Coach Sage Canaday here, and I’m excited to dive into an essential topic in our running: progression and improvement. Today, we’ll explore the key principles that can elevate your running game, regardless of your current level or aspirations:

Building the Foundation: The Aerobic Base

Whether you’re gearing up for a 5k or tackling ultramarathons, the cornerstone of success is what I call the aerobic base. This foundational element is universal and forms the backbone of your running prowess. I’ve already talked extensively on this topic before in previous newsletters, so we’re not going to focus too much on this topic in particular. However, I want to make sure it’s at least noted. But before we dive deeper, let’s address two non-negotiables: health and consistency.

Prerequisite #1: Health and Prerequisite #2: Consistency

Your journey begins with staying healthy. Injuries can derail even the most ambitious goals. Consistency, then, becomes the bedrock of your training. Now, let’s imagine the transformative power of gradually increasing your weekly mileage, even at an easy, conversational pace done at a low heart rate, typically under 70/75% max heart rate. This deliberate approach often leads to significant improvements. Generally, if you go from running 50k a week, or 30 miles a week, and over the course of several weeks or months, you are able to build up to 50 or 60 miles a week, 90 to 100k per week, it sets you up well for success.

Reflections from My Journey

Reflecting on my own path, I started running high mileage at a young age. However, the emphasis shifted to longevity. I had already been playing soccer a lot as a kid. And then, by the time I was in high school, I was already running 100 kilometers a week (60 miles per week). In college, I was running countless 100-mile weeks or 160k/week. However, that’s pretty extreme and following my own personal training could result in injury for others. My perspective has always been enjoying running for as long as possible and relishing the holistic benefits it brings, beyond just the competitive aspects. I want to be able to do this sport until I’m as old as possible, still move, remain healthy, and enjoy the sport.

The Pitfalls of Comparison and the Importance of Respect

A crucial piece of advice: avoid the comparison game. Injuries often stem from overuse or pushing too hard. Running demands respect. Rushing into things can lead to setbacks like stress fractures or tendonitis. If one starts to play the comparison game and doesn’t respect their own background and abilities, you can get injured. As I alluded to earlier, health should be your number one priority! Getting things like an overuse injury is unfortunately too common due to the demands of this sport. So if you rush into things, you start running your easy days too fast. When you increase your mileage before you’re ready, it can also result in injury. It could be things like a bone break, stress fracture, muscle strain, tendon strain, Achilles tendonitis, etc. Dealing with injuries sets you back and forces you to be inconsistent in your training – exactly what we don’t want.

Embracing a Learning Mindset

I’m not here as a know-it-all coach. Over 22 years of year-round running, I’ve made my fair share of mistakes. The running community continually teaches me that there’s always more to learn and that individual differences abound. The more I get involved in the sport, the more I realize that I don’t know very much about it, actually. And when you’re talking about #AnySurfaceAnyDistance, you’re talking about road marathons, mountain ultra trail running, and so many different varieties of styles of racing. There’s always something new to learn and always someone to learn from if you take a learning mindset approach.

Acknowledging Life’s Realities

Recognizing that not everyone has the luxury of optimal conditions is crucial. Life is unpredictable, and mental toughness often emerges from adversity, setting the stage for success in distance running. It’s not always happy times, as there’s a lot of pain involved, and I’ve been lucky with injury (knock on wood somewhere) or not getting too bad of overuse injuries. However, I have experienced overtraining, being low on iron, and not having good glute activation. Some people say that’s an excuse, but I’m trying to look at it scientifically and find out reasons why, and sometimes I don’t know why.

Celebrate Every Victory, Big or Small

As we navigate the complexities of this sport, let’s appreciate the progress, no matter how small, and find joy in the unexpected victories. Share your stories, connect with fellow runners, and remember that the journey is as important as the destination. You hope for the best, though, and you try to line up on the start line and give it your best shot. Overall, it’s very rewarding to progress!