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Want to Crush Fall Races? Summer is Where the Magic Happens.

4 min read

By Momentous — 09.08.2021

Good endurance athletes are masters of delayed gratification. They toil away unglamorously for months and years on end, often times without a single witness, driven by the faint possibility that someday their body of work will amount to something special. What looks like an overnight sensation to spectators is often just the opposite: the culmination of decades of devotion.

One season that consistently demands that long-game approach is summer. There’s a lull in racing opportunities as runners take their between-seasons downtime, start mounting up for fall marathons and cross-country seasons, and press pause on competitions to lay a solid, uninterrupted foundation. As important as the summer months are for the months ahead, though, many runners consider them to be the most challenging. Between the heat, humidity, early mornings, and summer vacations, it’s easy to get bogged down by the grind and lose sight of the ultimate end goal.

A smashing fall season depends on a thoughtful approach to summer training. Here are some ways to make the most of these scorching months:

Find an accountability partner (or group).

The value of a running buddy (or whole group of them) cannot be overstated. Not only is it easier to push yourself when you’re challenged by other people, it’s also easier to wake up and show up for those early summer workouts when you know someone is counting on you to be there. If you don’t have one already, try to find at least one compatible running partner to meet up with. Alternatively, if your schedule allows and the vibe feels right, join a local running group. If all else fails, you can always recruit a friend, partner, or parent to keep you company on a bike, a scooter, or rollerblades.

Broadcast your goals.

One way to prevent you from losing touch with your future goals is to ensure they don’t get too far out of sight or mind. Borrow a practice from elite athletes and stick Post-It notes in highly trafficked areas of your house (like a bathroom mirror or fridge door), change your phone background to a time or finishing place you’re aiming for in the upcoming season, or set a daily reminder on your phone or computer that never lets you go more than 24 hours without thinking about what exactly you’re pursuing. A combination of both short- and long-term goals will help you stay on course with your training, add purpose to your miles, and possibly even increase running distance, as a 2014 study showed (when goals were combined with performance feedback).

Dial in your nutrition.

Off-season is the perfect time to dial in your nutrition strategy for the competition season ahead. Since the stakes of your day-to-day running are lower than they soon will be, you have some flexibility to experiment with the composition of your diet and the timing of your meals and snacks. Adding a high-quality recovery drink with both protein and carbohydrates to the mix, if you don’t already have one in there, will help you bounce back from training quicker and come back stronger, while also delivering important amino acids and electrolytes. And as sound as your diet might seem, it’s worth considering a multi-vitamin like the Essential Multi that will help you round it all out with key vitamins and minerals, as well as a variety of health-boosting phytonutrients that may not make regular appearances on your plate.

Tally up the gains.

When the mercury is rising, every run feels harder than it should, and you find yourself wondering why you’re subjecting yourself to such misery by choice, it’s easy to spiral into a place of negativity and self-pity. By reframing your training as an exercise in strength—both physical and mental—and focusing on all that you’re gaining by staying committed to the process amidst difficult conditions, you’ll reap even more benefits from a solid summer of training. A training log is not only a great place to keep track of your miles, but also to record each day’s thoughts and “wins,” such as finishing a workout you were tempted to bail on, running your quickest summertime long run, or meeting a specific nutrition or hydration objective. Even on the toughest of days, there’s always something to be gained.

Elevate your sleep.

If you’re training hard but skimping on sleep, you’re selling yourself short; there’s no way around it. A 2020 study of runners demonstrated that partial sleep deprivation (defined in that study by 4 hours of sleep) resulted in performances that were not only worse than those after a full 8-hour night, but that also felt harder. To avoid that pitfall, do your best to adhere to a consistent sleep and wake cycle; limit your screen time near bedtime; avoid caffeine in the second half of the day; find a way to relax before you hit the sack; and, if you need a little boost, look into the recently reformulated Elite Sleep supplement, designed specifically to help athletes fall asleep quicker and sleep sounder through the night.

Train hard but sustainably.

There’s a time and place for all-out efforts, total dedication, and a bit of tunnel vision when it comes to key races. But when you want to be at your best in the fall, winter, or spring, summer is not that time. A sustainable approach is a must when success in your sport requires year-round consistency and a delicate balance between training hard while staying healthy. Even professional runners relax a bit in the off-season, laying a good foundation but waiting to approach peak fitness until championship season nears. So as your summer training ramps up, continue putting in a good effort, but try not to take yourself or your training too seriously. The more enjoyment you derive from the pursuit, the longer you’ll stick with it and the closer you’ll get to your ultimate potential.

Takeaways

Whether you’re looking ahead to the cross-country season, a major fall marathon, or a series of local road races, summertime is where champions are made. For many runners, these are often the hottest, most grueling, and least rewarding months to train in. But the work you do this time of year lays the foundation and sets the tone for strong performances in seasons to come. Set yourself up for a successful rest of this summer by remembering your purpose and trusting that the work you put in now will bear fruit later.

Resources:

1 -  Stephanie R. Wack et al, “Using Goal Setting and Feedback to Increase Weekly Running Distance,” Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 2014, available online at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/jaba.108

2 -  Wajdi Souissi et al, “Partial Sleep Deprivation Affects Endurance Performance and Psychophysiological Responses During 12-Minute Self-Paced Running Exercises,” Physiology & Behavior, 2020, available online at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031938420304790

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