Coach Mike Mead

Tending to Details for a Faster You - August 2005

Details, details, details! No matter what we do in life, details abound and what is a person to do. Most of us skip over the little things that frequently result in later troubles. Whether it’s failing to read the fine print in a contract, or not following the instructions when putting together that bicycle. Runners are not exempt and tending to details will result in better workouts, fewer injuries and faster races.

I preach to my runners at Clayton State that they cannot overlook the details if they plan to achieve optimum results. Most runners, including myself, can get in a rut with training and overlook the important details.

The details I stress are the obvious and not so obvious. Details like rest, hydration, nutrition, flexibility and strength training can make or break a runner. Tending to these running details can pay dividends when you are running in the big race of your season.

Many high school and college age runners do not get enough rest, so they’re either running tired or put themselves at risk of injury or illness. A minimum of eight hours a night is essential. I’ve read that some sleep experts recommend getting to bed early (before 10 p.m.) for optimum effect. I also believe in getting naps, particularly if you’re doing two workouts a day. When racing on a regular basis, Thursday nights (the night-before, the night-before) is the key night in getting ample sleep before that big race on Saturday.

Taking in plenty of fluids, particularly during the summer months, is critical. Drink plenty of water and a variety of sports drinks and fruit (100%) juices. Limit your caffeine drinks, which can aid dehydration. Soft drinks have too much sugar, so lighten up or you could crash in your next workout or race.

Runners are notorious for being able to eat whatever they want – or so we think. Well, you might be able to burn some of it running, but there is truth to the old adage, “You are what you eat!” Just about anything is fine in moderation. Remember, fine-tuned racecars don’t race very well on kerosene, nor do fine-tuned runners perform their best on junk food.

In my slow transition to better eating, the first thing I limited in my daily diet was salt. The majority of us eat too much in the way of processed foods and they contain too much salt, sugar and fat. Don’t fool yourself. You might pop a good one now and then. I ran my 10K-best after consuming a Big Mac the night before. But my most consistent racing and training happened by following a healthy meal plan.

Another detail that too many runners overlook is stretching. If you want to get faster and reduce your risk of injuries, you have to include flexibility work in your daily training. If you don’t, you limit your speed – think in terms of a restrictor plate in NASCAR. You put yourself at risk for injuries like pulled hamstrings. Not only that, you will take longer to return from your injury if you haven’t been stretching.

Runners also shy away from strength training. But to handle some of your higher-level training, strength training is essential and will help prevent injuries, too. All it takes is about 20-30 minutes per strength session, two to three times per week and in no time you’ll be a much stronger runner.

So the next time you evaluate your training and are searching for improvement, perhaps you need to tend to your training details.