All runners have a training program. Some runners are highly disciplined and never miss a day on their schedule. Others are so erratic they have a hard time calling it a training program, more of a “run whenever time allows”. Both these styles have potential pitfalls related to over training. The disciplined runner can over train due to lack of proper rest and packing in more training than the body can withstand. The run whenever you can type may overdo it when they have the time, enjoying it so much on the day they forget that their body is untrained for the distance they are running on the day, and so pay for it afterwards.
I’m not suggesting changing your running program or non program, rather applying a few thought processes, and internal body checks, to planning the run you are doing today. Such as:
1) 1) How are you feeling today? Have you had sufficient sleep? Did you run hard yesterday? If you are feeling well rested and strong run according to your fitness level and your program. Feeling well and strong is not an indicator to suddenly run double the distance or double the intensity of your current fitness level. If you are feeling tired, plan a shorter route and a slower pace. You may warm up to a faster pace and feel energized by the run which is great, but don’t push hard. Bear in mind the previous days run or the lack of sleep or whatever it was that made you plan a slow run in the first place.
2) 2) How many quality sessions are you planning in a week? Your training should include one tempo run, one hill repeat or sprint session if you have a good base behind you, and one long slow run. The duration and distance for each will depend on the race you are training for and your current fitness level. If you are not racing it will depend solely on your current fitness level. Overdoing any one of these inevitably leads to fatigue or injury.
3) 3) When do you want your fitness to peak? Is it a race or a holiday? Either way your training needs to be graded up to the event. If the event is a few months away schedule in 4 weekly rest weeks where your training is less strenuous. You can decrease the distance, speed or frequency of training in that week or do different things like cycling or swimming. These rest weeks help your body to cope with the demands of training and help to keep your mind fresh and full of enthusiasm. The week before your rest week can be slightly more demanding than usual as you know you will be resting out your tendons and joints in the week to come.
4) 4) How do you care for your joints and muscles outside of running? All joints need compression and release for nutrition. If they are constantly compressed it is difficult for the cartilage to get nutrients from the joint fluid. If they are never compressed joints fluid is not moved into the cartilage at all. Not only do joints need compression and release they need it across all the cartilage, not just in one position. This means that all your joints will benefit from full range of motion mobility exercises. You can either simply go systematically through your body and move each joint in every way possible, or, if you prefer not to think about it, do pilates, yoga etc. This is a valuable adjunct to training and helps you to know your body, and so hopefully know early if you need to rest or adjust your training.