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Practice What You Plan By Dan Van Veen

Practice What You Plan For years, I’ve heard (and believe in) the advice that visualizing races can help you run a better race. It may not work for everyone, but I find that if I’m going through a race in my mind, it helps me run the “real” race more efficiently and typically faster. Of course, knowing the race course (whether you’ve run the in race before or it’s a local race and you’ve driven or trained on the course before) is key . . . though I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s already an app out that syncs with Google Maps and connects with higher end treadmills that could provide a close approximation of the race (though not many treadmills can do significant declines . . ., but I digress : ). ANYWAY, the whole idea is imagining every step of the race, from the start, how you’re going to feel, your stride, how you’re going to navigate corners, use aid stations, conquer the hills (if there are any), etc. And of course, who doesn’t see themselves coming to the finish line, running strong, running smooth, running fast and raising your hands in personal victory – just like you see those professional athletes on TV! And THAT’S what I’m going to talk about! Visualizing is a GREAT technique, but if I’m not practicing what I’m planning to do/visualizing myself doing, there’s a bit of a disconnect. For example, if I visualize myself working up a race course’s steep quarter-mile-long hill, smooth and easy, I sure had better be adding some steep hills into my training (even if they’re not a quarter-mile long). Or if I planning to “push” every other mile or just a certain mile (let’s say mile 4 in a 10K), in my training, I need to be practicing what I’m going to ask my body to do. Asking your body to do something it’s not used to doing is a great way to achieve . . . failure. However, my favorite visualization fail, as I alluded to earlier, takes place as runners see the finish line. Somehow we think that even though we have never asked our bodies to pick up the pace at the end of a training run, we’ll magically be able to not only judge WHEN to start that “sprint” to the finish line in a race (and beat that guy next to us), but we’ll actually be able to sprint. I’ve watched the finish lines of hundreds of races and you can pick out those who have trained to finish, those who have trained to finish fast, and those who have trained to just finish BUT are attempting to finish fast . . . you know the ones – their arms are pumping, they’re straining every fiber in their body, head down, frequently making grunts/gasps of pain, and their form is somewhere between an intoxicated Hulk and a chicken dancer . . . : ) Although it CAN make for some interesting entertainment as the odds are the “chicken dancer” is going to suffer once (if) he/she crosses the finish line (collapse, puke, garner some EMT attention, etc.) it would be so much easier if once a week, as a training run is nearly done, simply to pick up the pace. It doesn’t have to be a full-out sprint, just increase your tempo, focus on getting your knees up and your turnover faster – get your body used to “seeing the finish” and digging deep to finish strong. In that way, as you visualize finishing a race strong, when it comes time, your mind and your body are ready to pull that trigger! So, yes, include visualization in your running preparation, just make sure that you’re “fair” to your body and practice what you plan! Have an awesome run today!

Dan Van Veen Got a question for Dan? Email and ask away!


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