In order to separate and clarify the elements of breakthrough marathon performance, we need to acknowledge some of the most widespread problems.
“The challenge for me is moving my own training and racing up a few notches on the priority list and making sure it occupies a productive place in my life. Saying no to exciting opportunities, getting my workouts in around travel and work-related commitments, sleeping enough, and making enough time for the people that are important to me are the things I struggle with most when I go into ‘training-mode’.” – Mario Fraioli
A great fall season is made in the summer but our progress can be more abstract and the work can be quite tedious. Muscles in motion generate enormous amounts of energy, only about 25 percent of which is used in contractions. The other 75 percent or so becomes body heat. So when summer sunlight, combined with high air temperatures and/or humidity, increase both our skin and core temperatures; we bake.
Eight weeks before a fall marathon (for example), the focus must shift to bringing our fitness to full fruition. If we lack a summer foundation, we might feel the need to build and refine simultaneously which rarely works. So we might as well run in beautiful places, use proven cooling methods, and find joy in the summer training grind.
Winning Ways of Keeping Cool
I once struggled mightily with blowing up from heat exhaustion, lack of hydration and under-fueling but I finally figured it out. The more fit I became, the stronger and quicker my adaptation to hot weather became. My fellow competitors showed me how to run more patiently and methodically. Trusting my thirst and affirming my nutrition plan was key. I adopted simple cooling methods like dousing with giant sponges drenched in icy water, ice hats and ice baths. This served to lower my core temperature and encouraged my mind.
If I can keep it together, I can finish this thing!
Trusting your Thirst
Summertime exertion also taught me a lot about the various physical and mental factors that reciprocally influence performance. Hydration is a good example:
When I’m well hydrated, I can feel my nerves ‘zinging.’
My receptors to the outside world open up and become highly sensitive. Insufficient fluid intake prevents those same nerve impulses from working their best; I won’t sweat as easily, my alertness won’t be as sharp, and my motivation won’t be as crisp.
Of course, not everyone experiences such dramatic effects from fluid intake, but the important point is the interconnectedness between the physical and mental components that make a person race-ready.
When you’ve put in the time and energy to train properly during the dog days of July and August, there’s very little glory in it – until race day, when you know inside that you deserve to run well. You feel the relaxed confidence that comes from having done your homework, the sweet spot where preparation can shake hands with opportunity. Then, with a little luck, at some point in the race, you’ll feel an abundant spiral of physical energy well up and flow out of you. And you’ll know, with certainty, that you’re exactly where you should be!
What about you?
With fall approaching, how will you prioritize your workouts so you feel vital and productive in the rest of your life? How realistic are the specific running goals you have set for yourself? Are you too loose, too tight or just right in your approach to the challenges are you facing?