11 Maxims to improve your fitness

improve running 11 maxims Lisa de Speville

I love fortune cookies. It’s the frivolous words of wisdom and positive prophesies that I enjoy more than the cookie itself.

While preparing a special treat for a night-time, orienteering event that I organise, I went in search of pearls; those wise words that motivate and inspire and say it like it is.

These 11 are my favourites.

1. Ask yourself: ‘Can I give more?’. The answer is usually: Yes. I’m not much in favour of running ‘til I puke, but there’s something to be said for finishing a race having given it everything.

2. Relish bad training runs. Without them it’s difficult to appreciate the good ones. I dread those chest-heaving and legs-dragging runs. They make an appearance when I spend too many hours for days on end at my computer; when I’m not eating right and not hydrating sufficiently and when I’m not running at least four times a week. Eliminating the causal factors is an easy solution to making more sessions good. Right?

3. Believe that you can run farther or faster because you can. I have a rule for ultras. If it is up, walk. If it is flat or down, run. At the 2005 Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica I hit the 52 kilometre stage running – literally. As the route ran north to south along the beach, it was all flat. I had to run it all – according to my rules. And I did. The whole way. Bar maybe one kilometre of slight climb on a dirt road. In doing so, I reached a new personal best for distance in one chunk. In adventure racing I see this over and over again – racers achieving personal records for distance across the disciplines. Yes, you can. And this leads me on to the next gem…

4. Running won’t kill you, you’ll pass out first! Sports scientist Ross Tucker wrote a series of articles on fatigue on The Sports Scientists blog (sportsscientists.com) some years ago. According to Tucker, fatigue (or the slowing down of pace) results from the regulation of performance to balance all the body’s physiological systems, which happens BEFORE any physiological failure can occur. So in theory, I’d conclude that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

5. Every day is a good day when you run 30 minutes. That’s all you need. When you’re cranky, tired, irritable or down-in-the-dumps, a run tints the World rosy again.

6. Run often and run long, but never outrun your joy of running. Event after event, packing and unpacking, weekends that are anything but restful and recuperative and week days of squeezed-in training to prepare for these weekend activities… This cycle, although fun, can demolish that love for your sport, regardless of discipline. Back off to find and keep that joy.

7. To be the best runner you can be, start now. Don’t spend the rest of your life wondering. Substitute runner for biker, paddler, adventure racer, orienteer, paddler, mountaineer… You may not have tomorrow.

8. We are all runners, some just run faster than others. Regarding adventure racing I often hear, “I’m not fit enough”. I usually answer, “Some run Comrades in 5:30 and others in 10 hours. There’s fit and there’s fast. You don’t need to be fast to reach the finish.”

9. Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up. There are only two reasons for pulling out of a race. One: when you’re badly injured or severely ill. Just being ill is not a good enough reason. Remember that over a multi-day adventure race you can easily rest in the shade of a tree for a few hours or even overnight. It’s amazing what a few hours of rest, food and hydration can do to improve your situation. You will regret it later if you pull out, let your team down and then wake up in the morning feeling like a million bucks. Two: when you’re so far behind the field that the race director ends your race and gives you a lift to the finish. These are the only times. Everything else is an excuse, not a reason.

10. Everything you need is already inside. Forget fancy-pants, top-of-the-range gear and apparel. These don’t get you up hills or through tough kilometres. You do.

11. And finally, a lesson I have to re-learn all too often: “Any day that you are too busy to run is a day that you are too busy”. ‘Nuff said.

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About Lisa de Speville

Adventure racing author, athlete and founder of FEAT (Fascinating Expedition ad Adventure Talks) and ar.co.za, Lisa is keenly interested in anything related to outdoor adventure, especially orienteering and trail running.

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