We run more to run faster. The more we’re able to run, the more we’re able to able to train, which means the more fit our bodies become. There’s a problem. Overtraining, niggles, dehydration, fatigue, and much more. It takes an experienced runner to know how much we can safely run before our bodies turn against us. The most important thing to learn about running is the ability to listen to your body and know what it’s telling us.
My most important piece of advice is to listen to our bodies. It means if our body doesn’t feel like it’s ready to go at that time or that day, don’t. It means if our body is craving food, eat something! If we’re constantly licking our lips, drink something. It means if we’re sore and it hasn’t gotten better, take time off. Our bodies tell us a lot, if we’re willing to listen.
New and ambitious runners often have a hard time listening. New runners may not know how to listen to their bodies, whereas ambitious runners may not want to listen. Different sides of the s-curve, but very similar regarding fatigue, fueling, and injuries. New runners need experience to “listen to your body”. They aren’t familiar with consistent running, how it should feel running longer and more frequently, and how to prepare our bodies for rest, food, and hydration. Ambitious runners may simply want to run as much to run as fast as possible, always on the razor’s edge with injury. High-risk, high-reward.
“You have to be fit to run.” Many people start running to lose weight. Running is one of the most efficient ways to lose weight because it burns so many calories. Running also requires a lot in order to be very effective. Yes, we have to be fit in order to run well (this is regarding competitive running; fitness running a few days per week is different because we’re giving our bodies enough time to recover). Fitness comes from working weaker muscles, to correct imbalances. Have weak glutes or quads? Hit the weight room, or better yet, hit the hills. Have weaker calves? Do calf presses or run in zero drop footwear. It also comes from proper rest; rest gives our bodies time to recover to move on to more training.
Although I’m nursing tendinitis, listen to your body for me means rest and fueling (by “fueling” I mean what I eat and drink). I’m in the camp that I want to run as much as possible. I want to excel at the marathon and it being an endurance event, most runners’ potential is limited by how many miles they can run. Running more miles means we’re closer to fatigue and a fueling deficit than someone running half as many. Dehydration and rest are the largest factors for me. It takes a lot of discipline to run 90+ miles per weeks, maintain a loaded schedule, and get enough rest. At times, sleeping in feels like a rest day. Strange, but true. Hydration? I can’t quite figure that one out. I don’t fuel much during runs, but constantly do when not running. (My last marathon I only drank ~10 oz. of water and two gels, but PRed, so there’s that.) I’m getting a new GPS watch, so I’ll have more data so I should be able to figure this stuff out better.
Listen to your body. If we want to run more, run better, and run faster we have to learn to tell us what our body says. It takes experience and knowledge, but we’re better for it because we learn how to monitor ourselves. We can have a coach and a flock of runner friends but they don’t know how we feel. Only we know how we feel. Thus, listen to your body because no one else can hear it.