Athlete Journal: Julie Warren, Entry 3 - What I Didn't Know
Julie is one of two athletes we will be featuring as they train for their Ironman events. Julie is just beginning her five months of training for Ironman Canada.
Schedule of Endurance Sports Athlete Journals:
Tuesdays - Julie Warren
Saturdays - Andrew Read
What I Didn’t Know
Hindsight really is 20/20. This has proven to be especially true in my world when it comes to endurance sports. I’m certain I’ve made nearly every mistake in the book. Some mistakes were no big deal, just a lesson learned for next time. Others, however, resulted in more serious consequences. I’m still no expert in the field, but I hope by sharing my well-intentioned mistakes with you, you can side step some of these issues. These are some of the tips I wish someone had given me back when I first started down this endurance path.
Slowly phase in any new equipment or nutrition:
There is no more certain way to ruin your long run than deciding to test out your new running shorts, fuel belt, or gels. Unfortunately, on the morning of my first marathon, I decided to test out all three of these at the same time. Hey, it’s the first time running 26.2 miles; why not make it the first time for a whole mess of things? Long story short, the new shorts caused some pretty awful chaffing, as did my new fancy fuel-belt. The one saving grace was that on race morning, it was so cold at the starting line my gels froze in their flask and I ended up relying on on-course nutrition that amazingly didn’t destroy my stomach.
So what would I go back and change? I would have tested these new products, both clothing and nutrition, during shorter runs, and then gradually worked them into longer runs. Ultimately, everything that showed up at the starting line would have been well-tested and ready for the race.
Get a running coach:
If you are going to do any amount of running, you will benefit significantly from working with a running coach. In the other endurance disciplines, such as cycling, rowing, and swimming, we tend to pay a lot of attention to proper form and technique. The same can be said for CrossFit and most other sports. It makes sense, because when you use proper form and technique, you are expending the minimal amount of energy required and are far less likely to injure yourself. It’s strange then, that the idea of improving running form is far less common than working on efficient freestyle swim stroke or proper deadlift form.
The fact of the matter is improper running technique causes injury. Had I understood and corrected my poor downhill running technique, I could have avoided my six-month bout with patellar tendonitis. If I had understood eighteen months ago that my poor calf and ankle mobility was causing improper footfall and increasing strain on the plantar fascia, I may not be dealing with the dreaded plantar fasciitis today.
A running coach doesn’t have to be a huge investment in time or finances. At a minimum, I’d suggest working with someone trained as a CrossFit Endurance instructor or trained in the Pose method for a few hours. They should take video of your form, assess it, put you through drills to correct any issues, and then take more video to see improvements. As someone who’s gone through plenty of running related injuries, I can assure you, this is an investment you cannot afford to pass up!
Don’t forget the strength and HIIT:
It’s amazing how many cookie-cutter endurance training plans call for lots of endurance work and little to no strength training. I can honestly say I did zero strength work to complement my endurance training until about a year and a half ago. It wasn’t until I started working with a trainer who incorporated strength and high intensity interval training (HIIT) that I realized what I’d been missing.
If you’re not familiar with HIIT training, it’s essentially a ten to twenty minute workout that involves alternating a high intensity exercise with a medium intensity exercise. Thanks to these strength and HIIT workouts, I didn’t have to run or cycle long distances every single day. In fact, I could go long just one time a week and still see improvements by incorporating a few strength and HIIT workouts during the week. As a result, I spent less overall time exercising, had more time for recovery, and saw improvements in my longer endurance workouts. Strength and conditioning is key!
Listen to your body:
It is important to remember you do not become stronger during a workout. You become stronger when you allow your body to rest and recover from the workouts you put it through. It’s a big cycle. If you are well-rested prior to a workout, you are more likely to have a high-quality workout. This allows you to push yourself harder and see improvements. Then, you allow your body to rest and repair itself. During this rest time, you’ve become stronger and during your next workout, you will potentially be able to go a little harder, a little farther, or a little faster.
When you do not allow for that proper rest time, you will see diminished returns. Sometimes, you just have an off day and that is fine. You can work on something less intense, like form and technique. If you start to notice you’re having several off days, it’s time to listen to your body and give it the rest it needs. Back in my younger and more foolish days, I felt like taking even one day off would set me back in my training. This is probably why I would get colds fairly often, saw minimal improvements in my overall fitness, and was tired most of time. Once I learned the true value of rest, I saw great increases in my performance and overall health. Listen to your body; it’s the one who really knows what it needs.
These are just a few of my personal experiences, but they made a significant enough impact on my life that I feel each endurance athlete needs to be made aware of them. In the end, only you know what will work best for your training schedule, personal life, etc.
Just remember to use caution with introducing anything “new” to your endurance training, consider having your running form assessed to prevent debilitating injuries, incorporate some strength and HIIT training to get stronger and faster, and in the end, always listen to your body!