I'm usually not one to give running advice unless I am asked. Many runners do ask me, but many also have their own way of doing it and that is what works for them. I don't interfere. Even if I listen and hear what I'd consider a running myth or a quick way to get injured, I stay out of it unless asked. I don't know everything about the human body or about running, so my little bit of knowledge stays quiet unless requested.
However, the Saucony "Find Your Strong" contest has asked about the greatest running advice you've ever received. I wanted to answer so I sat there and thought about it for a minute. There are all kinds of awesome, encouraging slogans out there that spur me on. Mantras I've used to get tougher, reminders that make me feel strong, you've heard them. But I was trying to imagine REAL running advice. Something practical to actually use when training or trying to improve.
I naturally thought of Jason. One of the things that brought us together was that we were both runners. We started dating right around the Rocket City Marathon in 2006, and we both got PRs in that race. His was a 2:55. Mine was a 4:55. Since then he has gotten his marathon time down to a 2:38 and I have gotten mine down to a 3:45.
Jason is also not one to give unsolicited advice. In fact, he doesn't really talk about what he does at all. He is content to quietly go about his business, training and pushing himself, and he doesn't feel the need to share what he does, why, or how. He is always glad to help another runner if asked, but he won't volunteer the information. I like that about him. I liked it when we started dating and when we got married. He knew if and what I ran each day. He knew my goals. He knew my weaknesses, my doubt, and my questions about my own ability. But the most he'd ever say was usually in response to me claiming I could never do this or that. He'd always say, "Why not?" It was never a question I could answer. Eventually I quit saying I could never run a certain pace or go a certain distance. I started asking myself "why not?" If I had no answer, I moved forward and let myself imagine it, dream of it, move it around in my mind a little while.
I learned some running advice from Jason, not only by what he said but also by what he did. Jason runs every single day. Sunday through Saturday. He runs the day after a marathon. He runs the day after an Ironman (usually with me, which is fun). Eventually, I started doing the same. I began to run more often. After a year or so, I began to run almost every day. I ran after a marathon. It was short and slow, but it was good. When training for relays or ultras, I'd sometimes run more than once a day. This is when things began to change. I began to run faster automatically. I wasn't trying to run faster, I just...did. So I went from running 3-5 miles a day to 6-10 miles a day. I wasn't doing speed work, I wasn't doing pace work...I was just running. Every day.
So I've taken the long way around telling you my running advice, but I wanted to tell you where I got it, how I got it, and why I believe it is true. Here is what I submitted to the Saucony, "Find Your Strong" weekly contest:
Your greatest training tool is consistency. Get out there and run every day if you want to get better.
I have seen, heard and learned this from Jason, and I have used it myself with amazing results. I've seen my morning running crew girls practice consistency, and I tell my clients this when they run 1 to 2 times a week and ask why it is not getting any easier. For new runners, I don't suggest running every single day, but if they stick with me and my plan that is where they would be headed eventually. Speed and pace work is not something we touch until they have a good endurance base built that is appropriate for their fitness level and goal event.
The greatest running advice I have ever seen or heard is to be consistent. My amazing husband taught me that and I am still using it today. I plan to use it to break my current 3:45 marathon PR and I believe I can do it. I plan to use it to run a better 50 mile race. I plan to use it to get off the baby weight. I plan to attempt to instill it in my clients as my main and first method when beginning a new training program. It is such a powerful tool. If you are an experienced runner, you probably already use it too. If you aren't, I'd challenge you to start. Start with running 3-4 times a week and do something else physical the other days. Give yourself an easy day or two, but easy doesn't mean sedentary. Gradually move to 4-5 times a week and then try a week once in a while when you run all 7 days. The results will be amazing and wonderful. It WILL feel better and it WILL get easier. You WILL improve and it will seem so natural.
Consistency. That's my running advice.