Over the past few weeks, I have noticed a significant improvement in my running speed at longer distances. While I haven't done any specific speed work in my training this season, I often find myself finishing a run workout saying "wow, I can't believe I just did that." I am not chasing pace, heart rate or miles but instead, I am defining a successful run workout by execution at this point in my season development.
Seeing there are many ways to guide and improve performance, identifying limiters and addressing weaknesses, I find that chasing metrics brings me great stress as gadgets have a way to rule a workout. Additionally, when a gadget/metric controls a workout, it's easy to chase numbers and to assume that fitness is not "good" when numbers are lower/slower than anticipated.
A workout is simply that. A workout. It doesn't define a season and it doesn't mean that you are destined to have a bad race if you don't hit your expected paces/speeds. I find that many athletes are so heavily focused on numbers that they simply measure workouts by the outcome. A good workout is when you hit your numbers and a bad workout is when you don't hit your numbers.
Similar to the relationship that some athletes have with their bathroom scale, a gadget has the opportunity to run or ruin your day.
There is so much to take care of when you are training, like your nutrition, form and mental strength and that can't be tracked on a monitor on your wrist. I have had complete trust in my training and I knew it was only a matter of time before I would see the hard work of consistent training paying off.
On Thursday morning, a day after I performed a very tough 2.5 hour brick (2 hour bike on the trainer and a 35 minute run on the treadmill with specific intervals for both sports), I had a mid-week long run that kinda scared me. Although my legs were a little tired from the Wed workout, I didn't make assumptions as to how the workout would go but instead, I focused on what I could control - effort, form, nutrition/hydration - and let my body do what it needed to do to execute during my workout.
WU: 20 minute EZ run
2 x 30 minutes w/ 2.5 min between
30 minutes as: 5 min EZ, 15 min moderate, 10 min strong
~8 min cool down
Like with any workout, I am not trying to chase a pace. I always try to do the best that I can, knowing that some days I am going to be tired, some days I will have low motivation, some days my head will not be in the right place and some days I am going to feel amazingly strong.
For the metric obsessed athlete, remember that your race day performance is the result of consistent training. Use your gadgets wisely and understand that performance improvements happen slowly and you don't "see" improvements on a daily basis. Sometimes you have to go through the bad/slow workouts to experience a breakthrough.
Some workouts won't be strong or fast, some workouts will be skipped or modified but hopefully, you will feel like throughout a season, you are making progress as you prepare for the day that allows you to put forth your absolute best effort.
So long as you don't lose focus and enjoyment in your personal journey, you WILL improve and you one day you WILL meet your performance goals on race day.