I don’t know whether anyone else suffers the same, but whenever I am training, I generally know within a couple of minutes of starting whether I am going to have a good run, or a bad run. A good run is where I feel like I can run forever – I get into my stride, get into ‘the zone’, and everything feels good. I had a 9 mile good run last night and got home feeling fabulous. But sadly, they are not all like that.
A bad run is where everything seems to ache, you can’t seem to get your breath and rather than being in the zone, you feel the whole time like you want to go home. The night before last, I had a bad run. I still ran, but I could tell the instance I picked up my gait that it wasn’t going to be a spectacular one. So what is it that determines whether your training run is going to be good or bad?
Without having done any kind of quantitative research on this, all I can do it suggest some hypotheses. Actually, what I am saying is I am not exactly an expert, so don’t take what I think as gospel. I wouldn’t mind doing a bit of a journal-type exercise over a period of time to see whether my hypotheses pan out, but in the meantime, for me the difference between a good run and a bad run is…
Food: if I have eaten a decent amount of good carbohydrate no more than about three hours before my run, it will generally be a good run. I remember once going for a run around midday after only having a breakfast pastry and a coffee at 8.00 that morning and almost passing out half way. And on the flip side, if I have had a good plate of wholemeal pasta for lunch and then run in the evening, I can run forever.
Rest: I sleep a lot. I love my sleep and unless I get my 8 hours a night, I am generally a pretty miserable person to be around. Power naps don’t do it for me. So, if I am tired, even if I have had a cat nap, more often than not my run will turn out to be a bad one.
Emotional state: we all get stressed about things. I like to run because it generally relieves that stress – I can switch off and think about something (anything) else other than work. However, I have had times where my mind has caught on something that is bothering me while I run and then no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to think about anything else. Unfortunately, that can turn a good run bad.
State of mind: as much as I love it, I don’t always want to go out and run. When I feel like I should or feel guilty because I haven’t run for a couple of days, then I am often setting myself up for a fall. On the days when I just can’t wait to get out there, 99 times out of 100 my run is fantastic.
Weather: this is going to sound really odd, but I love running in the rain. Generally, if it is raining, my run is going to be good. Granted, in London we are sheltered from the extremes of temperature. When it is cold here, it is only about 0 degrees. When it is hot, it is only about 25 or 26. That’s not to say we don’t ever experience extremes of heat or cold, but they aren’t as frequent. The weather here is generally pretty ‘blurgh’ – grey, overcast, not raining, no sunshine, not warm, not freezing – just nothing. On a nothing day, I am far more likely to have a bad run than I am if there is an extreme of temperature.
Route: there are only so many routes around where I live, and I know them all. I know I should do a bit more exploring, because a new route invariably means I have a good run. I do mean to jump in the car and drive somewhere different to run, but it is so convenient to just walk out the door…
I use MapMyRun.com to keep track of my progress and it provides a facility to record things like mood, nutrition and route. It would be worthwhile to see just how important each of these factors are for me personally so I know how to achieve more good runs than bad. Because ultimately that’s where we all want to be.
Salem Elizabeth, I borrowed your photo…thank you! It’s great!