Shaking Things Up in Your Training Routine… Without Breaking It

by | Mar 1, 2024 | Cross-Training, Training

I’m an incredibly routine person. If you’ve been reading this blog or listening to the podcast for a while now, you probably know that. I have a strict yoga/core morning routine, we eat the exact same breakfast most days, my workday and training are pretty routinized regardless of where we are… Basically, despite the traveling we do, I’m a creature of habit. This is great for training and getting in my miles and sticking to my training plan most of the time, but it can come back to bite me when it comes to race day. And that’s where this post and the idea of shaking up your training routine comes in. Because I train mid-morning and solo most days—I’m very stuck in my training routine—this means that I’m not as prepared as I could be come race day.

This is because most of my races at this point are ultras, which means I’m not starting my run mid-morning, nor am I finishing before lunch when I race. Instead, I start early, often in the dark, and finish late, occasionally in the dark. You know what I’m not great at? Running in the dark. Because I rarely do it. I don’t run with people very often, partially due to scheduling, but also because I love my solo runs. You know what can be challenging in a race? Running with other people.

So, part of my Leadville 100 training needs to be shaking things up. We started small here in North Carolina, where we’ve been working and training for the last couple of weeks. It was a lucky break that forced me to start thinking towards this change: We serendipitously ran into an acquaintance while hiking the first weekend we were here, and he told us about a casual trail running group that gets together on Wednesdays for a chill five mile run followed by beers at a local brewery. Sold!

Wednesdays have always had ‘optional easy double’ on my plan, but I rarely made time for that. With an invite like that, though, how could I refuse? So, we’ve showed up a few times now, and honestly, it’s been a blast. We’re running with new people, chatting, getting in some miles after lunch and at dusk and on tired legs. There’s fantastic beer afterwards. It’s a win-win… and it’s inspired me to get more serious about the whole ‘break from routine to improve your racing’ thing. It’s not always a pleasant concept: Who wants to trade midmorning runs for before dawn shuffles in the dark when they don’t have to? But I know for racing, that’s going to be a huge advantage for me. For example:

Running in the Dark

If I can improve my running in the dark by even a few percentage points. I don’t do badly at it now, thanks to good eyesight (thanks, genetics!) but I definitely don’t excel. Looking at my splits in my last 100 miler, I know that when it was dark early and when it got dark later, I wasn’t nearly as fast. Granted, that race was more technical than Leadville, so darkness was more of an issue, but getting comfortable with night running is going to be key.

Running on a Full Stomach

I can run well when I ate breakfast three hours before my run. But what about after breakfast, a run, lunch, and a snack? How does my gut hold up? It’s great gut training to run later in the day.

Doing a Double with Cross-Training

Adding in later afternoon cross-training (like MTB on Sunday afternoons) has been a great addition. It’s not as high impact, it’s a fun break from my norm, and it gets me back out on tired legs—which will be the case at Leadville. I’ve also taken to spacing out my run and my strength on Tuesdays and Thursdays so that I get two training stimuli in the day rather than doing it all at once. It makes me more effective in my strength session since I’m not tired from running, and I think it’s good for my blood sugar stabilization to hit two workouts vs. one.

It’s Easier to Train with Friends

The ‘easy double’ is tailor-made for runs and rides with friends, since there’s no speed or distance goal. You just have to be very careful who you’re doing this with, though, since some friends will turn your chill easy short run into a sufferfest if you’re not careful!


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