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Best Running Tips Newsletter, Issue #027 -- Dealing with Setbacks and the Benefits of Tempo Running

April 13, 2011


Today I'd like to talk to you about dealing with setbacks and the benefits of tempo running. I would also like to talk to you about some developments on and around

The Facebook Page: More Than 1,000 Likes and Counting
running tips
The Best Running Tips Facebook page is growing in popularity quickly and has recently gone beyond 1,000 Likes.

If you are not already a Facebook Fan of Best Running Tips, then become one today!

I have just posted some questions on Facebook. One of them is about what you eat to replenish after your (long) runs, one of them is about the running app you may use. Join the conversation.

It would be great if we get a lot of reactions here so we can learn from each other.

I will turn the outcomes of these "mini-surveys" into useful pages on the site.

Link to the questions:

Dealing with Setbacks


Recently my running got dealt with a bit of a setback. My first major run of the year was going to be a 15k race. Training was going really well, getting faster, getting fitter, etc. No complaints.

Unfortunately I can't do this race now. Why? Just a few days before the race I have to undergo a medical procedure.

Bit of a disappointment, but there is no way out of it. 

So, no choice. Will have to miss out on this race. 

running tips
Now, we can all get setbacks from time to time.

Like an injury or a bad race.

The important thing is how we deal with these setbacks. My recipe is roughly as follows:

1) Allow time for disappointment. But limit that time.
Sure, give yourself some time to be disappointed.

But, and this is important, tell yourself how long you are allowed to be disappointed.

Wallow in despair all you will, but after a set time, e.g. 24 hours, turn over the page. After that, you are only allowed to be positive and focus on the next steps.

2) Analyze and learn
The next step is to analyze and learn. Now, in some cases there is not a lot to analyze. My medical situation, a sickness, etc, these are just things that happen. In those cases, you move on to the next step.

However, in other situations there is often something to learn. And I don't see all runners take this step seriously. Take a bad race for example. Don't just shrug it off as a bad day, take some serious time to consider what exactly went wrong.

Was it your training, your race strategy, what you ate, when you ate, did you go out too fast because you set too ambitious goals, etc.? Try to get at least one learning out of it.

The same for running injuries. Runners often get injured. But it doesn't have to be this way. You need to consider why this is happening and which signals your body was giving you. Try to extract at least one thing you should do differently next time.

3) Adjust and set new goals
After you have learnt where you have gone wrong, inject some new energy and inspiration in your running program. Adjust your training program according to the situation and pick new goals to be enthusiastic about.

Personally I have rewritten my running program for the next three months to take into account I am not going to do the 15k race anymore. Instead I can now devote some more time to the preparations for a half marathon which is a little over three months down the track. 

The Benefits of Tempo Running
In recent years there has been a real trend towards advocating more variety in running training programs. Ten, twenty years ago all you could hear about when you wanted to run was: run easy, run long.

Of course, easy running should be a very important component of your running training.

running tips
And I would still advocate that if you are not able to run 30-45 minutes comfortably and you want to do 5k/10k races or longer, that you spend pretty much all your time running easy or doing a run/walk program.

But as we learn more and more about how elite athletes train, especially the Kenyans, the message gets reinforced that distance is not absolutely everything.

As a result of that more and more beginner marathon / half marathon programs put some speed work in the mix. And rightfully so.

Speed plays an important role, especially tempo running.

Tempo running is the speed just below your lactate acid threshold. If you run any faster, lactic acid starts building up in your muscles and your legs start feeling heavy.

When you start doing tempo runs it is a bit hard to work out how fast exactly you should go. I prefer to describe it as "comfortably hard", whereas any faster would be "uncomfortably hard".

Another way to feel it is that it is the speed you still should be able to maintain for a longer period of time (20-60 minutes), whereas when you go at interval running speed you'd really need to stop after 5-6 minutes or so.

You can also go by heart rate zone if you are running with a heart rate monitor.

Tempo runs are so good because they help you increase your lactic acid threshold. This means that you can go faster without getting that heavy feeling in your legs.

When you do tempo runs regularly you really start feeling the difference in leg strength, in your base speed, heart rate everything. I could show you charts from my Garmin 405cx of comparable runs now and two months ago.

At the same heart rate I now go 30-45 sec / km faster (I did have a year off, so I expected some improvement). Tempos are powerful stuff.

Tempo runs can be done on their own, but you can also include tempo intervals or tempo runs into your longer runs. What I like to do, for example, is include 1k-2k tempo intervals in my long runs.

It's a good race simulation as in races you will have to be able to run fast, even when your legs are tired.

E.g. Sunday night I did 22k (14 miles), in which I alternated 2k easy with 1k hard (i.e. tempo pace). Further down the track the long runs and the tempo intervals in my long runs will become longer, until two weeks before the half marathon when I do my goal pace test: 10k easy, 10k tempo.

If you are not doing tempo runs already, then make sure you start adding them to your training.

Useful links:

Tempo Running

Interval Running

Goal Pace Running

Heart Rate Zone Calculator

Best Running Coach

Recently I launched a coaching service. If you have got difficulties with finding the right running program  for your needs, consider giving a try.

The service offers an assessment of your current situation and works out your strengths and weaknesses. Based on that you will get a personalised running program which aims to get you to top performance in your next key race.

It is an exciting opportunity to work on your running goals on a one-on-one basis.

Coming Up

Almost ready for launch is a website forum. The daily visitor count has reached the level where I think a forum can become a useful place in which you and I and all other visitors can connect, ask each other for advice etc.

I am only one runner and I don't have all the knowledge. I am hoping that this forum can fill a gap. In a recent survey I did, this was one of the items people felt they missed when they visited

Once again it's "you ask, we deliver" so we'll have this forum live within now and a few weeks. I'll let you know when it happens.

Final Thought
Sharing knowledge is not about giving people something, or getting something from them. That is only valid for information sharing. Sharing knowledge occurs when people are genuinely interested in helping one another develop new capacities for action; it is about creating learning processes.
Peter Senge

Talk to you soon.
In the meantime, come visit my site often and happy running!


Best Running Tips




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