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Choosing Your 2022 Race Goals: What You NEED to Know

It’s a new year with new possibilities!

And with spring marathons possibly teasing you and fall races definitely tempting you… there's a couple reminders you might need to hear

I know, I know. This isn't your first rodeo.

You've heard it all before.

You've read all the race plans and training articles.

But, as one runner to another (and especially as your physical therapist on speed dial) allow me to be the maybe-annoying but correct voice-of-reason reminding you of some very basic, but oh-so-important facts.

Ready to get your goals into gear? Let's dive in.

Fact #1: New distances take time. So build that base.

The longer you've been running, the more you know from personal experience how important a good aerobic and mileage base is.

A couple things a good base does:

  • allows you the train harder with decreased injury

  • will increase your speed/pace over time

  • allows you to make a faster compact heaven-forbid you get injured

Yup, building a solid base is also preventative. (Being a PT, I'm all about that.)

But how so?

It has to do with overall fitness.

It's a fact that after roughly 2 weeks of inactivity, you will start to lose fitness.

However, the base took time to build, right?

You didn't just run 10miles without stopping for the first time every and now...ta-da!

10miles at race pace is your standard.

Doesn't work that way.

What you've done is increased your overall aerobic endurance (we're not getting into the weeds of lunge capacity and VO2 max in this blog…).

You've also over time caused angiogenesis: the creation of new blood vessels.

Why do you care?

  • Because more blood vessels mean you can pump more blood to a body part.

  • More blood to an injured limb or even a healthy limb, means that body part gets more oxygen.

  • More oxygen results in increased nutrients flowing to that tissue and more waste products being removed from said tissue.

  • Resulting in…improved healing time and healthier tissues long term.

So…don't skip your base!

You only hurt yourself in the long run! (pun NOT intended…)

  • You base ensures you can handle whatever race load you have planned.

  • It sets your body up for success so it can heal and recovery efficiently as you tackle harder and harder workouts.

  • And heaven-forbid you get injured, that physiological benefit will help you heal faster from an injury, too!

Pretty cool, right?

Fact #2: Use smaller race distances to build up to longer ones.

This dove-tails directly into fact #1.

Building a solid base is a stepping stone to your more intense training.

So…why not have stepping stones along the way that helps you get from one race distance to the next?

But Dr. Whitt! I just wanna run my marathon! I don't like shorter distances!

Ok, that's fair. Not every runner is going to like every distance.

But, I think you would benefit from at least dabbling with the shorter race distances and using those as stepping stones along your way to longer distances.

Here's why.

You have different types of muscle fibers-slow twitch and fast twitch.

And they pretty much act as they sound. Slow twitch fibers are used for endurance type running while fast twitch fibers are responsible for your speed and sprinting.

But did you know you can actually change the amount of slow twitch and fast twitch fibers you have?

Through training, you can actually "flip the switch" and turn slow twitch to fast twitch and vice verse. (That being said, there is a genetic "cap" that exists: you can truly only get so fast, but you can still become faster compared to where you started.)

Why am I going on about this?

Because…in a race, no matter the distance, you use both.

Yes, even in a marathon when you kick, you engage fast twitch muscle fibers. However, they still require training. You still need to teach your body, teach your muscles, how to switch gears efficiently and effectively.

Even on trail runs which are a blissful grind in themselves, you come to obstacles or situations where you need to move fast.

So, by throwing in the occasional fun 5k or 10k race and the weekly strides into your running workouts, your keeping yourself fresh. You're reminding your body how to move fast and react quickly so that when you need to dig deep and make that final mile, 800m, or 400m really count, your body is set and ready to go!

Fact #3: You don't have to do the race everyone else is doing.

Ok, maybe I cheated and this one is more of an opinion…but stick with me. I'll make this one short and pointed.

When you think of all the races you either want to sign up for or have already signed up for ask yourself this question:

"Does this race actually make me excited and fill me with joy?"

I promise, it's not as hokey as it sounds!

Are you legit stoked and excited to totally crush this race or is there this lingering thought that you're just "expected" to run this distance so you can call yourself a runner?

Really, really.

Why do I even bring this up?

Because running is personal.

It "runs" deep into our souls and melds into our identity as a person. This can become a type of pressure or turn into an expectation we weren't even aware of! Especially when non-runners are asking, "oh how many marathons have you run? How many times have you done Boston?"

If this isn't your thing or maybe you're still working your way up to it, this can be a real downer.

So instead, celebrate the variety that is running.

Choose your own race; your own distance; your own race experience!

Make it unique to you and what types of racing bring you joy whether it's a fast and furious 5k, a regal marathon like Boston, a wet and wild ultra, or free-birding it and running nude. (yes, this is a thing…I'm not sure I can say "look it up"…so uh…just take my word and Runner's World word for it…)

Moving on…

Fact #4: If you're aiming for a new race distance, speed, or a more technical/harder course, make sure you've got a solid strength/mobility/speed routine.

Yea, yea, yea…I know, Dr. Whitt. You say this all the time…

You're right, I do.

But do you do it?

Do you have a routine and have you built up that H A B I T?

Because trust me, if I'm telling you this, it's also because I'm telling myself this too.

I have at least 3 other blogs that go into depth on:

But maybe it's something else...

Maybe it's getting into a routine or finding the circuits that work for you?

Maybe your crunched for time because of family or work obligations? I totally get it!

Here's how I sneak mine in:

I MAKE myself do certain exercises with my patients.

Trust me, it is sooooo much easier to just tell and watch them do the different planks and lifts and med ball work…

It's an entirely different session when I join them.

We motivate each other.

We correct each other.

We compete with each other.

So maybe you need an accountability buddy? Maybe what you need a speedy circuit that gets the job done in 10-30 mins?

Can I help you out here?

I have a free running guide that I designed with that specific purpose:

  • to give you a quick run-down on what mobility, strength, speed, and movement mean for runners AND what that looks like

  • Meaning, you get some quick but super impactful knowledge, followed up with some fast circuits you can immediately implement

And it's free.

And in the guide are some of the same exercises I give my running patients in the clinic and the same ones I use for myself.

(And It's yours for the taking! Snag a copy here!)

Fact #5. Take the time to fully heal lingering injuries.

This one is probably the hardest. And I know it.

No one wants to take time off from running.

No one wants to hear they need to take it easy.

I'm not even saying you need to take months and months off!

2 weeks might be enough! (Your body will let you know.)

Or…you might benefit from an off season or a maintenance season.

(Yes, these are different. Wondering how? Check out that blog here!)

But here's why I say this…

At the time that I'm writing this, I currently have a runner-patient who trained through and ran a 2:35 Boston with a negative split while dealing with plantar fasciitis.

She's one tough cookie.

And man, is she good.

She decreased her mileage, does her strength training religiously, and does some general mobility. She's rocking it, all things considered and her plantar fasciitis isn't all that bad.

So why bring this up?

Because right now, I have 2 weeks.

I have 2 weeks to try to get this chronic plantar fasciitis to calm down enough so she can start training for Boston, again.

2 weeks.

That's not a lot of time, but luckily her case is fairly mild but…

I want her to be able to give it her all again at Boston.

I want her to tackle those hills just as hard as she did this last time.

I don't want her to have to train through pain that doesn’t need to be there!

Because I can only imagine what she'll accomplish when that plantar fascia clears up.

And I'm cheering for her every step of the way.

So please, take care of yourself.

Give yourself the 2 or 4 weeks your body may need to finally heal those nagging injuries. Because…if you don't pay the price today, you may be paying the price on race day.

And that's not the time you want to be holding back.

So while you're dreaming and deciding your 2022 running and race goals, run them through this short list.
  • See where they stack up.

  • See if your own running routine stacks up!

  • Commit and make this year your best running year yet.

  • Because your options are limitless with the right foundation.

  • So start now.

And tell me below: what's your biggest take away from this blog?

What are you committing to changing or adding so you can chase your running dreams?

I can't wait to hear from you.

Run strong and as always…

Dare to Train Differently,

Marie Whitt, PT, DPT //

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