Why hard work doesn’t work!

We discuss the hard work ethic and explain why it isn’t the best approach in the long term to help you improve as a runner.

We quite often hear the word ‘push’ used when running is described. I expect you have come across this among runners you know. They will often say things like, ” I want to push myself and come out of my comfort zone,” or “I have to push on and run faster to get a good workout”. Too often we accept that to achieve something in life you have to work hard for it. But is this true if you apply it to running training?

Why does work have to be hard?

You can regard the dedication it takes to go out running regularly in all weathers ‘hard work’ but it doesn’t need to be harder than that. If the running session itself is hard then it becomes difficult to motivate yourself. Expecting running to be hard creates the following negative feedback loop. Running needs to be hard otherwise it’s not doing me any good. It makes me tired but I need to push through and do it. But I really don’t look forward to it! The tiredness and fatigue this approach creates is counterproductive and won’t make you fitter. Why is this?

Why doesn’t hard work work if you are a runner?

You only need to do enough training to improve as a runner. There is no need to make it hard by doing more than enough. So how do you know what is enough and what is too much? Let’s look at some examples of how running becomes hard work and why it is counterproductive if you want to improve.

Running too fast

As soon as you start to push on and run faster than at a relaxed Chatty pace your body produces acidity. The acidity stops your body generating mitochondria, the energy factories in your cells, and stops the blood vessels into your muscles increasing. The mitochondria and increased blood vessels are crucial to improving your aerobic fitness. Without them you are going nowhere!

Pushing on through tiredness during the week’s training

Pushing through any tiredness you feel doesn’t give your body time to recover. You need to allow your body to adapt after a run. Lets say you have run a little further than normal or you ran a little too fast with your club. In order to adapt and make you fitter your body needs time to recover. Running gently until the tiredness disappears is the key to improvement.

Pushing yourself on a run to make it faster than the last

Expecting each run to be as fast or faster than your last is a guaranteed way to push too hard. The pace of your runs will vary according to how you feel. When you are recovering from a longer or faster run then your next run will need to be slower as you are recovering. Continue to run faster than needed during this time and you will start to generate the acidity we have already mentioned as well as putting stress on an already tired body.

Remember, other factors may impact on your running pace too. The temperature, dehydration or hunger will affect your pace as well as being tired from a stressful day. So be kind to yourself.

Relax, slow down and enjoy your running

Let progress happen and enjoy your running. When you are motivated to go out running, and you enjoy each run, then you will make progress. Get rid of the ‘push mentality’ and replace ‘hard work’ with ‘relaxed fun’ and you will find that you want to do a little more each week. Keep this going and improvement will happen naturally. Take a look at this video for more about why the Chatty running approach is the way forward.

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