Taylor Swanson is an ultra-runner, certified Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) coach, Rowdy Rouser and a race director at Desert Sky Adventures. It’s safe to say she Taylor L-O-V-E-S the outdoors and endurance sports. Taylor has kindly agreed to share her thoughts on creating and maintaining a running fitness routine that really works.
Assess Your Current Fitness Routine
“Assessing your fitness routine is a continuous process.” Taylor suggests starting by asking yourself specific questions. Am I seeing desired results from your current routine? Is my core strong? Am I doing enough cardio and strength training? “One thing I find with runners is that their glutes and core are weaker than they should be. Runners believe running will strengthen their glutes, but they need to incorporate strength training to get the desired outcome.” Write down what you want to change about your current routine and what you believe your weaknesses are.
Choose a GoalAn unskippable step in building up your fitness is to choose a specific goal--the more specific the better. For runners, Taylor suggests, “pick a race, write down the date, and get training.” You can start small with a 5k or aiming to run 3 days per week, or you can aim really big and sign up for an ultra-marathon. In Taylor’s eyes, “There is no goal too big.”
Treat Workouts Like an Appointment
Once you’ve chosen a goal, schedule your workouts so you know exactly what you’ve sign up for. This is the surefire way to reach your goals. “We all have our everyday planner and our phone calendar, but I highly recommend getting a planner specifically for your workouts. I love to pre-fill in my planner from my start date to my goal. Then each week I can see what my intentions are. It only takes a few minutes a day to write down what you did. I like to include; my planned workout vs my actual workout, weather, time of day, duration of workout (miles and time), what I ate before and after, my mental state, reps (if working out) or elevation gained (if running). I believe the more detailed the entries, the more information you can collect about yourself. However, make sure you customize to your liking.”
Find Ways To Stay Accountable
Buddy up! Taylor prefers to reach her goals with a friend, or in her case, her sister-in-law. “It’s easy to wake up before the sunrise and decide to go back to bed. It’s hard to go back to bed if you know someone is out there waiting for you! I love to plan ahead with my sister-in-law, who is also an ultra-runner. We both know there is no getting out of it once we have a planned meet-up time and spot!” If you don’t have any friends working toward the same goal as you, Taylor highly recommend a trainer. “Trainers keep you on track and help you grow your fitness level. I have a trainer weekly for strength training. I really appreciate that she watches my form and each week we can discuss where I am at with my goals.”
Choose Exercises You EnjoyOne of the most valuable benefits of exercise is stress relief, so make sure you choose a type of exercise you actually enjoy. Even if you’re a diehard runner, choose a cross-training workout that lights you up. “Try out everything! Running, biking, swimming, weights, group workouts. The point of exercising is to have a happier and healthier life, and you want to find an exercise that works for you. At Desert Sky Adventures, our whole goal is to get people walking and running for health and adventure. We are focused on walking and running, but we make each event a party. Music, great aid stations, and amazing swag. Find your fun!” If you’re new to consistent exercise, though, any workout can seem like a drag. Taylor encourages us to safely chip away at difficult workouts like running until you, well, hate it less. “Most people ‘hate’ running if they don’t go about it the right way. Starting too fast, getting injured and having a bad experience can turn you away from any type of exercise. Go slow to go fast and you will find that you enjoy whatever activity you choose a lot more a lot sooner.”
Schedule Rest Days Too!
Don’t skip your rest days. Both rest days and active recovery days balance your hard training days. “Your body needs time to repair your muscles and make you stronger. Rest days don’t mean you have to sit on the couch all day and watch Netflix. Rest days can mean sleeping in, following by foam rolling, stretching and walking your dog. An active recovery day is a different than a rest day. On active recovery days, you can remain active but use less intensity than your normal workouts. Some great examples for runners would be light cross-training; hiking, swimming, and cycling in a less intense zone. This helps work different muscle groups and get the blood flowing and promote recovery. How do you know which day to choose? Listen to what your body needs!”
Your Body Knows Best
The great thing about including more assessment in your fitness routine is that it teaches you to listen to your body. “Your body can tell you what it needs if you take the time to listen. During training, there is a difference between being uncomfortable and being in pain. If your gut is telling you something is wrong, listen to it. There are times when pushing yourself is a good idea, but you do not want to push yourself into injury.”