I recently received this email from Heather Murray:
I am a triathlete with running as my weaker discipline. I am training for my first half- marathon and have started running many more miles than ever before. My frustration is that it never feels easier and my assumption that long runs of 8-10 miles would instantly translate to more comfortable or maybe even faster 5k times. No such luck for me.
I also incorporate hill runs, intervals on the treadmill, striders/sprints at the end. It still feels tough, like my body is tired. I try to eat as healthy as possible to fuel the machine, but alas I struggle with running. Any suggestions for those of us who want to run happy, but just feel genetically doomed?
That’s a great question!
It is definitely true that some people are more genetically programmed to be good runners than others, and that only a small percentage of them actually go out and run (but that’s another subject…)
If your body is feeling tired while you are running, then there is probably something wrong with your training that isn’t right for you. I’m going to go on an assumption that you feeling run down for most of your run (and for the majority of them) based on how I read your email, so the first thing I think of is that it may be related to food.
Food, Diet & Running
You say that you are eating a healthy diet, which is always good, but when are you eating your meals? Do you eat anything before your runs so that you have some fuel while you are working out? Are you eating anything shortly after your workouts so that your body will have the fuel it needs to repair your muscles rather than just shutting down and leaving you sore? What foods are you eating before & after?
My next thought after singling out food would be that perhaps you are over training.
Overtraining and Hammering Workouts
How fast are you running? How hard are your other workouts during the week?
Are all of your runs some sort of hill workout or treadmill intervals or striders or sprints?
I have quite a few triathlete friends that have burnt themselves out by hammering 6 speed workouts a week (2 swimming, 2 biking and 2 running) plus doing a long run and then wondering why they’re so run-down and tired.
Their thinking is that if they use different muscle groups then they are still getting the chance to recover, and when they were younger that might even have been the case but now they are all having to start to slow down a little for at least half of those workouts or else switch up which discipline they concentrate on from week to week.
My first advice here might be to look at your overall schedule to see if you are trying to do back to back hard workouts (even if they are different disciplines) and also to look at whether it might be in your best interest to slow down on your runs.
Rest and Recovery
The third thing, which is very closely related, is how much rest are you getting each week? If you don’t recover from your workouts, you can’t improve.
Recovery is the process of repairing the damage done to your muscles during a workout, and every athlete needs some down time to give their muscles a chance before stressing them out again.
That doesn’t necessarily mean taking a day off completely, but it does mean that you do need some less intense workouts now and again.
(I go into a lot more detail on all 3 of those suggestions in my 3 Components of an Effective Workout report…)
The Effects of Boredom
The last suggestion I have without more details would be to look at where you are running. If you aren’t enjoying yourself, then maybe you should try changing things up.
If you are on a treadmill most of the time, try getting outside instead.
If you are always on the roads, then try finding some trails to run on.
If you usually run alone, join a club and find some running partners (just make sure they aren’t too fast for you if you are trying to slow down!)
What are your thoughts?
What advice would you give to Heather, or to another triathlete that might be having the same problem with her running (or swimming or biking for that matter?)
By the way, I did hear back from Heather, and she said that she is guilty of hammering 6 times a week (although one of those workouts was her long run) and that her pre-workout nutrition is basically non-existant.