Last week's article Is Fatigue A Head Game? examined the influence your brain and thoughts have on your running performance; in paticular, how your brain can limit your running performance.
How can you implement this knowledge to run faster or further? Are there specific workouts you can perform to relax your brain's protective grip on your perceived exertion level? What training will push back your perception of effort so you can race closer to your true potential?
What the brain determines as "overreaching yourself" is based upon your previous experience. Completing a variety of difficult workouts during training imprints new experiences on your brain, teaching your brain that your body can safely handle high intensity running.
Your brain realizes the physical changes associated with prolonged fast paced running (e.g. elevated heart rate, increased sweating, burning sensation in your chest or legs due to hard effort) are not signals of imminent danger (running in hot/humid weather excepted).
You will neither explode nor implode.
Some of the inputs your brain previously interpreted as negative are reassessed as neutral or positive. For the same difficult workout, your brain is now less likely to set into motion physical events at the muscular level that cause you to slow down or pack it in for the day.
Your perceived exertion level is reduced (even though it's the same workout). It's now easier for you to run faster and/or further.
Here are three workouts to teach your brain to take a chill pill:
- Unstructured fartlek. Use landmarks, pedestrians, parked cars, lamp posts, etc. as a signal to start a fast surge. For example, run at 90% effort from one phone pole to the next, or speed up till you pass a certain number of parked cars. The keys are the unpredictability of when the surges will occur and varying the length of fast paced segments.
- Fast finish workout: instead of running your entire long run at LSD pace, run the last 3 miles at race pace.
- Run a tough track workout with long repeats (1000 meters or longer). You should feel like you're physically done. Then, add an extra repeat. Or even better yet, have someone else decide if and when you should add the extra repeat. The element of uncertainty will prevent you from subconsciously conserving energy for the extra repeat that may or may not occur.
Pick one of the above workouts to run this week. Try a different one every week, except during planned recovery weeks in your training plan. You'll discover you can push through fatigue and continue fast running, even after you thought you were done. In the process, you will have trained your brain to let you run closer to your true potential.
What's your favourite workout tough workout to expand your physical or mental boundary?
© 2014 Savvy Runner Inc.
Bennett Cohen and Gail Gould are the Founders and Presidents of the International Association of Women Runners. For access to resources to help you reach your goals for running and racing, visit www.IAWR-Connect.com..