Turn up the heat in 2016

During the holiday season, many runners take a well-deserved rest. This gives folks time to fulfill the obligations which seem to be pressing us from every direction. It also allows time for bodies to recover from the physical labor of running, and spirits to rejuvenate after several consecutive months of continued testing. After the holidays, though, the relentless force of nature’s elements can pressure us to stay indoors and continue running at a diminished level. With spring so far off in the distant future, it’s easy to remain lax, and even easier to put off quality training altogether.

For runners in the northern hemisphere, the winter months can mean a period of being stuck in the doldrums. Sometime during the latter half of January, lethargy reaches a crescendo as the resolve of even the most committed of runners is threatened. The cold, the wind, the inconvenience of driving to the health club, the fact that folks don’t make it home from work until well after dark―I’m sure you can add a few of your own exercise deterrents to the list. This happens despite the promises we’ve made, and despite telling ourselves, “This year things are going to be different!” Once we let nature have the upper hand, resolve for even the most stoic of runners can remain tepid until the winds of seasonal change finally begin to chip away on winter’s hold and bring with it the promises of spring.

Like cramming for an exam, the night before a test, trying to get in shape at the last minute for that first 5k of spring will yield an inferior performance, and delay one’s best efforts. Year after year, I witnessed runners waiting for the warmth of spring to begin training, and time and time again I used it to my advantage. I’m not saying that my first races of the season always yielded stellar results, because that wasn’t always the case. Our best running efforts require fine-tuning, and are most often achieved after several consistent months of speed work, tempo runs, and racing. Still, I started most seasons’ fit and ready to race. The result was that often my racing efforts yielded results that were several weeks ahead of those who’d waited for the spring thaw to begin their training. It gave me a competitive advantage.

To the runner who wants to run his best, I say make the commitment to get outside during the winter and run consistently. Put in a weekly long run and, once or twice a week, throw in a hard effort. Ideally, the hard effort will be run at a pace which can be sustained throughout the run, but at which you find talking to be difficult if not impossible. Take a day off here and there if you must. But, limit this to one or two days a week, and rarely if ever take consecutive days off. If you follow this advice, I promise you’ll be fit and ready when the first 5k’s of spring come around. Oh, and don’t worry about what other people are doing. Most are likely already falling into their old familiar patterns. We all know what happens when folks do this. Yep, they continue to get the same results, year after year.

I want you to run to YOUR potential. If you’re on board, we’ll make this happen together. I’m committed to doing my part, which will include sharing my 28 years of competitive running experiences. And, you’re going to do your part too, which is pretty simple. All you have to do is get outside and run.

Dennis Gravitt, Author
The Reasons I Run