How “Running with Purpose” Helps You Stay on Track
Most avid runners have probably been asked the question “why do you run?” and have most likely answered something along the lines of “because it makes me feel good” or “I’m training for a race”. These are all very good reasons to run in general as part of your exercise routine, but having a purpose for each and every run you do is one of the most influencing ways to reap the rewards from the sport. The phrase “running with a purpose” means much more than most people think. It does not just mean to run for the purpose to reach a goal finish time or run for a charitable cause. Running with purpose simply means to work towards a specific outcome at each run.
Whether it be an easy run, speed session, or long run workout, everyone should stay focused on their purpose for each. While warming up before every workout, you should ask yourself what the purpose of the run is. If you have one, it should be something that is included in your run log as well. This is a topic that should also be spoken about with your coach so you can get the most out of your planned training sessions. Once you make it a habit to have a purpose for each run, you will find running much more fulfilling and goals more attainable than ever before.
Many refer to easy runs as “junk miles”. This term sounds a bit negative, which is not what your easy runs are about. Although you are not trying to hit specific paces on the easy days, it does not mean they are meaningless or have less value than your other scheduled workouts. Easy runs are an important part of training because they help flush out toxins in the body from the hard sessions and keep your blood circulating, which is incredibly useful for limiting soreness and stiffness. Since easy runs should be performed at a comfortable recovery pace, it should be the least stressful run where you do not have to be constantly checking your watch for your split times. This means you can focus on other factors that require attention and will make you a more efficient runner.
Easy runs are a good time to focus on the form including posture and cadence, among other mechanics. This is probably the most useful purpose to have during these recovery runs. You can dedicate each mile to a different focus, alternating between working on taking quick steps while keeping your feet under you, keeping an upright posture while incorporating a forward lean, relaxing the shoulders and keeping the arms close to the body, and driving the toes up and concentrating on foot strike. These are just some examples of purposes you can have for easy runs. Another great purpose for one of your recovery runs is controlling heart rate, which can be done by working on a more relaxed running form and proper breathing.
Speed and Tempo Sessions
Heading out for a speed workout means you are about to enter into an intimidation zone. Speed workouts call for hitting intervals at specific paces, which can get a bit scary for some. The paces that should be prescribed are ones that are actually challenging for you. After all, if your goal is to beat your current PR at a race, it requires you to train to reach faster paces. Your purpose for these sessions is not only to hit your paces as prescribed but to work on your mental game as well. Distance running, such as racing half and full marathons require a strong mind as running on tired legs late in the race can seem physically impossible. During speed workouts, it is helpful to practice envisioning the faster paces as “easy” paces. Work on proper form, relaxed shoulders, and controlled breathing during these paces, and you will find that they will not seem so hard after all come race day.
Tempo runs are a great time to focus on pacing, meaning running as close to your prescribed paces as possible. At the beginning stages of training, you can set the purpose of these tempo runs as trying to stay plus or minus three to five seconds from goal pace for a segment of the workout, versus the entire time, and then work up from there.
You will find that running with a purpose tends to be easier to do on the hard workout days since there are already specific goals for those runs, to begin with. Practicing finding purpose on every run, though, will truly excite your passion for running. This is important because many runners get burned out during long training cycles and have a hard time staying on track towards reaching their ultimate goals for races and health in general. Even if you are not a marathoner, and are just running for fun and to get in shape, finding a purpose for every workout you do is just as important and will help you stick to your exercise routine as well.