Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Pain Cave

Pain Cave:  the physical feeling of discomfort, pain or fatigue we get when running hard and pushing our limits, it can often feel enclosing like a cave with only 1 way to escape - to slow down.   

In workouts we can often go to the "pain cave", sometime we just stay in the mouth of the cave and sometimes we go deep inside. But over the course of a training cycle, we visit this "pain cave" so many times that we start to get a sense of familiarity to it, we understand its characteristics, its depths, its shallows, we get a strange sense of comfort with it, and even over time start to feel at home there in the cave.  It is then, when we have gotten to this point, we know we are ready to go racing.

Some call it "getting comfortable with being uncomfortable" or "mental callousing" but regardless of what you call it, it gives a sense of purpose to the discomforts we experience in training.  So much of our success will be determined by how we learn to deal with our time in this "pain cave". Do we stay positive, accept it, appreciate its place in expanding our limits, and make the most of it, or do we let it defeat us, rob our motivation and look to escape as soon as possible and never go back.   It is in this way that running can often mirror our lives. Very rarely do truly good things come without its share of sacrifice and perseverance.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Racing In The State Of Flow

The "State of Flow" or "The Zone" is an altered state of consciousness in which athletes usually have their best performances.

List of things for runners to do to promote racing in The State of Flow:

  1. Balance challenge with skill - find and implement the correct race pace (or HR) range for your current fitness level.  This is one of the most helpful things I can do as a coach, is help my runners determine the goal pace (or HR) range that will put and keep them in The State of Flow.  
  2. Concentrate on small specific targets - break the race up into 4-10 segments and have a plan for each segment: 3-4 things you want to execute in the segment to help you have the best race possible.
  3. Stay in the moment - in the race focus only on executing the segment you are currently in, don't think about past or future segments or possible outcomes, but rather focus on what you are doing at the moment.  Practice doing this in training.  Example:  in the 10 to 13 miles segment in a marathon my focus should be things like: "staying as relaxed as possible, keeping my pace between 6:00 and 6:05 per mile, and taking in 4-6 oz of fluids at the aid station", and not on things such as: "oh no that big hill is coming up at mile 16" or "I really blew that last segment, what was I thinking" or "I can't wait to hammer my rival Ivan in the last 10k of the race".  
  4. Stay positive - eliminate negative self talk. Use a positive key word or mantra for each race segment. You need to stay in a positive state of mind in order to stay in the state of flow.  
  5. Keep your race plans simple - think through everything in advance of the race so that in the race the decision making is simplified.  You cant think as clearly in a fatigued state so don't rely on making complex decisions late in the race.  
  6. Stay focused on what you can control (namely: you) - and don't waste energy on the things you can't control (course, weather, etc).
  7. Embrace the challenge - pushing the envelope of our limits is an big but exciting challenge, embrace that challenge and learn new things about you and how tough you can be.