HillRunner.com https://www.hillrunner.com The site for everyone who loves running. Thu, 23 Jan 2020 00:23:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.2 https://www.hillrunner.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/hr-icon-100x100.png HillRunner.com https://www.hillrunner.com 32 32 Winter running gear https://www.hillrunner.com/winter-running-gear/ https://www.hillrunner.com/winter-running-gear/#respond Thu, 23 Jan 2020 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=68071 Continue reading "Winter running gear"

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Probably because I share so openly the kinds of winter weather I’ve run in (pretty much anything you can think of) I’m often asked what people should wear in given conditions.

I always struggle with these questions. Not because I’m trying to hold back top secret information but because I truly don’t know. Different people need different gear in different conditions.

If I tell you that I go from shorts to lightweight pants in the high 30s and from lightweight pants to thermal pants in the low 20s, that doesn’t tell you what you need. It tells you what works for me, which may be very different than what works for you. I’ve lived nearly my whole life in Wisconsin, I’m well acclimated to the cold. If you’ve lived your entire life in Florida, you will almost surely need to wear more than me even if we’re running together.

You can see this in Wisconsin very plainly when the temperatures are in the 30s and 40s. Some people will pull out the pants at 50 degrees, others keep wearing shorts until the temperatures are well into the 30s. It’s quite possible that people at both ends of the spectrum are doing exactly the right thing, dressing as their bodies demand.

When dressing for any weather, don’t worry as much about what someone else is wearing. Figure out what you need for yourself. This may require some trial and error. It may get a little unpleasant when you occasionally overdress or underdress. However, you will pretty quickly learn from these errors and find what is just right for you.

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Weight management: eat healthy and move https://www.hillrunner.com/weight-management-eat-healthy-and-move/ https://www.hillrunner.com/weight-management-eat-healthy-and-move/#comments Thu, 16 Jan 2020 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=68049 Continue reading "Weight management: eat healthy and move"

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Some time ago, I was in a fitness center and overheard a conversation related to weight management. After hearing someone offer his advice, I wanted to go over and give him a high five.

Why?

Because he actually gave sound advice. Something that is very rare these days, especially in fitness centers.

What did he say? I’m paraphrasing but roughly this: “Eat real foods. Try to eat less. Move more. Find workouts you enjoy doing so you will stick to it.”

Conceptually, it’s very simple. Eat healthy foods, eat things that look as much as possible like they do in nature. If you’re trying to lose weight, eat fewer calories than you burn. Putting this into practice is when it gets very tough.

It doesn’t even matter what you eat as long as you are eating healthy foods. I was recently reading a study on diets. Low fat vs. low carb. Vegetarian vs. vegan vs. those including meat or other animal products. What the study found was that all diets initially worked about the same for weight management and health improvements. For long term success, the deciding factor wasn’t the type of diet but how much people liked it and stuck to it. In other words, it’s not about what kind of diet you followed. It was about whether you liked it enough that you could keep it going after it wasn’t the “new thing”.

As for working out, if you’re here, you probably like running. Great first step. What else do you like? What will get you moving every day? It doesn’t need to be intense every day but even a walk on your easier days so you keep moving is great.

Put this all together and you have a weight management plan that looks simple. Just like the person in the fitness center said.

Just remember, simple is not easy. Conceptually, this advice is very simple. In practice, it’s much harder to follow, especially in our modern society that makes it far too convenient to eat highly processed junk food and be extremely inactive. If you’re here, you’ve likely overcome the inactivity part to some extent. However, the nutrition part may honestly be even a bigger challenge.

Remember, the most important factor for managing your weight and, more importantly, your health is that what you do is sustainable. Both with the nutrition side and the exercise side, make sure you are doing things that are enjoyable and not too extreme. This way, you can sustain them for the long term, which gives you the greatest chance at success.

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What are you adding? What are you removing? https://www.hillrunner.com/what-are-you-adding-what-are-you-removing/ https://www.hillrunner.com/what-are-you-adding-what-are-you-removing/#respond Thu, 09 Jan 2020 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=68019 Continue reading "What are you adding? What are you removing?"

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Are you planning to try something new this year? If so, have you decided what you’re taking away?

It may seem strange to talk about removing something but, if you’ve already maxed out your training, how can you add something without taking something else away?

No, maybe you haven’t fully maxed out your training but you’ve probably maxed out what you can do within the current context of your life. If you haven’t, congratulations and you can stop reading now.

For the vast majority of us who are still reading, the math is simple. If you’ve already been training up to your full capacity and want to add something new, you either need to increase your capacity or take something away whenever you add something new.

If you’re a less experienced runner, you may still be increasing your capacity as you increase your fitness and you can, at least to some extent, add new components of training without removing others.

If you are making big additions, though, or if you’re more experienced and have less room to increase your training capacity, you need to think not just about what you’re adding but also what you’re removing.

So how do you decide what to remove? By doing the inverse of what you did to decide what to add. Hopefully you took some time for some deep thought on what your weaknesses were, researched how to address those weaknesses, then came up with a plan for what to add.

To decide what to remove, take some time for some deep thought on what you’re doing. What might be redundant? What might not be necessary based on your current strengths and weaknesses or your goals for this year? What just plain isn’t working?

These are the places where you find something to remove.

Remember, you can’t add new things indefinitely to your training without also sometimes removing things. There are only so many workouts you can do in a year. There is only so much time you can spend training. It’s just as important to think about what you are going to remove as it is to think about what you’re going to add.

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2019 at HillRunner.com https://www.hillrunner.com/2019-at-hillrunner-com/ https://www.hillrunner.com/2019-at-hillrunner-com/#respond Thu, 19 Dec 2019 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=67987 Continue reading "2019 at HillRunner.com"

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Team HillRunner.com
Team HillRunner.com – 2019 Al’s Run

It has become tradition for me in late December to write a recap of what has been going on at HillRunner.com over the past year.

While I don’t have a lot to write about this year, I’d like to keep the tradition going so here it is.

To be honest, it’s been a challenging year to get much done at HillRunner.com. There were simply too many other things going on. I have a few things in development but haven’t been able to commit the time necessary to complete them. Hopefully, with these things in the pipeline, this means 2020 will be a more eventful year.

What I can say is that I’ve been making some efforts behind the scenes to ensure HillRunner.com continues to perform well and look good for you. I made some formatting changes in the first half of the year to make the site more readable, especially in the forums. In the second half of the year, I did some database cleanup and made a few other changes in order to improve performance. I can say that performance tracking over the past month has shown a respectable improvement in average performance, especially when compared to a year ago. I hope these improvements have made the site better for you.

Probably the biggest change of the year behind the scenes has been a big step up in my efforts to combat spammers and stop them before you ever see them. I found a new tool that aggressively combats spammers and I’ve seen a change in traffic since implementing it. There have been a few false positives and I apologize for those. However, I do think that as a whole this new tool and my implementation of it has improved the overall experience at HillRunner.com while reducing the efforts I have to put forth.

About the only other thing I have to say about this year is that there have been some blog posts I’m very proud of and very happy I could share with you. Here are a few that I would consider highlights of the year.

How to do an easy run: Sometimes questions that need to be asked don’t get asked. I decided to answer one of those questions here.

The best recovery method: There’s a whole industry revolving around recovery but the best thing you can do is simply get enough sleep.

Happy 20th birthday to the HillRunner.com community! I completely forgot as I was writing this post but we celebrated 20 years this spring! Thank you all so much for making this happen.

There are no magic paces (or black holes): An important reminder that all paces are beneficial if you know how to use them.

What are you running for? Always remember your why. It will help you in many ways.

“See God” workouts and why I (mostly) don’t like them: I’m generally not a fan of these workouts. Here’s why.

Three lessons from my difficult summer: I did not have a good summer but I hope you can learn something from my mistakes.

Offline, Team HillRunner.com got together for our usual Al’s Run team event. As always, it was one of the highlights of the year for me personally. I’m always amazed by the great people who are willing to represent this site with their efforts. This year, the crew represented very well, bringing home not just our share of individual medals but some team hardware:

Thank you all for the support in 2019 and here’s to a wonderful 2020!

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SMART goals for the runner https://www.hillrunner.com/smart-goals-runner/ https://www.hillrunner.com/smart-goals-runner/#respond Thu, 12 Dec 2019 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=938 Continue reading "SMART goals for the runner"

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It’s the time of the year where we’re planning out our racing seasons for next year and setting our goals. How do you go about setting a good goal, though? You want a goal that will challenge you without feeling overwhelming.

In other fields, you may have heard of SMART goals. I think the SMART goal concept works very well for runners. But how does it apply to runners?

There are five aspects to a SMART goal. A smart goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results focused, and Time bound. Some of these aspects have a very clear application to runners, others don’t. Here’s how I recommend you think of these aspects:

Specific

For the runner, what does a specific goal look like? Well, it’s not “I want to run a fast 5K”. That’s a very vague goal. What’s fast?

A specific goal needs to be more clear. “I want to run a 5K PR” or “I want to break 20 minutes in the 5K” is a much more specific goal. You know without question what you’re trying to do.

A specific goal doesn’t need to be a time goal, though. Maybe you’ve finished just outside of the age group awards several times at a race you do every year. Your goal can be to win an age group prize. Or you can go for the win in a race where you’ve come close but not quite made it. Just realize that these goals can be tricky because they aren’t all within your control.

So let’s say your goal is “I want to break 20 minutes in the 5K”.

Measurable

What does it mean for a goal to be measurable? Well, it means you have a way to measure whether you’ve made it or not.

As a runner, this is likely accomplished by making it specific. In our example, you have a specific time at a specific distance. You can measure whether you’ve run a 5K in 19:59 or faster.

Attainable

This is a tricky one. We want to set a goal that is challenging but it should also be attainable.

If you ran 25:30 in 2016 and improved to 20:01 in 2017, how challenging does breaking 20:00 really look? You should probably be looking for a harder goal.

If, on the other hand, you ran 25:30 in 2016 and improved to 25:25 in 2017, how attainable is sub-20? Unless you can clearly see a path to huge improvements, something a little less ambitious might be a good idea.

Results focused

What is a results focused goal? It’s essentially outcome based, not process based.

This means you’re not setting a goal for your training. That’s the process. You should set plans for training but your training is the means to the end. Your goal should revolve around that end, the race result or other result you’re striving for.

Time bound

This is probably the easiest part for many runners. When specifically do you want to accomplish your goal? Unlike some pursuits, we as runners have a clear deadline in most cases: race day.

If you’re not targeting a specific race, just make sure you set some deadline for this goal. Don’t say “I want to break 20 minutes in the 5K some day”. Say “I want to break 20 minutes in the 5K in 2018”.

Why does this matter? If you don’t set a deadline, it can be too easy to put it off. “So I didn’t get under 20 minutes this year. I’ll get there next year or the year after or…”

Eventually, it just doesn’t happen.

It’s good to have long term goals but it’s important to have incremental short term goals with clear deadlines that will lead you toward those longer term goals. Your long term goal may be to break 18 minutes in the 5K but your 2018 goal is to get under 20 minutes, an important step on the way to going under 18 minutes.

It’s OK if you don’t get all of your goals. Things happen. But make sure you’re not leaving open ended time frames on your goals. Do that and things can slip too easily.

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Ask me anything https://www.hillrunner.com/ask-me-anything-2019-12/ https://www.hillrunner.com/ask-me-anything-2019-12/#comments Thu, 05 Dec 2019 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=67961 Continue reading "Ask me anything"

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It’s that time again! Your opportunity to ask me anything you would like. As I’ve mentioned before, this is always one of my favorite things to do.

Almost nothing is off limits. Feel free to ask me about training, racing, my thoughts on the news in and around the sport, what’s going on at HillRunner.com. This is my invitation to you to ask whatever you would like.

As usual, you can reach out to me however you feel most comfortable. If you want to ask something publicly, you can do so in the comments, on Facebook, you can tweet at HillRunner.com or my personal account. If you want to ask in a more private setting, you can use the contact form or, if you are friends with me on Facebook or know my email, you can reach me through those methods.

As I’ve done in the past, I’d like to ask you something in return. I hope to get some feedback on this as I always want to build the HillRunner.com that you want. This is one of my chances to get the feedback on what I should be working on based on what you would like to see.

What I would like to see is more activity on the forums. A long time ago, this was a great place for the community to gather and there were some great conversations there. I know the internet landscape has changed with blog comments, social media, and so much more for communities to participate in.

However, it seems like the HillRunner.com community has to some extent gone silent. What would it take for me to get you to open up? What can I do to get that community going again? Honestly, I look to the forums but I’d be open to it happening on the Facebook page or anywhere else. I just miss the friendly community feel we had at the forums and want to do all I can to encourage that to rebuild itself.

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Is extreme exercise bad for your heart? https://www.hillrunner.com/is-extreme-exercise-bad-for-your-heart/ https://www.hillrunner.com/is-extreme-exercise-bad-for-your-heart/#respond Thu, 28 Nov 2019 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=67947 Continue reading "Is extreme exercise bad for your heart?"

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The eternal debate is back, if it ever went away. Is too much running bad for your heart? I’ve faced a number of people who have tried telling me it is so. Chances are you also have.

But is it true? The “evidence” given to support this idea is usually anecdotal or flat out false. How many times have you been told about Jim Fixx? While his death was tragic, when you look at the big picture with him specifically or with runners overall, things look much different.

Well, now we have more evidence that even extreme exercise doesn’t appear to be a health risk. It appears going beyond a certain extent of exercise doesn’t help your health but it also doesn’t harm your health. So, if you enjoy doing more, don’t worry about it.

Read on for more of what I’ve been reading about recently…

Ketones have been getting a lot of attention lately. Is it hype or real? Well, this study suggests that, at least for the 10K, it might be hype. Note: One study is suggestive but not conclusive and not helping for the 10K doesn’t mean it won’t help for other distances. But it is an interesting data point and hopefully more studies, including ones at other distances, will be coming.

Ketones aren’t the only heavily hyped fueling method being brought up. What about the high tech sports drink Eliud Kipchoge was using in his sub-2 hour run? Well, it turns out there has been a study done on this. Again, initial research doesn’t paint a very positive picture. This isn’t the end of the story. One study isn’t conclusive. However, maybe it’s a reason to be a little more hesitant when hearing amazing claims being made.

This fall, the debate surrounding Nike’s high tech shoes heated up in a big way. I tend to have some complicated views on them that makes it hard to write about them. In short, I can see the validity in a lot of different, sometimes conflicting, viewpoints. Here’s an interesting discussion on the shoes. Here’s another interesting discussion. I kind of like the solution given there. Limit the height of the midsoles of race day shoes, then let shoe companies do whatever they want within that height.

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Thank you https://www.hillrunner.com/thank-you-2019/ https://www.hillrunner.com/thank-you-2019/#respond Thu, 21 Nov 2019 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=67905 Continue reading "Thank you"

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Enjoy your turkey trots next week!

I know Thanksgiving is still a week away but I’ll be posting the usual monthly recap on Thanksgiving this year. Besides, if I thank you this week while you’re not off enjoying time with the family, you’re more likely to see it.

I’ve done this several times before but I do it because I mean it. The community at HillRunner.com is so special and means so much to me. I just wanted to thank you for the opportunity to share my experiences and the knowledge of the many great teachers I’ve learned from with you.

It means a lot that you put your trust in me and I strive to earn it every day.

Once again, thank you for being such a wonderful community. It means the world to me and I’ll continue to do all I can to earn your trust and keep this a place where this kind of community can thrive.

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Winter running https://www.hillrunner.com/winter-running/ https://www.hillrunner.com/winter-running/#respond Thu, 14 Nov 2019 16:00:00 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/2016/11/17/winter-running/ Continue reading "Winter running"

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You CAN run through the winter!

Winter is here! At least in this part of Wisconsin, it seemed to arrive on Halloween this year and hasn’t let up since!

That means it’s time, if not a little late, for your annual reminder: winter running can be safe and, dare I say, even enjoyable with a few precautions.

Frozen lungs?

First, let’s put to rest one of the most popular but most inaccurate myths about running in the winter, the idea that you can freeze your lungs. This is a completely false myth.

The fact is that you can’t freeze your lungs in any climate found in any populated parts of this planet. By the time the air you breathe in reaches your throat, just passing through your mouth warms it up to near your body temperature. By the time it passes through your windpipe and into your lungs, it is up to your body temperature.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t some side effects to breathing in this cold air but it is important to stress that there is no evidence that the side effects are long term dangers.

Handling the cold, dry air

The main side effect is that the cold air is very dry. As your body warms it, your body also has to humidify it. This can lead to a dry, raw throat and at times a dry cough after running.

Some people claim that running in cold weather makes their lungs cold. The best explanation I can come up with is that the air they are breathing in is still dry when it gets to their lungs and their lung tissue may be drying out as it humidifies the air. This is not a long term problem, though, as your body tissues will recover with no long term damage once they are not being subjected to the dry air.

So what can we do about this dry air issue? The best advice I can offer is to look into a balaclava or ski mask. Cover your mouth and possibly nose and more of the warmth and humidity will be held in. This can be a significant help if you experience a sore throat or dry cough after your cold weather runs.

Cold air and exercise induced asthma

Another popular myth about breathing in the cold air is that this will give you exercise induced asthma (EIA). While there is minimal evidence that this won’t happen, there is no evidence that this will happen. The question simply hasn’t been given much attention by researchers.

The most likely explanation is that breathing in the cold air increases the symptoms of mild cases of EIA enough to make themselves known, while running in warmer temperatures might not be enough for the symptoms to be noticeable or a bother.

The best solution I’m aware of would be the same as for the dry air issue. Cover your mouth with a balaclava or ski mask.

Dressing for the cold

The next big question is always how to dress. This has gotten much easier in the past decade or so with all the great tech fabrics available to us now. Wicking, thermal fabrics may not be cheap but, if you run in tough weather, they are worth every cent.

Of course, if you don’t have the budget, you can work with the methods we used in the 1990s. One good wicking layer against the skin to get your sweat away from your body, then layers of whatever material you have available.

There is one rule that applies no matter what you’re wearing: layer. Instead of one bulky layer, go for two or more lighter layers. This will greatly help in the case that the temperature warms up as you’re out running or you go from running into the wind to running with the wind (more on that later). You can just take off a layer or two and aren’t left either over dressed or under dressed.

Running in the dark

Make yourself visible

With the winter weather come short days and long nights. That means running in the dark.

For running in the dark, the rule is pretty simple. If you are around traffic, make sure drivers can see you.

There are a lot of wonderful products on the market that are bright, reflective, have lights in them, and probably have other ways to make you visible. Take a look around at your local or online running store and you will find plenty of gear designed to make you very visible on dark mornings and evenings.

Depending on where you live, you may want to take other safety precautions. Ideally, having a running partner would be perfect but it’s not realistic for everyone. Other precautions involve running on well lit routes, carrying personal safety products such as pepper spray, and running in areas where there are other people or that are well patrolled by police. Of course, your needs and options would depend on where you live.

Make sure you can see

Depending on the ambient light available, you may also find that you need a source of light to see with. There are a lot of head lamps available these days. I picked up a cheap one a few years ago and, for approximately $10, it gives me all the light I need to see the road in front of me and, as a bonus, makes me much more visible to drivers.

Snow and ice

For many of us, winter weather means snow and ice. Running on snow and ice. That’s a recipe for disaster, right? Well, there are precautions that can be taken to minimize or possibly even eliminate the risk of these potential dangers.

When running on snow and ice, there are two factors to consider: equipment and strategy.

Equipment

For running on snow, the best solution I have found is to run with a shoe that has good tread. Trail shoes are great. The lugs are big enough to dig into the snow and give you traction and there is enough space between the lugs to allow the snow to fall out between steps. Road flats can be very poor on snow.

For running on ice, you want something that will cut into the ice to get traction. There are a lot of devices that are designed for this. Check out an outdoor sporting goods store and you’ll see various products that slip over your shoes and have metal spikes or coils to cut into the ice. You can also give the screw shoe a try.

Strategy

As for running on questionable surfaces, that’s something that is best figured out with experience. The best advice is to be too cautious at first. After you gain some experience, you will learn how to run on slippery surfaces and what is slippery and what isn’t.

If I could offer a few quick tips, here they are:

  1. Take it very easy on corners if you aren’t positive they are clear.
  2. Every route has its trouble spots. Get to know those spots and be extra careful at those places.
  3. Sometimes it’s better to have a planned slide than an unplanned one. In other words, the best way to get past some slick spots is to actually purposely slide across them so you don’t unexpectedly lose footing and go for a tumble.

Wind

During the summer months, a nice breeze can feel great. During the winter months, even a gentle breeze could be dangerous if you’re not prepared for it.

The first rule of the wind is simple. Always start by running into the wind and return with the wind.

Sometimes I modify this to start for a short period with the wind, then turn into the wind after 5-10 minutes.

The idea is simple. You don’t want to warm up, work up a sweat, then turn into the wind and have that sweat freeze on you. Also, if you get in trouble, it’s better to walk back to shelter with the wind at your back than with the wind in your face.

If you absolutely can’t start into the wind, try to change direction frequently so you don’t spend too much time all at once running into the wind after working up a sweat.

Be safe!

Finally, there will always be some times when it’s just not safe to run outside. Running in the middle of a blizzard, unless you have a very controlled area where you can be certain a car won’t slide into you, is a bad idea. No traction device helps on a half inch of glare ice and, even if you have good traction, dodging sliding cars isn’t my idea of fun.

Don’t be afraid to take the occasional day off or use indoor options (the treadmill of course being the most convenient for most of us). It’s not the end of the world and it’s far better than getting hit by an out of control car.

So get out there and run this winter! I’ve been running through the Wisconsin winter for over 20 years now and have survived to tell my story. If you just take a few precautions and give it a try, you might decide you like winter running as much as I do.

Note: This is my annual winter running post, updated and resurfaced every November. If you have read it before, I hope the updates and reminders have been helpful.

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Did it work? Does it matter? https://www.hillrunner.com/did-it-work-does-it-matter/ https://www.hillrunner.com/did-it-work-does-it-matter/#respond Thu, 07 Nov 2019 16:00:28 +0000 https://www.hillrunner.com/?p=64970 Continue reading "Did it work? Does it matter?"

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It’s the most simple question that can be asked to assess the usefulness of a training concept: did it work?

However, is that always the right question to ask? What if it appears that it did work but for the wrong reasons? What if it appears to not have worked but some other variable was the problem?

There is so much going on in our training at any one time. Not to mention all that is going on in our lives that might affect our running.

While we should absolutely always be reviewing the things we did and trying to decide whether they worked or not, it can be difficult to know if any one single thing worked or not, just because the final result did or did not work.

We need to dig a little deeper. We also need to look at the bigger picture. Maybe something was a good idea but just didn’t combine with other variables of our training in a good way. Maybe something that was a bad idea didn’t cause major issues that derailed your running but didn’t help you as much as another method would have.

I know this makes it very hard to figure out how to look back over a season. If we can’t count on looking at the results to decide how something worked, what do we do?

We look at the big picture. Don’t dismiss something that seems on all levels to be a good idea simply because you had a bad season. Consider whether it was a good idea that just didn’t mesh with something else you were doing or something completely different resulted in the problems.

On the flip side, even the best season doesn’t mean there is no room for improvement. Not everything went as perfectly as possible, did it?

While it makes analysis of your season more difficult, it’s more true to life if you hold a critical eye to snap judgements. Yes, you do need to think about how things worked so you know what to keep and what to change going forward. However, don’t always fall for the first snap judgement. Dig a little deeper and really think about why things worked or didn’t. Maybe the thing that didn’t work is a good idea that shouldn’t be discounted too quickly and maybe the thing that did work isn’t the best way forward.

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