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  • Michelle Howell

Fall training guide

There's a twinge of cold that begins to flirt and tempt you into warm sweaters and layers. Walking more than ten feet outside becomes bearable without sweating through your shirt. Iced coffees turn to warm lattes and pumpkin spice seems to try to creep its way into just about every product you could buy.



That's how Fall should be, but I'm still over here sweating through my clothes walking to the Metro. Thankfully today had the first real twinge of Autumn in the air (and rain).


With it cooling off it's not just good for PSL's and sweaters. It's probably the best time of year to be a distance runner. Some of my favorite memories are from early morning runs where the brisk cold requires a few layers, the legs feel extra snappy, getting relief from the heat, and even though we were going further than before it felt way, way easier. The only downside? As someone who doesn't necessarily check the box as a distance runner this time of year can feel like it goes on forever. I get antsy for speed workouts and can't wait to get back to racing.


Know your limits

"Just because you can go faster doesn't mean you should" is a phrase etched in my mind after hearing it time and time again when I'd send in my training log or crush an easy run that was meant, well to be easy, and not an all-out "lets see how fast I can finish 40 minutes". I like going fast, I don't like going slow, and for a long time, LSD (long slow distance) runs escaped my grasp. Why would anyone want to go slower than 7:30 for over an hour of running? The concept escaped me completely in the same way that the prescribed pace for a tempo run felt too easy so I would crank it up only to hear my coach yelling to eas up.

Going fast like Ricky Bobby isn't the point of this time of the year. Just because something feels easy doesn't mean it doesn't serve a purpose in your training. Taking an easy day easy is important for the grand scheme of training in building up towards the Spring.


So if you're like me and looking at your Garmin itching to drop the hammer for no good reason except to finish the run faster ask yourself what the purpose is of what you're doing? If it's an easy run then why are you pushing it?


There will be a time and a place to push your limits, just maybe not right now. Enjoy the process of getting fit.

Building from the past

Similar to knowing your limits a huge part of this time of year is a gradual build-up in volume. The keyword being gradual. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither will your fitness. The recommended 20% per week is advised for a reason. Bumping up your mileage too quickly can result in overuse injuries, the last thing you want spiking up at the beginning of the year.


For a long time, I had the opposite problem with my fall training. I was very content with capping my mileage at what I felt was appropriate at the time and just coasting with that until track season neared. I was stuck in my ways and determined to not build up like my more distance inclined teammates. Keeping the same training though and not really building from the past showed in my cross country times- I didn't improve much. In fact, in high school, I ran practically the same time every year (and mileage).


They say if you want something you've never had, you must be willing to do something you've never done. If there is no change in your training from year to year you can't expect results to change.


Experiment

The fall training block can feel long and frankly boring. Or maybe that's just me? Going through the same motions day in and day out is part of the sport, but there are ways to keep things interesting.


Now's the time of year to try switching things up to keep training fresh. Try running at different times of the day- if you usually run in the mornings try at night. Run with a group instead of on your own or vice versa. Explore a different route or trail you've been meaning to. The options are endless.


Happy miles!