As a runner, you can sometimes be lucky to reach a stage in a run that is called the runners high that feels exhilarating and euphoric. You’re relaxed, everything feels great, and your breathing is in tune with your cadence, you have a rush of adrenaline and a spike in endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals spewed out by the prefrontal and limbic regions of the brain responsible for emotions like love. Endorphins work like a painkiller and produced in response to discomfort. Stresses on the body also release other chemicals that are responsible for the feeling of calmness.
You may not be going as fast as Usain Bolt, but you feel like you’re speeding past others and could keep accelerating. The rush is even greater for me when I’m on the trails flying through tree lines, dodging puddles and leaping over roots and rocks. I love the sensation, which is why I keep going. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about the trails!
Your workout should be comfortably challenging somewhere in the region of zone 2 and 3. Too slow and you won’t stress the body enough, too high and you will feel more pain than pleasure.
When training, we put a lot of stress on our bodies and mind with a rise in the volume and increase in effort. Every workout seems like a chore, and your performance can sometimes decrease. These are some of the signs that you are overtraining. Other symptoms include heavy legs, illness, slower recovery, fatigue and a loss of motivation. These symptoms should be the signal for you to take the time to cut back your workload by around 40% and focus on some recovery. It’s far better to be undertrained than overtrained. Overtraining tends to come from increasing your distance or effort too fast and not giving your body enough time to recover.
There are a lot of peaks and then sudden drops when we take the time to recover. When the biggest race of the year is over, you can have a mental crash. You’ve put a huge amount of time and energy into one moment that is suddenly over and left with a void in your life. The feeling is sometimes known as post race depression. You begin to miss the routine and wonder what is next as you try to recover your body and rest your mind. Many runners sign up to another race during this time as they need a way to bring back the routine that keeps them busy and stimulated. It’s hard work on the body, and I certainly felt the effects leading up to the Half Iron. As I got closer to the event, I just wanted to race the damn thing, as I needed a break from the training and the pressure to stick to a schedule.
As I write this, I’ve felt a drop in my motivation considering what is next for me, and in the process, I signed up for yet another big race… I’ve been forcing myself to take some time off anything serious, and it’s well advised to take the time out if you can after a big race.
One of the greatest challenges to my performance and growth as a runner is my mental strength. I have been teaching myself that I need to be more open and realistic with goals set and remember why I’m racing. I’ve understood that I need to make my mind stronger and let go of technology. I love the sensation of running, but I need to find a way to rest my mind and remove the stresses related to training and goal setting.
My goal is to go by feel on my long runs and train my mind into running without music or a watch in view. I will become stronger in longer distances to cope without a set guide and let my body be the leader in my pace and effort. I’ll be able to listen carefully to the rhythm of my cadence and be able to control my breathing more efficiently when pushing harder to get the most out of my lungs.
For more focused sessions in the week, I will embrace the technology to improve my performance.