Running without a running coach is possible and probably the most habitual thing among amateur runners.
Despite the existence of “running teams” and qualified trainers, most amateur runners use to train without a running coach.
Self-taught runners use pre-existing training plans (plans downloaded from the web are most commonly used) or draw up their own.
Differently from a professional runner who, apart from having a trainer, has a team (physiotherapists, nutritionists, etc.) who advice, accompany and help him, an amateur runner tends to get by himself.
Considering that, here are the five golden rules to run without a running coach and not die trying.
1.- BECOME A RUNNING STUDENT
If you want to be your own personal trainer, it is important to be prepared for that. You need to become a tenacious sports, physiology, anatomy and nutrition student.
If you do not have the necessary knowledge to know how your body works, you may face the following risks:
2) Impossibility to improve performance.
Furthermore, it is important to have a critical and analytical sense because sciences evolve and change and certain concepts that used to be indisputable may be uncertain now.
A clear example is the wrong belief that lactic acid is prejudicial for runners and that it can cause stiffness. Professionals who study sports physiology have rejected this theory.
Moreover, it is important to be open-minded and receptive to new training ideas and concepts.
If you want to be your own running coach, study!
2.- RUN WITH YOUR HEAD, NOT WITH YOUR HEART
This is much easier to say than to do, but if you want to train yourself successfully, it is important to make intelligent and sensitive decisions about training and nutrition.
Regrettably, it may be hard for a runner to deal with objectivity/subjectivity since the difference between what you want and what you really can do tends to be quite meaningful.
A runner always wants to run, run faster and run more miles. Unfortunately, this is not always advisable, and for those who train themselves, it may be difficult to make that decision.
Resting or cancelling participation in a race are hard decisions to make for any runner and, especially, for those who train themselves.
The most effective technique in this circumstance is to ask oneself “What would I advise another person to do in this situation?” If your piece of advice comes into conflict with your beliefs, then you are thinking with your heart, not with your head.
3.- LEARN TO PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BODY
When you run, your tissue suffers damage. The harder you run (amount or intensity), the higher the damage.
As a result, your body will start to repair and recover the damaged tissue and, if everything is right, that tissue will end up being repaired and strengthened.
That is exactly what you intend when you train, since that is how a runner becomes faster, stronger and more resistant.
Human body is incredibly effective when showing you the signs and indications that something is starting to work wrongly and that you need to rest.
It is totally normal to feel tired or in pain after certain trainings, but if these symptoms persist during several days, it is time to pay attention to what your body is telling you.
The main problem is that most runners do not pay attention to these signals since they believe that they will “get used to that pain” or that “it is nothing”.
Many believe that they are “deadbeat” or “weak” if they quit during training or they think that they will lose their physical condition if they do not train during a week.
A good way to control how you feel is by using a training diary and using a “traffic light” system in which you will add a green mark in those days in which you feel excellent during training, a yellow mark when you feel good and a red one when you feel weak, tired or in pain.
If you see many consecutive red or yellow marks, you may probably need a rest.
4.- LEARN TO BE FLEXIBLE
A training plan is always a guide and must never be untouchable and/or fixed.
Injuries, pain, social or labor arrangements and new races are some of the reasons that can make you miss some training or modify your plans.
The best part of training yourself is that you can be more flexible than if you have a fixed training plan made by another person or if you are training as part of a big group.
Take advantage of that benefit and design your plan taking into account your lifestyle, your goals and other arrangements.
Do not be too structured or obsessed with complying with your training plan (once again, something that is easier to say than to do).
Many runners get to unsuspected limits and make serious and risky mistakes: They run like there is no tomorrow, they train even when they are injured and just because they do not want to miss their plan.
These runners are afraid that if they reduce the amount of planned weekly miles or if they miss training, this could affect their performance during the race.
The truth is that performance is the result of the daily, consistent work and not only of just one training.
5.-DO NOT FORGET THE IMPORTANCE OF CONSISTENCY
For a runner who wants to improve, it is difficult to resist the temptation to believe that “more is better” or that “faster means more effectiveness”.
Effort must be made intelligently, allowing your body to assimilate training.
For that reason, it is important that, if you run without a running coach, you remember that twelve weeks of consistent, solid and uninterrupted training, will be much better than two weeks of hard work followed by ten weeks of injury.
The way to guarantee constancy and the best performance without suffering from any injury is to train intelligently, not hard.
Days of hard training shall be accompanied by days to rest (active or passive) and slow training that allows you to add kilometers without increasing tension to your body.
Everything you do, not just training and nutrition, should be decided intelligently considering your goals and possibilities.
Be smart and stay healthy
flickr photo by Peter Mooney http://flickr.com/photos/peterm7/16834960867 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license