By: Katrina Allison, Speed River Track and Field Club.
Photo Credit: Michael P Hall.
My name is Katrina Allison, and I am a 10,000m runner with Speed River TFC. I was born in Vancouver where I was introduced to the sport through the Thunderbirds Track Club, and then attended the University of Guelph where I competed for four and a half years as a Gryphon. Recently I have taken on my next academic chapter, where I am studying to become a naturopathic doctor in Toronto. I am now running post-collegiately, and am still coached by Dave Scott-Tomas and the Speed River group in Guelph. I’m currently gearing up for an outdoor track season after suffering an injury that put me out for the 2016 season.
Most runners would agree that running is an activity best enjoyed alongside their closest training partner or community running group. However, many of us will find ourselves lacing up alone at some point or another. While having a training group provides structure, a social outlet, and a little friendly competition, running on your own can also have benefits. The key is approaching solo workouts with the right mindset.
- Stick to a schedule. If training on your own for an extended period of time, the flexibility of being able to fit workouts and runs into your own personal timetable is a definite plus, however it can also lead to a loss of accountability. If you procrastinate a run because there’s no group to notice your absence, it may lead to runs being skipped or pushed off. I recommend planning out your week’s workouts ahead of time. That way you can still navigate social events, work or school obligations, all while ticking off your training plan.
- Download an upbeat playlist. Or don’t! If the hardest part of a solo run is getting out the door, having some tracks on hand that energize you and make you want to move can definitely do the trick. That being said, don’t be afraid of running sans tunes. You’ll be amazed at how therapeutic a run can be when you allow your mind to wander without the bombardment of the latest beats. Before you know it, you’ll be back at your door with a clearer mind and a few km’s in your legs.
- Use GPS sparingly. Without the pressure of your training partner breathing down your neck, it may seem difficult to push yourself to the pace you know you’re capable of running. This is when a GPS watch can help give you an indicator if you’re way off pace, or right where you need to be. If you know what pace you normally run with a group, you can use that as a bench mark for solo workouts. But don’t berate yourself if you’re a second or two off pace; the mental toughness aspect of your workout is definitely higher than when you’re just coasting behind your workout buddy.
- Change it up. Workouts can get monotonous when you don’t have playful banter to make the miles blow by. It may be helpful to constantly keep your body and mind guessing by trying new things. If the thought of doing the same set of mile repeats around the same park at the same time every Tuesday makes you sick to your stomach, it’s definitely time for some creativity. Hit the track one week, followed by trails the next. Throw in some hills, try change of pace workouts, find a cross training modality, and add in some strength training. Your fitness and your sanity will thank you.
- Appreciate the chance to listen to your body. As much as running with others helps us to push ourselves, it can also cause us to push ourselves too hard. Training solo even one or two days a week can help you stay in tune with what you’re body is telling you, and give you the chance to comply with your body’s needs. You may even notice earlier indicators of overuse injuries that would have been drowned out by the latest recount of Game of Thrones with your pals. Go the pace that best facilitates your recovery and preparation for the next big race or workout, and check in with how your body is coping with your recent training.