EDITORS NOTE: Meet Ellen Crombie, a 15 year old from the UK who loves running, blogging, and occasionally likes to do a bit of yoga. She will be posting some blogs in the coming weeks about her races, homework, and life.
This is my first article for Youth Runner, so I guess I'd better introduce myself: I'm Ellen, a fifteen year old runner, blogger and occasional yogi from England. The end goal is (hopefully) the Olympics but, obviously, I’m not old enough, or even nearly fast enough to be thinking about that now. But I still do. Just like every runner probably does now and again.
My blog is little outlet from the true me, where I write about anything and everything running related. If I run a race, I will always log a report, and I’ve done a particularly hard session, it will probably make it on to the website. But it’s not all just about me! Every so often I will write about common problems that I’m sure most people experience at one point, although please note that no post is ever clear from a few moans- especially if the weather is wet or cold (which, being in Britain, it always is!)
I know that because I write a blog I probably sound a little obsessed with running: okay so yes, I do endure the foam roller every so often. And yes, I always stand on one leg whilst brushing my teeth (it supposedly improves balance). But I’m also a lot like every other girl at school, trying to juggle my homework, friendships and boyfriends…okay so maybe not the ‘boyfriends’ but the concept is there! I just like to run too.
Balance. It's something that's really hard to get right. With school and all the running, not to mention trying to keep up some sort of social presence, everything can get a little overwhelming from time to time. Unlike the somewhat 'lazy' soccer players who can just turn up to the odd session and suddenly reappear as Lionel Messi, for us runners, you have to run. And you have to do it often.
Training is tough. There's no putting it nicely. Even the highly talented runners have to put in the effort to see the results- although admittedly, most of them could probably still post incredibly quick times having done very little training, which is amazing… if not a tiny bit disheartening. Still, aside from the running gods, most of us have to pound the pavements (track, or field, which ever you prefer) to improve. But then comes the problem: how much, how far, how fast? On what surface and what at time of the day? Run on heavy legs or take a rest day? And don’t forget about that new method of cross training, or the crucial core workout and the ‘discovery’ of a new superfood that you MUST eat to improve your stamina.
Running: a simple sport.
Personally, I find it hard to know when to stop... And only recently have I begun to realise that more isn't always better. Sure, my weekly mileage is probably pretty low compared to yours- I don't have an exact figure but it's about 20 miles in the winter, and much less in the summer (over four training sessions per week). And I do go to bed reasonably early at about 9.00pm, but there are times when I just have so much on that it gets a little overwhelming. For example, on Tuesday I take the bus home from school, get straight in the car to the track, train for over an hour then return home and before I've even had dinner, it's almost half eight at night. Most running in England is organised through a club rather than schools so there’s always somewhere to travel to. That would be fine, but then there's the hour of homework to compete with...and those stretches that you're meant to do everyday... and the blog Instagam account to update- not to mention my personal one. I hope I'm not the only one who struggles with this.
I'm the sort of person who likes to be busy, so on most days, I don't mind the rush. Although when I'm tired, it's a completely different story. However there are other ways to think about it, and various techniques you can use to make your day a little less hectic, whilst improving your running too.
Firstly, more miles don't mean more success and I know every one says it ALL the time, but think quality, not quantity. Unless you’re going to run a marathon, it’s not all about plodding and plodding but more about a mix of workouts including speed, intervals, tempo and hills. Obviously, I’m not a coach but after reading into this, all the books have been saying the same thing: you’re not going to be able to race fast if you’ve only been training slow. If you ever feel like you ‘have’ to go for a run just to make up that weekly mileage, it’s probably time to take a step back. Ask yourself: what aspect of my running will this run improve?
For me, and most probably for you guys too, a coach plans my sessions, so I don’t have to worry about whether I’m doing my running training right. The biggest problem comes outside of training, when I hear of people who swear that cross training is a ‘must’, and of others who do X amount of press ups per day (and just to make it worse, X is always a highly unachievable number). I find myself being dragged into all of this, thinking that I can only really be a good runner if I find the time to complete all those strengthening exercises everyday without fail.
Yes, strengthening is beneficial but it becomes counter productive when you’re too tired to execute the moves properly. Those maniacs who do hundreds of sit-ups don’t normally train for running too. It’s the same when you read about a particular exercise, for example the plank, being the key to good form- but by excessively practicing it, I doubt that you will suddenly develop the perfect stature. What I’m basically trying to say is don’t feel like you have to do everything that you possibly can in terms of exercise- doing half an hour of muscle work 3 times a week mixed in with the odd yoga session will be just as good, and will save you shedloads of stress.
Coming to an end, balancing rest and running routines is tough. But so is balancing running with the school and social calendar. I’m not much for house parties. And then I also like to go to bed early, since training on little or no sleep is ten times harder. So when I get invited to campouts and sleepovers, I struggle with choosing what to do. I don’t want to be the girl that everyone gives up on inviting because she can never make it, but I also don’t want to go to all these social events and be worried the whole time about the effect it will have on me the next day.
And then on top of that is all the school work, which is just another hurdle to clear. If you don’t want to go to a campout, I would suggest alternatives like just meeting your closest friends for lunch later in the week, but if you don’t have time to do your homework, then that’s a problem. I would never skip training to do homework- the running is more important to me. Instead, I just have to make sure I’m really disciplined whenever I have any free time. More often that not you will find me working during bus rides, car journeys and at the train station. I know it’s not ideal, but I’ve got to get it done at some point!
All in all, at the end of the day, if you’re a runner, you’re always going to be way busier than the rest of your friends- but that’s just something you have to cope with. If it was easy, everyone would do it. Just remember to do the amount that’s right for you, and don’t get drawn into the ways of those fitness maniacs…and it’s probably best to stay away from nocturnal party-obsessed friends too. But who am I to talk- I wrote part of this during a chemistry lesson. I guess it’s just lucky I don’t want to be a chemist when I’m older.