Sometimes personal experience is your best teacher

No matter how much you read or are taught by your professors, sometimes you just don’t get it until you experience a lesson first hand (even if you know better). This recently happened to me regarding a specific training issue. Although I preach to my clients the importance of nutrition, hydration and proper preparation for weather conditions I have learned first hand the importance of always having a contingency plan. I would not consider myself to be a fast runner, but typically I average around an 8:30 minute mile during training runs and somewhere between 8:10 to 8:20 race pace. Unfortunately for my first race of the season that was not the case. No, the first race of the season, a 5 mile run, found me at a slow 9+ mile pace. My poor performance left me scrutinizing the details of hydration, pre race nutrition and the weather conditions that may have led me astray. Although no answer would truly satisfy my bruised ego, I found that my dinner of french fries and popcorn (definitely not typical) played a big part in my fatigue early on in the race. This was mistake #1. Mistake #2 was lack of preparation for the extreme heat and humidity that fell upon us early on the morning of the race. Although I did drink a pint of water and large coffee that morning, the little water that I did drink the night before, in combination with the clothing that I chose to run in (cotton shorts and long cotton tank) that was not breathable by any means left me feeling wet and heavy.  After beating myself up for my poor personal performance, I decided to take all of this as a lesson, which had been learned in class but not first hand. The following Saturday night I ate a great dinner, drank plenty of water, laid out a breathable running outfit and set the alarm clock for 6:30 Sunday morning. With proper nourishment and hydration and plenty of sleep I set off on my 5 mile training run the next morning. Not surprisingly I felt great. The weather was a little cooler and not as humid and my stride felt smooth and comfortable, as opposed to the tight, short, heavy stride that I had experienced during the race the previous week. My pace was right on point, finishing 5 miles in just under 43 minutes. I now consider this a personal experiment in my running performance. The difference of over a minute per mile does not lie. Lesson learned.

For optimal running performance I learned first hand the importance of…

  • Proper nutrition not just the morning of, but the day before a run
  • Adequate hydration (always)
  • Plenty of rest the night before
  • Clothing that is made of a wicking material for cool, comfortable running
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