Out of hibernation

If you’re like me, the last 10 months have essentially happened in a fog. Events floated by, time passed, and for most of it, I felt adrift with no anchor.


Now we enter the new year, and the tantalizing promise of “returning to normal” hangs in the air.


But when it comes to “normal” running, there are still questions. Will there be fall marathons? Will smaller races return at all?


When will you be able to pick a race, train for it, and race it — without having to worry about contingency plans and backup races?


Trying to answer these questions and taking the first, tentative steps towards a “normal” training and racing life feels like leaving hibernation. We’re hungry — and a little disoriented.


So what should you do to prepare?


No matter what it felt like, time didn't actually stop last spring -- you're not the same runner you were on March 13, 2020


Because no matter what it felt like, time didn’t actually stop last spring — you’re not the same runner you were on March 13, 2020. Maybe for the better. Maybe not.


It’s important to take smart, responsible steps as we start the new year.


The first should be taking an accurate, truthful stock of where you are as a runner right now (not where you were before) and what is reasonable in terms of training.


In addition to that, I recommend these three steps:


1) Make sure that you have enough training time before getting back to serious racing. Depending on your fitness, it may be late spring till you’re ready to really race again — or even the fall. Signing up for the first race you see may not provide the appropriate amount of time to prepare, so choose carefully.


2) Identify old habits you’ve let slide and start re-incorporating them. Things like muscle maintenance, strength work, and strides are likely to have fallen by the wayside in the malaise of endless training. If that’s the case, it’s important that you start them now — before you start to get into higher intensity training. And of course if those are things you’ve never done, this is a good time to start!


3) Think about what you really missed about not racing and look for races that will scratch that itch. Even as races start to happen regularly again, it won’t be a full race calendar. You may need to expand outside your old standbys to find races. And each race will have different approaches to starting back up. Identifying whether you missed the competitive opportunities, the pageantry, the travel, etc. will help make sure that you find races that really help you feel back to “normal.”


These steps are important before starting any serious training cycle, but I think they take on added importance in our current world.


Doing this work now will help make sure that you give yourself the best chance to turn “tantalizing possibility” into “joyful reality” as we work through the coming year.


About Coach Carl
Coach Carl is a USA Track & Field Level 2 endurance coach who works with runners of all ability levels to reach their goals. He has been featured in Runner’s World, Women’s Health, Men’s Fitness, and Competitor. For information on his coaching services, click here.