During the current COVID-19 pandemic, it seems like more runners than ever are attempting FKTs (Fastest Known Times), Strava Segments or Challenges. One might even say it’s been the summer of “FKTs,” as we’ve seen many prominent FKT records challenged or broken including the Colorado’s Nolan’s 14, the Colorado Trail, Adirondack (New York) 46 High Peaks Speed Record, Max King’s FKT week as a response to Shark Week, and more.
I too will probably pursue FKTs or Strava Segment records in the coming months — they are awesome challenges — and with few races in the near future, they offer an alternative way to push yourself and compete against others in the virtual landscape that is our reality. However, in this article, I will explain why your training shouldn’t just revolve around these records or challenges. FKT and Strava Segment record attempts may offer great ways to challenge yourself, but they can hinder effective training and make us too focused on records when we could simply be enjoying the trails. Listed below are my top four tips on how you can avoid the dangers of FKT or Strava record and challenge chasing.
[PRO TIP] Run naked! Most days I don’t use a watch or track my runs with GPS. I find it’s too easy to get caught up thinking about my pace or comparing my times on particular routes. I avoid these stresses by just going on runs without thinking about times or how I stack up against myself or others. Just enjoy the run!
Don’t Let Records Be Your Only Motivation for Running
Running applications such as Strava or Garmin Connect, used by thousands of watch wearing trail runners across the world to track personal running data, give us a sense of motivation or accountability to run. Although it’s great to use these applications for this purpose, it’s important to remember that the data and records shouldn’t be your only motivation for running. Even if you aren’t running at the paces you’d like to see on your watch, or if someone has just stolen your Strava “Crown,” this shouldn’t take away from the real reasons you call yourself a trail runner. Think back to your favorite trails and why you love trail running. There’s so much more to running than times and records!
Train Wisely for Long Term Development
Most distance running coaches will attest to the importance of periodized training for long-term development and performance breakthroughs. Periodized training involves specific periods of training, such as “Base Building, Speed Introduction/Hills, and Racing,” which allows runners to maximize their performance and push to new fitness peaks at the end of each training cycle. Chasing Strava records and FKTs too often causes runners to plateau in performance and not reap the benefits of a diverse training plan that takes runners through phases of speed, mileage building, hill development, etc. You will become a faster runner if you limit your record chasing and racing and focus on quality training.
Incorporate Easy Days in Training
Chasing records is great for pushing your body, but not every run should be about pushing limits. It may be a surprise to many readers, but most professional runners spend the majority of their time running at relatively “easy” paces. Even for the best marathoners in the world, such as Eliud Kipchoge, this is the case. Kipchoge will routinely run at 6:30 per mile pace, when his marathon pace is 4:35. Running “easy” allows you to recover from harder efforts and build new strength.
Running to break records is inherently more stressful than simply going out for a run and enjoying the fresh air. Both the physical and mental stresses of chasing records can lead runners to burnout or feel an overwhelming pressure to beat certain times every time they go running. Make the majority of your runs just about having fun. Discover new trails. Return often to favorite trails that make you happy. Be grateful for the opportunity to run and embrace that joy!
Tayte Pollmann’s articles are supported by American Trail Running Association corporate member Nike Trail Running. You can follow Tayte’s adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you liked this article, read even more of Tayte’s articles on our website.