Training Smart vs. Training Hard

When I started running over a decade ago, I used running as cross training for my college basketball and soccer careers.  I had no running coach or any running mentors to guide me.  I fell into a pattern of running hard and training all out 100% of the time.  I had no idea the importance of wearing proper shoes, cross training, giving my body time for rest or any of the smart ways to train.

Needless to say, it only took me a couple years of overtraining (training too hard for too long) that caused me to fall into four years of being injured, forcing me to back off running for a period of time. 

What does training hard look like?

For me, it included things such as:

  • not having a running coach/mentor
  • not cross training or exercising other muscles with non-impact strengthening exercises
  • not having proper shoes
  • not resting enough
  • not having a training schedule designed for me and my goals
  • not eating the effective nutrition to fuel my body
  • not being proactive with preventative health methods (ie chiropractic care, massage)
  • failing to create a plan for myself (a.k.a. planning to fail)

I had to give up dreams and goals that I had aspired for simply because I had become imbalanced in my running.  Due to my own belief in that old philosophy “No pain, no gain” and pushing myself for so long, I literally woke up every morning in pain due to my ineffective training choices and had to accept the fact that I could not train as I wanted to.

However, as in every season of adversity, there lied that opportunity for me to make some life changing discoveries that I still benefit from to this day.

I knew I had to find different ways to train and healthier philosophies to embrace.  I discovered that training “smart”  versus training “hard” was a much better way to lead my running/triathlon career.

What does training smart look like?

Training smart includes balanced approaches of training for my body and mind, such as:

  • cross training 3-4 times per week
  • have the proper shoes for your feet – get a runner’s gait analysis
  • resting one day completely (NO EXERCISE other than walking, stretching or yoga)
  • core strengthening exercises a minimum of 2 times per week (can include yoga/pilates type classes)
  • listen to my body and stop serious training if the pain level in any part of my body is above a 5 on the pain scale of 0-10 (with zero being pain free and 10 being excruciating/debilitating pain)
  • training using the heart rate monitor method of monitoring my heart rate and not going above the anaerobic threshhold more than once per week – staying in the proper zone for me at all times
  • having a running coach or exercise mentor on some level at all times during training season (ie personal trainer, coach, class instructor)
  • seeing a chiropractor and massage therapist regularly (weekly or monthly)
  • setting goals for particular races throughout the year and committing myself to a training schedule that is realistic for where my body/mind are at at that time
  • scheduling an off-season time during the year – whether it be two weeks or two months - where I give my brain and body a period of serious rest/time off
  • eating proper nutrition

Keep in mind, this list of approaches took me nearly 10 years to complete (not to mention a few injuries along the way to help me learn these lessons).  And your list may look quite different.  My hope is that my list will inspire your list of training smart methods. 

The most important thing to remember is that running/training of any kind can be a life long journey only if you train smart.  Training, just as in life, is not meant to be hard – it is meant to be completed with wise choices that make the journey all worth while.

And that is what life is all about – the journey.

Fitness Trainer & Independent Team Beachbody Coach

Lois Tiedemann Koffi

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