The Importance of Flexibility with Training

The Importance of Flexibility with Training

As runners, we can all be a little (or even very) Type A. When we’re handed a schedule, we usually think “I have to follow this to a T”. Whether that means hitting your weekly mileage perfectly or hitting every split in a workout, we like to do exactly what we are prescribed.

While sticking to a schedule is meant to be a recipe for success, it can also be a recipe for disaster in certain scenarios. That’s where flexibility needs to play a factor in our training.

The secret to success comes not only from consistency in training but also from listening to our bodies and giving them what they need. When we’re feeling really off, physically or mentally, it’s important to listen to our bodies and react accordingly.

Maybe you had a tempo scheduled for the day at a certain pace but when the time came, that pace was not something you could hit that day. Pushing through to hit that pace may cause many issues down the road. But listening to your body and saying “tempo effort is about 85%, I will give it 85% of what I can today” will benefit you just as much as hitting the original goal pace.

Being flexible with your schedule can also mean giving your body the recovery it needs. Pushing through when your body needs to back off can make us feel burnt out, unmotivated, and even feel angry towards the sport. These feelings can prevent us from achieving our long-term goals. Backing off or using an effort based mentality can allow us to hit those paces in the future and eventually achieve our goals.

While a good coach who is in tune with athletes’ workouts, lives, and headspace should be able to prescribe appropriate workouts the majority of the time, there will always be days where things just don’t seem to go your way. Knowing when to be flexible and when to push through can be tough. We’ve listed a few things we think are important to keep in mind to know when to take a step back and when to keep to your schedule.

Adjusting your schedule:

  • When you can’t hit your paces: You may have times where paces that are normally easy on your easy days or achievable on your hard days, just seem impossible. If this is a reoccurring issue, listen to your body (and talk to your coach). Take those easy days easier, take a rest day when needed, and use effort based paced for workouts.
  • When you feel an injury coming on: This one may seem obvious, but it can be difficult to distinguish feeling sore from feeling injured. It’s important to keep checking in on those areas that are “feeling off”. If it’s persistent, it may be an upcoming injury. The best way to prevent it is to take time to rest and recover.
  • When you’re feeling sick: Again, an obvious one. However, many of us will run through a cold and not think twice about it. If our bodies are already feeling down, weak, or tired, running is not the answer. Running can cause us to weaken our bodies more which means we will need even more time to recover. Taking the time to recover when we’re feeling sick will help us in the long run.

Pushing through:

  • Sometimes, we wake up and we don’t feel great. We’re tired, we’re sore, and we’re slightly (or severely) unmotivated. Our advice is to just get out there for your run and give it 10 minutes of a run or your first rep of a workout then re-evaluate. Do I feel better? Do I feel the same? Do I feel worse? Often getting out the door is the hardest part, and once we do we realize that we actually feel okay and can push through. These are also often the runs after which we feel the greatest sense of accomplishment.
  • It’s easy to look outside and say “it’s snowing or raining, therefore, I’m not running”. Just because the weather is bad, doesn’t mean we get to have a day off. However, if it’s dangerous outside (hurricanes, lightning, hail, ice, etc.) then we cannot recommend running outside. We can recommend alternatives though! If you’re able to run on a treadmill, use an elliptical or stationary bike, or even a yoga or core session – we recommend it!

Ultimately the best course of action is to communicate fully and openly with your coach about any difficulties or questions that you have in regards to training. And when day’s seem to go south while out on the run, just be smart and listen to your body. It does know what it’s talking about after all. While we’d all love to feel great all the time and always stick to our schedules, it’s never as easy as that. Being flexible is an important part of training.

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