The Competitive Athlete
By Lindsay Dakota, Naked Sports Innovations Co-founder
Runner: @Josu_Urresta Photograph by: @emezetaklik
Last week I introduced this short series on the challenges facing me as a runner. Mine are no different than anyone out there…whether new to running or a seasoned week in week out competitive athlete. This week I’ll address the athlete who seeks to take their running to a competitive level or is already implementing racing in their daily running life.
It’s natural that once we get to a certain level of experience we’ll look to a local race or incorporate a destination race into a holiday to satisfy our competitive juices. This is where it can get tricky. How do we maintain the naïve joy of pure running once we start to compete?
Will we lose our initial inspiration that got us into running? Probably not but after a full season of races your focus is going to shift. The reasons for running will change. How do we stay inspired? How do we maintain discipline?
Staying inspired as a runner can be no easy task. Everyone who runs, whether it be competitively or recreationally, has days where they feel like they just don’t have it in them. So then, what can you do to stay inspired? Well, the answer to that question looks slightly different for everyone, but I can offer some tips that might help.
This is why you started to run in the first place. When challenged by the demands of running our company, injury, outside commitments or even the weather, I always look inwards and take stock of why I like to run. What inspired me to want to start to run in the first place and ultimately seek a competitive running lifestyle.
Inspiration is different for everyone but for me it was the ability to push myself beyond my limits that got me excited. I was chasing the rush that came from pushing myself to perform. Now, obviously, going out and treating every run like it’s a race isn’t a sustainable training strategy. So, I had to find other strategies that would fuel my running on the days when I needed to drop things back and not pound the pavement as hard.
Mixing up my terrain was a great way to do this. Choosing routes that kept my mind from being bored helped keep me inspired. Technical trails for push days and road runs to build speed or any combination of both would help me in my training program.
Switching up my training and doing other forms of exercise was also useful in keeping me inspired and not bored. I would throw plyometric workouts in the mix to break up all the running and give my muscles a different form of exercise. Plyometrics help with lots of things, such as building strength, speed, and explosiveness.
Maintaining discipline can be a bigger challenge. If you are uber competitive the training program won’t be so hard to maintain. If you are new to running or competing, it takes more discipline.
Sticking to a training plan is important. Run with friends or join a likeminded running group who will quickly become your friends and training partners. There are also so many great coaches and nutritionists available to help you formulate a safe and scalable plan. It’s important to make sure that one sets realistic goals as well. One of my favorite things to remember was that little victories count too. Though it may sound counter intuitive, I’ve always found this to be particularly valuable in maintaining discipline. If your goals aren’t realistic, then you’re not likely going to find the reward in your training that is necessary to keep you inspired and motivated. If you’re constantly tired and drained because you never take rest periods, are constantly training too hard, or have just flat out set the bar too high for yourself, then it’s going to ultimately kill your motivation to stay disciplined. Rest. Often overlooked but just as important in competition and recovery. I always found that the rest period was just what I needed to put the pep back in my step.
If you can build this all-around approach to your competitive running while maintaining realistic goals, you will stay inspired, motivated, and disciplined.
Even in a competitive atmosphere, fun is still a huge factor in keeping you going for the long run.
To help you get a running start into the new year, we're offering 20% off when you use the code RUN20 at checkout.