What Goes Into Beating Your Personal Record?
“Your greatest competition is yourself!”
Truer words haven’t ever been spoken. Being a better version of yourself is probably one of the most satisfying achievements life has to offer. Be it solving the Rubik’s cube quicker than you did before, scoring more runs in a cricket match than you ever have or reaching your workplace on time for 10 days straight…records are anywhere and everywhere, waiting to be breached and broken.
Take a look at Eliud Kipchoge and his constant zeal to better himself at every marathon. Skim through his marathon completion times over the years and you will see a pattern. For almost every marathon he ran, Kipchoge never failed to impress, shaving off a few seconds off of his previous record until he attempted the sub 2 hour marathon. Kipchoge narrowly missed the achievement, clocking in at 2.00.25, which in itself is a feat of pure perseverance. But that didn’t stop him from going at it again, and achieving the near impossible.
In the very same way, our personal record, our personal best, our marathon completion time, rings in our heads and flashes right before our eyes. Whether you wish to admit it or not, everyone wants to beat their PR, not just once, but over and over again.
BUT, all good things come at a price. And beating your PR isn’t any different. Months, if not years of training, all boiling down to a few hours on race day. And it isn’t as easy as waking up one morning and just kick starting a training plan. It takes commitment and dedication as it involves major lifestyle changes that should come in slow and steady rather than all at once.
So how do you make sure you’re primed, ready and fit for the final showdown? Let us take you through it, step by step!
Don’t just set a goal, set a 5 P’s goal!
First things first, your goal or target should be very PRECISE. Mankind didn’t get to the moon simply by deciding they wanted to go into outer space. We chose the moon as our destination and directed efforts specifically towards that. The same for beating your personal best. If you have a half marathon PR of 1.50.00, set a target of 1.48.00 and stick to it rather than just vaguely saying you have to beat your PR. This also means you can measure your goal and fulfil the second P- PUT A NUMBER ON IT.
But while setting a goal, make sure that the goal or target isn’t too far beyond your reach. Make it a point to choose a goal that’s POSSIBLE. If you overshoot and fail, even a minor setback can push you back to not attempting to beat your PR at all. Try and bifurcate your ultimate goal into smaller, tinier one’s. Attempt training 3-4 times a week rather than deciding to train 6 days a week and not accomplishing it.
While you’re at it, make your goal PERSONALISED, rather than following someone else’s goal. Not everyone can train 6 days a week. Not everyone can wake up at 6 am and get into high gear. Maybe your goal doesn’t require that you train 6 days a week at 6 am.
Choose a plan that’s more “personalised” to help you achieve your “personalised” goal. The more relevant the goal is to you, the more of a chance you have to beat your PR.
Lastly, make sure your goals have goals. Give your goals a deadline and stay PUNCTUAL to that deadline. When you set a target, make sure you tell yourself that you need to achieve that target within a day, two days, months or even years. But it is quintessential to set a deadline, no matter how long it may seem to take.
YOU are what you EAT!
When you decide to beat your PR, it usually turns out to be a matter of a few seconds, which makes the tiniest details ever so crucial. A change in diet and the ability to adapt and stick to it, is one such tiny detail that goes on to make all the difference.
Training for a marathon is one thing, but training to beat your PR means pushing yourself a bit harder than you ever have before. Although the marathon may be about 42 kms in distance, you will undoubtedly run a lot more when you train for it.
The strained muscles undergo wear and tear, only for themselves to rebuild once more and get used to the increased demands.
Now this rebuilding can only happen if your diet has the necessary nutrients to initiate as well as maintain the rebuilding process. Carbohydrates, proteins, fats as well as micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals are just as vital.
The rule of thumb is that you burn approximately 60 calories for every kilometre you run. So you need approximately 300 calories over and above your daily intake if you run 5 kilometres a day. But there’s a bit more to it.
Eventually, as you keep training, there’s a good chance that you may not necessarily consume 60 calories per kilometre since your body is adapting to the demands of running and getting energy efficient. The idea is to look out for your hunger cues. If you feel hungry after adding distance to your training plan, think about adding a bit more in the form of whole foods rather than jumping to junk foods to appease your hunger.
Don’t forget to REST WELL!
Achieving a PR is something that will, of course, take a tremendous amount of effort. Blood, sweat, tears…everything invested in hours of training. But maximum effort should be followed by an ample amount of time dedicated to rest.
No muscle mass or endurance is ever built at the gym or during a workout. It all comes shining through once the body has had an adequate amount of rest.
But it isn’t just sleeping randomly that increases the effectiveness of a training session.
In fact, research shows that the hours slept before midnight have more of an effect on recovery than the hours slept after. Cooler temperatures aid the recovery process too.
Do your homework! Pick the right race!
“Know yourself and know the challenge.
A battle is won or lost even before it has begun.”
Not every marathon out there is the same, and I don’t just mean the distance from start to finish. The elevation, or the change in the height as you run through the course matters too! If there are a number of hills or inclines along the way, setting your PR here wouldn’t really be advisable. If you wish to put almost all your muscles to the test while also improving your cardiovascular endurance or your energy generation capacity, then a marathon with numerous inclines or elevations is apt. For instance, the Satara Hill Half Marathon has a cumulative elevation of 420m and is perfect for building endurance.
For setting a personal record, in a perfect world, choosing a marathon with the flattest elevation or preferably no elevation at all makes sense. We should look to take all the advantages we can, shouldn’t we?
Even the climate and location tend to play a vital role. For Kipchoge’s legendary sub 2 hour marathon, the location of the run was chosen to be Vienna, specifically because it was just an hour behind the time zone of his home country and the climate was cool and calm at the time of the run.
So the only advice we can give you here is to play the home advantage card and pick a marathon in your vicinity and one that is organised at a cool, composed time of the year in terms of weather.
MENTALITY BEATS ALL!
Mark Twain once famously quoted,
“It’s not about the size of the dog in the fight.
It’s all about the size of the fight in the dog.”
You may not be the toughest or the strongest runner out there. There’s a good chance you may not be a runner at all. You may lag a bit on being physically fit and raring to go. These are physical aspects. But almost always, having a positive mentality makes a massive difference. Telling yourself that you are ready to take on any challenge or circumstance as it presents itself, actually convinces the body to follow suit.
One strong way to power through is to remind yourself why you are doing this. Intrinsic motivation, or being motivated by yourself and your goals rather than by the thought of external rewards is a much better motivator. Reminding yourself of the joy you might feel after achieving a Personal Best should help push you to the finish line. Forgetting about the medal or the PR and just focusing on the moment and the joy/satisfaction of purely running is said to be beneficial to achieving the ultimate goal.
To sum up,
- Setting realistic and attainable goals,
- Putting a deadline on them and making them work,
- Making lifestyle changes in terms of diet and exercise,
- Resting well,
- Researching to find the right race and above all,
- Keeping up the right mentality.
Could turn out to be the perfect mantra for beating a Personal Record with a bit of ease, don’t you think?