Learn From The Worst

A bad day can be a good thing

Runner's World (UK) - - Contents -

Most of the time run­ning is a joy, but you can’t re­ally ex­pect ev­ery out­ing to go to plan. Maybe it’s pour­ing down, or you feel tired, or you have to dart in­side ev­ery toi­let you see, or that chaf­ing is re­ally be­com­ing an is­sue… The prob­lems may make you feel mis­er­able in the mo­ment, but they can help you in the long run (pun in­tended). ‘Deal­ing with dif­fer­ent con­di­tions and cir­cum­stances in your run can train you to be a smarter and more pre­pared run­ner,’ says Janet Hamil­ton, run­ning coach at Run­ningstrong.com. No mat­ter what the day throws at you, here’s how to get through it and learn from the ex­pe­ri­ence.


Run­ners are gen­er­ally more weath­er­proof than most other peo­ple. That said, if there’s a bib­li­cal del­uge or the wind is over­turn­ing cars as you're lac­ing up for your usual 10-miler, you have two choices: power on through or resched­ule your run. The key is know­ing the dif­fer­ence be­tween sim­ply un­favourable con­di­tions and those that are so bad that ven­tur­ing out­side would be at best, point­less, and worst, down­right reck­less. SUR­VIVE IT If go­ing out­side is dan­ger­ous – fe­ro­cious winds, light­ning, ex­treme heat or cold – post­pone the run or head for a tread­mill. If it’s rainy or blus­tery and you’re train­ing for an event, run as planned. ‘It can help pre­pare you for how to ad­just your pace or what to wear on race day,’ says Hamil­ton. For ex­am­ple, a vi­sor keeps rain out of your eyes, while body­hug­ging clothes re­duce drag on windy days and the chance of chaf­ing on wet ones. LEARN FROM IT If your long run is set for Sun­day, check the weather on Fri­day, says ex­er­cise phys­i­ol­o­gist and triathlon coach Krista Schultz. You can move the long run to Satur­day to avoid the worst weather – just re­mem­ber to sched­ule an easy or rest day be­tween ev­ery hard or long ef­fort.


You and your run­ning mates have prob­a­bly swapped tales of mid-run porta-bog dashes caused by nau­sea or run­ner’s trots. In fact, re­search shows up to 50 per cent of en­durance ath­letes have suf­fered from stom­ach woes. SUR­VIVE IT A slosh­ing stom­ach of­ten starts with de­hy­dra­tion or an elec­trolyte im­bal­ance. Take a walk break and have some sports drink or wa­ter, says Hamil­ton. As for the trots, find a bath­room ASAP. If you can con­tinue the run in ei­ther sce­nario, that’s good prac­tice for cop­ing with GI is­sues that may oc­cur mid-race. But if you’re dry-heav­ing, vom­it­ing or mak­ing na­ture call af­ter na­ture call, it’s time to call it a day. LEARN FROM IT You may need to drink more or take in more elec­trolytes. ‘I’ve had a few ath­letes take elec­trolyte tablets be­fore their runs, and some say it helps pre­vent trots,’ says Hamil­ton. Also, take stock of any­thing new or dif­fer­ent you ate in the previous 48 hours (not just the night or morn­ing be­fore) and skip the po­ten­tial of­fend­ers next time.


If you've been build­ing your mileage or do­ing more hard work­outs, you’ll prob­a­bly suf­fer from leaden legs at some point as your body works to adapt. Even with steady vol­ume and in­ten­sity, an off day is still pos­si­ble. SUR­VIVE IT Re­think your route: a loop of a few miles in­stead of a long out-and-back will keep you from be­ing stranded. Then, slow your pace for a few min­utes, walk­ing if need be, be­fore pick­ing it up again. Still bad? Take a gel and a few sips of wa­ter – your body will ab­sorb the carbs in just min­utes, so you should feel bet­ter quickly. If you see no im­prove­ment af­ter 15 min­utes, pack it in or you may risk in­jury. If you’re train­ing for a race or don’t want to skip the run, try again the next day. LEARN FROM IT De­ter­mine why you felt so bad, says Hamil­ton. Stress, lack of sleep, poor nu­tri­tion, a de­vel­op­ing ill­ness or de­hy­dra­tion will all play into how you feel. If you can’t fig­ure it out and you con­tinue hav­ing off days, see your doc­tor to rule out med­i­cal con­di­tions such as anaemia or thy­roid prob­lems.

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