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Overcoming Doubts For Your Fall Running Race

BY Bob Mittleman

The fall season is packed with running events of all distances. If you are starting to worry that you may not be ready for your event, these tips from coach Bob Mittleman will help you be prepared and ready to achieve your goals.

It’s the time of year where the calendar turns over to September and the countdown is now underway for your fall marathon, half marathon or other event you have been training towards since the late days of spring and all through the summer. The seeds of doubt are starting to creep in as to whether or not you are doing the right things. You may be asking questions like, “Will I be ready by race day?”, “Should I have hired a coach?”, “Do I need to up my workouts and their intensity/frequency?”. I can go on and on but you get the point. So, let me offer you some advice: stop yourself before it’s too late.

The runners I work with come in all shapes and sizes and have various levels of experiences and they all have the same doubts that creep in this time of year. Rather than going down a path of negativity, take a positive mindset and start to feel awesome about where you are headed. Let’s look at where you were on day one of your training plan and where you are today. Here are some guidelines to help you along.

Keep a Log and Update it Regularly

It sounds so simple yet it can be so hard. However, if you can keep a log of all your workouts and training activities, you are guaranteed to see success. This can be done on paper, or online with software like TrainingPeaks. The biggest reason is that it offers you a level of accountability to yourself and to your coach if you have one. However, even if you are not working with a coach, it’s okay. Start your log today if you have not done so already. You will be able to track how things are proceeding. You can also plan out your workouts for the weeks ahead.

I’m often asked, “How detailed should my training log be?” My response is always, “Whatever works for you”. I know someone who used to count out how many Fig Newtons they had on a certain day and they would post it. For me, that’s way too much work. However, for this athlete it was perfectly normal.

If you are already utilizing a training log, that is awesome. Now is the time to review how you are progressing. Do you need to tweak things? Perhaps you need some more speed work, or you need to get in some work in the weight room. Maybe your long run needs to be longer. Knowing the specific demands of the course will help you better determine what you need to work on. The bottom line is that you need to review and tweak your training if needed, or stay the course. Both can have positive outcomes.

Use a Heart Rate Monitor

Running with a heart rate monitor is another key to overcoming any anxiety. If you want to see what your level of fitness is or what your level of your intensity is during your training days, a heart rate monitor is the best tool.

The first step to using a heart rate monitor is to set your training zones correctly. To do this, you need to perform a fitness test. One great test is a 30 minute time trial. In this workout, you run as if you are simulating race conditions for 30 minutes. It’s as close to max effort as possible. You can then use your stats from this workout to help create HR training zones. TrainingPeaks can set your zones after you perform this test. If you don’t want to use TrainingPeaks, you can create your zones off of percentages of your max.

  • Zone 1 is 60 to 78%
  • Zone 2 is 79% to 84%
  • Zone 3 is 85% to 88%
  • Zone 4 is 89% to 92%
  • Zone 5 is 93%+

There are many great workouts based on heart rate. One of my favorites is to warm up for 10 to 15 minutes in Zone One. Then run 2 x 10 minutes in Zone Two or Three, with a 3 minute recovery. You can edit this anyway you like by increasing the amount of repeats, the length and/or the recovery. Take a 10 minute cool down when you are done.

By utilizing HR zone training, you can guide yourself properly for your designed workout without knowing paces. It will also help you gather personal information in terms of fatigue and fitness levels. For example, if you are looking for an easy run in zone one and no matter what you do you find yourself in zone two then you are probably tired and you are probably working to hard.

On the flip side of that, if you are looking to do tempo work or speed work and you are finding that your HR is not raising to numbers that would correspond with this type of workout, then you are either not working hard enough or you are in better shape than you think.

So don’t panic if you have an upcoming race. Track your workouts and use data to see where you can improve, and what you should continue doing. Start using a heart rate monitor if you are not already doing so to dial in your workouts with more precision. These two steps will help you be more prepared to achieve your goals on race day. 

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About Bob Mittleman

Bob Mittleman is a USATF Level One Coach as well as a recommended coach with a TrainingPeaks Level Two certification. He has expertise in guiding runners to reach their personal best at any level: from the novice looking to reach the finish line for the first time to the experienced looking for extra guidance/accountability. Learn more about Bob at his website.

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