out the door day in and day out builds fitness, running economy and what I call cumulative fatigue. When you miss days off that weren't planned you start to loose the cumulative fatigue affect. This affect builds many things...mental toughness, ability to run through fatigue, greater aerobic base, and muscle endurance. Of course we all need days off here and there, but the more consistent you can be day in and day out, month in and month out, and even year to year, will definitely pay off.
It is vital to a proper training program to have purpose to each run, and then to execute that run as designed. Many runners succumb to the "just get in what I can" mentality to their training and are missing a big part in the purpose of training. If you are going to spend the time to train for a race, have a goal, and run through pain, then you may as well have a plan to it all. A proper plan of periodization with a goal race in mind is the best way to assure you are putting your best foot forward and not just spinning your wheels!
By balance, I am referring to keeping a balance to your life and running career. Every running career will have set backs, injuries, and rough patches, but balance is what allows you to come back stronger each time. Make sure to have other priorities in your life that give your mind a break from running. Hobbies(the less running involved the better) are a great way to develop a passion for something other then running. I always recommend having someway to distract yourself from a training regimen. It helps to prevent burnout and gives you something to do on your breaks from training.
That's right, number 4 is the all important sleep! Physically and mentally sleep is the most important part of the recovery process to every running program. As you know, each of us only spend an hour or two each day actually running, and the rest of the day recovering. Sleep is the time when our body has a chance to take full advantage of our recovery process. So if you have the chance, take naps and go to bed earlier to get the extra hour or two of sleep. Your body will thank you on the run the next day!
The long run is by far the most important run of the week. The length of each long run obviously varies with the distance of race you are training for, but every training plan should have a long run in place. Rearrange your week to get this run in as it builds capillary beds, improves running economy, improves your ability to uptake and use glycogen, and of course builds mental toughness. The long run can be quite tiring though, so it is important to follow this recovery protocol....long run, eat, shower, sleep... to reap the full benefits of your long run and to be able to function the rest of the day.