Pacing important as we jog into warmer weather

David Yon, April 1, 2021

This past weekend’s warmer temperatures, by no means real summer, were rough enough to remind us that summer is coming. Being willing to slow down a bit while adjusting and staying hydrated are critical to staying healthy.

It is amazing how fast a lack of fluids can leave us dehydrated and susceptible to injury. Saturday’s run started at 70 degrees and went up from there. The good news for now, however, is the lows return to the 30s and 40s this week. That should keep the deer fly in hiding for a while.

Races have been few and far between but hopefully we are on the verge of seeing racing become routine again. So, it is a good time to remember some keys to good racing.

An article by Alex Hutchinson, author of the book ‘Endure,’ published in Runner’s World last summer is filled with good training advice. While the article identifies five roadblocks to racing well (‘I can’t catch my breath,’ ‘I am running harder, but I am not speeding up,’ ‘My legs are on fire,’ ‘I can hardly lift my legs, and ‘I give up’) and how to get better at conquering them all of which is worth reading.

I want to focus on the first challenge, ‘I can’t catch my breath.’

I understand that roadblock very well. It can happen almost anytime but for purposes of this article it occurs when a runner starts too fast without properly warming up.

Hutchinson is right when he states the first rep of an interval workout often seems the hardest.

While parts of the mind and body are ready to go right away, some key processes take time to warm up and operate efficiently.

If you ‘go’ too soon your body will begin draining resources too soon and inefficiently, like a car spitting and back firing down the road.

The warm-up also depends in part on the distance of the race. The shorter the race the more important the warm-up and the more intense the warm-up needs to be.

It is much better to line up on the starting line with the carburetor and timing belt adjusted and tuned for smooth take off. The key is to arrive at the start warmed up, but not tired. It is, however, easy to underperform on the warm-up or to avoid it. One must arrive early and then endure extra pain.

There is a natural tendency to ‘save it for the race.’ Hutchison asked Andrew Jones, Ph.D. and a professor of Applied Physiology in the Department of Health and Sciences at the University of Exeter, who recommends priming the pump. For a 5K he recommends including ‘bursts of 45 – 60 seconds.’ I would add that four repeats during a 20-minute warm up should work.

These are only recommendations as to times and distances. The concept is sound, it is up to you to figure out what works best. Summertime racing and running are never easy.

Of course, I am finding the need to start slow becoming stronger and taking longer each race. Finding the line between warm up and worn out is the challenge.

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