Flexibility philosophy

  • This was printed in March of 2015 in The Madera Tribune, a newspaper in Madera, California. This was the 95th installment of my weekly column, Mind Over Miles.

Athletes need to be flexible. I don’t mean they need to be able to touch

their toes or do a backbend (although that my be helpful too) — I mean

they need to realize that training plans aren’t set in stone.

The key to training: listen to your body.

When your muscles are fatigued, tender or tight, it’s better to take an extra

day off to rest than to trudge through a painful workout. The scheduled

workout will leave you disappointed and disheartened when you don’t get

the desired results.

Instead, recognize that your body needs more recovery time, allow it to

recover and then come back to your planned workout. You’re guaranteed

better results.

Speed work, hence the name, should be fast. If your muscles are too

fatigued and your speed workout turns out to be not-so-fast, you won’t

reap the desired benefit from your training.

That being said, “listening to your body” shouldn’t become an excuse to

stay in bed just because you’re a little sore or kind of tired. There’s a

difference between being mildly sore from a prior workout and being on the

brink of injury. There’s also a difference between being physically and

mentally drained and being lazy. You don’t have to feel 100 percent fresh

for each run.

If you live an active lifestyle, over time you’ll become much better at

listening to your body and knowing when your ache is just an ache or when

it spells trouble.

Ultramarathon champion Ian Sharman believes in taking three to four

weeks off entirely each year to avoid physical and mental burnout, he said

in a recent podcast.

Maybe he’s onto something.

The only time I rest is when I’m forced to by an injury. If you look at the

results he’s getting — winning or getting on the podium at almost every

100-miler or other ultramarathon he runs — the “off season” thing appears

to be a smart idea.

Following his advice, I plan to take a month off after running the Miwok

100K (62 miles) on May 2.

I’ve learned, albeit slowly, that training plans aren’t set in stone. A calendar

doesn’t know how your muscles and joints are going to feel.

I recently thought I had developed a small tear in my right calf muscle

during the tail end of a hill workout. I had two long trail runs scheduled for

the following two days, but I chose to rest that weekend instead.

I doubled up my compression sleeves on that calf, took ibuprofen, and

walked several miles on flat concrete that weekend instead of running. I

quickly felt back to normal and hit my Monday morning scheduled hill

repeats hard.

I replaced what would have been two bad runs with one very good run.

Train smarter, not harder — be flexible.

***

The second annual Second Wind 5K run/walk is fast approaching. Register

now at secondwind5k.com and be a part of the only timed 5K race in

Madera. All proceeds go to the Madera Rescue Mission and the Madera

County Food Bank. The race will be held Saturday, March 28 at 8 a.m. at

the LoanMart Madera Speedway. A kids race for ages 2 to 10, called the

Mini Sprint, will begin at 7:30.

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