Summer Training

We are not in love with running. We are in love with running well.

We don’t voluntarily get up every day to suffer. we don’t use running as a form of cardio. We identify ourselves as runners; whether we are those that just enjoy training or that do this to race. We keep doing this because there is something enjoyable about putting one foot in front of the other for miles.

With that said, I’ll repeat,
We are not in love with running. We are in love with running well.

Our fascination and at times obsession with it comes from us trying to better ourselves, pushing ourselves further and faster, testing the limitations of our bodies. We post about great workouts, hang medals on our walls with pride, but what happens when it all seems to be going backward. What happens when you’re caught in a slump?

We’re in a particularly hot and humid summer here in Ohio. The low in the early hours is a cool 75 degrees. It’s muggy and it’s hard to enjoy running. While  we may have prayed for summer to come quickly when we were struggling through negative temps in the winter, a couple weeks of this have really made us miss freezing. I’m constantly surprised at how my Strava feed finds new creative ways to say that this weather feels like complete hell.

As entertaining as reading those captions and descriptions are, I’ve also seen some questioning their fitness and motivation. I get it. Another day, another run that is a ton harder than it was months ago. The good days start becoming rare, and you start question why you’re out there at all. It becomes hard to get out the door when you know the next hour will be filled with you feeling like you’re going to pass out from an “easy effort”.

We romanticize running. We keep ourselves going because of our memories of great workouts, races or memorable runs. We forget those terrible blocks of time. Let’s be honest with ourselves here, running sucks most of the time. There’s absolutely nothing fun about struggling through an easy run after a race with your muscles screaming at you.  If it was 55 degrees every day and we could never feel sore we’d have no reason to not love this.

But it’s not. For the next couple months we have to fight through what seems like an endless muggy path to the next season. It’s hot, it’s humid, it sucks, but it sucks for all of us. The heat and humidity will affect your pace. There’s articles all across the web that talk about this (like this). There’s a reason that prime temperatures for a marathon are under 50 degrees, the heat makes the body work harder to try and keep it cool. Add in humidity and we have the elements really working against us. You’re not losing fitness, you’re not going backwards, it’s just hot.

We have a long summer ahead of us. When I was coaching, the two things we worked on was trying to stay healthy and avoiding mental fatigue. We tend to be very impatient when it comes to training. We jump into workouts quickly, excited for the fall and wanting to get fit now. I held my guys back all summer, slowing their tempos and regular run paces, just focusing on getting the miles in and dedicating at least twice a week to run with others. The excitement of summer training fades pretty quickly and I wanted them to stay hungry. Running was going to be hard no matter how fit they were. The goal was to was to stay hungry and keep themselves fresh.

And that’s the key here. While their peers found their motivation wavering and fatigue settling in by mid July, they continued to press forward because they were not exhausted mentally or physically. They made it through the summer training running 80 miles per week without injury and hungry to run fast. Both PR’d that season. I remember back in college when I could barely knock out 5 mile tempos at 5:45 pace during the summer only for months later to finish 5 at 5:08 pace. Keep focused, stay patient, and stay hungry. Take care of your body, get a group together to get through the long days, and find ways to motivate yourself. It’s easy to be excited about running when it’s nice out and you’re running well. These are those moments that will test you and eventually make you a stronger runner.

I say it often, summer is all about survival. Get out there and run the miles, focus on effort and keeping yourself fresh. We’re all out there suffering, but you’ll thank yourself in the fall when you’re crossing the finish line.

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