From the moment we begin learning our ABC’s, the concept of ‘working harder to achieve more’ is ingrained in our heads. Hard work is glorified in all aspects of our North American culture, so much so, that people are ‘working harder’ at the expense of their relationships and their health. At a resume building workshop in college, I distinctly remember the professor suggesting we describe ourselves as hardworking. What exactly does that mean? And can working too hard hamper our performance? At work? At school? On the track?
Don’t get me wrong, I consider myself to be a hardworker and prefer to surround myself with individuals who know how to work hard, but I have recently been introduced to a new training concept. Put simply, “Run Easier to Race Faster”. At first glance this may seem like an oxymoron; so let me explain. Far too many runners are running too hard on their recovery days, and thus never realize the fruits of their labor on race day. Likewise, too many athletes leave their best effort on the track on Wednesday, and subsequently have nothing left for Saturday’s competition. I recently witnessed a coaching colleague of mine cut-short one of their athlete’s workouts. He said “Save that last one for Saturday!”. The athlete left the track wanting to do more, rather than having their head in the trash can, dreading their next competition. Can the ‘playing hard to get’ dating concept apply to training distance runners?
Running easier to race faster is not something new, in fact many elites runners and coaches subscribe to this philosophy. The greatest running philosopher of all time, Arthur Lydiard, once said “Train, Don’t Strain”. If you are like me and flirt with the imaginary “red line” all too often in your training, take a step back and you might surprisingly take a big step forward. C’mon, I dare you!
Keep in mind, easy days are incorporated into one’s training program for three primary reasons:
1) to develop and sustain aerobic capacity
2) to aid in recovery from a race or hard training session
3) to taper for an upcoming goal workout or race.