Running naked generally means that you run without a watch, allowing yourself to adapt to the ebb and flow of a workout without the stress of meeting time goals. For me it has come to mean more than that as I come to learn more about how my body trains.
I am a “Type-A” personality, yet I have learned that I need outlets from that to allow myself to let go. Running was once that outlet for me. I would run as far as I felt I could and then walk whatever I couldn’t, that was as complicated as it got. Then, after a few successful races, I suddenly had speed goals, and target times in workouts. A heart rate monitor came soon after, and I was obsessed with numbers.
Recently I came to the realization that running wasn’t as much fun anymore. When I wanted to have fun I found myself turning to my bike. What did my bike have that running didn’t? The answer is numbers! I wasn’t trying to hit certain times or paces, I just went out to ride and enjoyed whatever came my way. For me with running the thrill was gone.
My injury changed all that, and now every time I get to run I appreciate it for what it is: a chance to enjoy running for running’s sake. I have had training goals scaled back, yet still am able to run fast times while still having fun. I believe that there is an opportunity to learn here that I will embrace as I start building back up to training.
The first lesson is to leave the watch at home. As they say “looking at them doesn’t change them” and that is especially true of a running workout. Knowing exactly how long it took to run a certain distance doesn’t tell you as much as what the effort level was for that workout. Time goals of “run for an hour” can be accomplished by choosing a course that is the approximate distance that could be run in that timeframe.
Lesson 2: ditch the GPS/heart rate monitor. If you are struggling to keep up a certain pace, knowing that you are falling off your target doesn’t help you at all. Instead of worrying about falling off the pace you could be rewarding yourself for maintaining a hard effort even when it’s difficult. Circumstances don’t always allow for the fastest paces and you shouldn’t have to punish yourself for running through these situations. That’s not to say that you should just run easy all the time, some workouts require a lot of focus to maintain a hard effort, but you don’t need a heart rate monitor to know what that effort is.
The third lesson is not to worry about how conditions will affect your workout. If you need to do speedwork you shouldn’t have to find a track. Hills or rolling terrain can only serve to increase the effectiveness of a workout and simulate race conditions. How many of us really do any track racing, so why would we seek to train on one? If your route is hilly run your intervals up the hills and recover on the way down. If your route is flat, run to landmarks, or even run to exertion. I have a good idea of how my body feels at the end of a good mile repeat, and I can run to that point before I start my recovery.
There are so many things in life that I can be guilty of overthinking, running shouldn’t be one of them. Interrupting the flow of a workout because we aren’t hitting time goals is frustrating and ineffective. I believe if I am training properly each workout should serve to improve my being in tune with my body, and ultimately prepare me exactly for the race effort that is ahead. Above all, every single day should be fun!