Five Trail-Running Resolutions

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Clichés are like pairs of underwear. Most people use them without ever stopping to ask why. New Year’s resolutions are often much the same.

We’ve all heard those jokes about “resolution runners” who take up treadmill running at the gym, at least for the first few weeks of the year. But resolutions have a purpose. They are an opportunity to re-think our approach toward everyday life, not just for the next 12 months but for the long haul.

Trail running is a year-round lifestyle, so to get the most out of our training, we need to focus on resolutions that can apply to every run.

Here are five important resolutions for a runner who thinks long-term.

1. I will endure the Trial of Miles.

To find your potential as a trail runner, you have to put in lots of miles.

If you’ve read this column over the last year, you’ve heard me bandy about terms like lactate threshold, VO2 max and biomechanical efficiency. While that stuff matters, it is mostly playing at the margins. The majority of your development comes from being a lunch-pail runner—punching the clock day after day, putting in as much work as you possibly can.

John Parker, author of the self-published novel Once A Runner, captures the essence of running training perfectly:

“What was the secret, they wanted to know; in a thousand different ways they wanted to know The Secret. And not one of them was prepared, truly prepared to believe that it had not so much to do with chemicals and zippy mental tricks as with that most unprofound and sometimes heart-rending process of removing, molecule by molecule, the very tough rubber that comprised the bottoms of his training shoes. The Trial of Miles; Miles of Trials.”

Be smart, but run lots. The Secret doesn’t care about marginal gains.

2. I will do strides two times a week.

While overall mileage is most important, you still need to develop the ability to go fast. Strides make fast feel easy, allowing your everyday pace to get faster too.

At least twice a week, add fast 20 to 30 second accelerations into your normal, easy runs, focusing on going as fast as you can while staying totally relaxed and using typical long-distance form. At first you will feel like an awkward baby deer, with much flailing and little forward progress. But over time, Bambi will grow into a smooth, powerful deer mama ready to fly through the woods.

3. I will foam roll every day and stop running when an injury is coming on.

Most things that involve the word “roll” are awesome: cinnamon rolls, rock and roll, Rick Rolling. Foam rolling is no different.

Most of us can’t live in a pro-athlete training facility with a full-time masseuse on call. Instead, commit to foam rolling five to 10 minutes every day. Spend time on your calves, shins, quads (inside and out), hips and low back. Do it every day for the rest of your life. You know how you’d never go a whole day without remembering to eat food? Foam rolling should be no different.

However, even with lots of easy running and the most roll-tastic precautions, you can’t prevent every injury. The key is to not turn minor niggles into major issues by trying to run through them. If it hurts, take a day off. If it still hurts, take more time off.

A few days off is nothing. A few weeks off is not great. A few months off is the worst. Take control of your health and rest for a few days when needed to prevent major issues.

4. I will always fuel adequately.

Strong lasts, frail breaks.

If you are training hard, eat enough every day. Even one day of an energy deficit can increase injury risk and diminish performance. If you need to lose weight for health, don’t try to train hard at the same time.

And remember, there is no such thing as an ideal runner’s body type. Does your body run? Then you have a runner’s body type.

5. I will smile every mile.

2017 is an opportunity to take control of how you perceive the daily grind. Let’s face it: diligent, year-round running training can be a slog at times. For every moment of transcendence on a beautiful trail, there are 10 moments of nearly pooping yourself behind an unlit tree at 5:30 a.m.

But it’s the spectrum of experiences that makes running so empowering. Embrace the full spectrum and smile through the low moments. If you smile, you’ll remember why you are doing this in the first place.

These aren’t just resolutions for 2017. They are resolutions for the rest of your life. We run for the long haul; not just for the good times, but for the bad times, too. Our resolutions should do the same.

David Roche is a two-time USATF trail national champion, the 2014 U.S. Sub-Ultra Trail Runner of the Year and a member of Team Clif Bar. He works with runners of all abilities through his coaching service, Some Work, All Play. Follow David’s daily training on Strava here, and follow him on Twitter here.

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