A Letter to my Younger Self: Train Smarter

I was going to send this in an email to my teammates but instead I decided to post it here. I wanted to email my teammates and say ‘Train Hard.’ But what I really mean is ‘Train Smart’.

overtrainingTrain Hard is about the worst advice to give. It makes you think, ‘I can train through this injury,’ ‘I’m not exhausted,’ ‘more mileage is better,’ or ‘I should be doing what that person is doing.’ These are all mistakes I made when I was much younger. When someone says ‘Train Hard’ it might make  you think ‘Am I not training hard enough already?’

I made all the mistakes. I would push the pace. I would extend the distance. I would hammer workouts that were supposed to be easy. I thought rest was for the weak. I believed the harder I pushed myself the better I would be. I didn’t listen to what my body was trying to tell me. Back then I ended up burnt out, injured and out of love with running.

Looking back, was I ever wrong. And when I came back to running competitively I told myself I would always find a way to love it, or I had to change something.

I wish I had given myself the advice, Train Smarter. I understand now how much harder I can go in the hard workouts when I take recovery days easy. I understand now that I compromise my hard days when I hammer my runs on the in between days. I recognize that there is no such thing as ‘training though an injury,’ there is rest, cross-training, and physio, all the things that help you to get past the injury and move forward.

Train Smarter means pushing the pace when you should push the pace, like workouts. It means recovering on recovery days. It means finding enjoyment in your sport; you spend a large amount of your life doing it. It means listening to your body when it says, this is tweaked, this is a little sore, and I’m tired.

I am not suggesting that you compromise your training. I am suggesting that you listen to your body because it often knows best. Think of those days when your body feels effortless, light as a feather, and like you’re flying; those are probably days when you have pushed the pace. So why when your body says slow down do you ignore it?

The mental side of training is where I have spent much of my time learning about myself in these last couple of years. I think of those workout days when my brain screams, ‘I don’t want to do this.’ But you toe the start line of the warm up and everything seems to come together and my legs say, ‘see brain you were wrong.’

I remember one workout this past winter. I had gone to work with my strength and conditioning coach that morning. My timing was all off and I said ‘I just need to stick with fundamental movements.’ I told my running coach how I was feeling; he said meet me at the field house and lets see. I sat down beside Ross and he said go home. Usually Ross says warm up and see how you feel, there would be none of that on this particular night. I went straight home and slept for 14 hours. I took an easy day the following day and felt 100% two days later, and had one of my best workouts of the year. I never felt like I had to make up the mileage or the workout I missed the day I was sick. I felt like I had gained so much more by listening to what my body was telling me.

My advice to my younger self would have been train smarter. We’re all individuals. I now know what works for you may not work for me. But more importantly training smarter has taught me how to love my sport, to minimize injury, and in the end I’m way faster and stronger!