ASK A COACH
MARCH 21ST, 2018
SMART SPENDING FOR RUNNERS
Coach Herbert Plummer has guided both sprinters and distance runners in their training. He runs competitively for the Central Park Track Club and trains year-round for road races, indoor and outdoor track, and cross-country. He is also a USA Track and Field Level 1 certified coach.
Conversely, what happens if you only spend $0.90 on that cup of coffee? That easy run becomes a jog. That tempo run felt more comfortable than hard. Now you’ve saved an extra $.10 that you can spend another time, and these dimes add up, too. The point is, you don’t want to spend any more money than necessary, and the time to splurge is on race day. The race is when you break out that $50 bill and slap it down on the counter. It’s what you save up for. It’s the thing you can buy now because you’ve set aside all that loose change in a jar.
So save your money. Let your wealth slowly accumulate over time. Don’t spend it just because it’s in your wallet. What really matters when it comes to money is what you do with it. So wait until there’s something really worth buying, then go for it. Trust me, it’s worth it.
The most important factors to consider about spending your money is when you spend it and how much you spend. If you want longevity in the sport of running, and if you want to realize your full potential, you’ve got to constantly get the most bang for your buck out of every run. That means spending the least amount of money to get the maximum return. Don’t look at your running like a penny stock: going bullish with a big investment to nab a quick profit. You might have some success, but it’s risky. The risk here is injury, burnout, and frustration. Instead, look at your running like an index fund or a 401k: put a little in every month and get steady returns over time. Your fitness improves month by month, year by year. Sure, there might be some dips along the way, but the overall trajectory is upward. Like Warren Buffett famously quipped, “it’s not about timing the market, it’s about time in the market.”
What would going bullish on a penny stock look like in training? It’s going too hard on easy days. It’s pushing a tempo run past your threshold. It’s “going to the well” on an interval session. It’s lifting weights after a workout even though your body is shot. In short, it means spending too much money, or energy. Take an easy recovery day when your body asks for it. An easy recovery day should cost about $1: a cup of coffee from a street vendor. Go too hard and you end up spending $2 or $3. You’ve doubled or tripled the appropriate cost for that day. This may not seem like much, but it adds up over time, and before you know it you’re dangerously low on cash. I’ve seen too many runners go a bit too hard on every run (especially workouts) on a regular basis and consequently harm their own training. A tempo run might cost $5, and a fast-finish long run might cost $10. The intensity and duration of each run determines the cost. It’s your job to know the price point, and to always try and get a bargain.
Imagine your body as a bank account. At any given time, there is a fixed amount of energy that you have to spend. Maybe it’s the equivalent of $100 or $500. Every time you do a run, whether it’s 10 minutes easy or 10 miles hard, you are spending your body’s money. How much you decide to spend, and on what, is going to determine the nature of your training and racing.
So how much do you have in your bank account? Is it $100 or $500? A big part of that answer starts with age. The reality is that the younger you are, the more money you have to spend. This is a generalization of course, and there are always other factors to consider, but this is a good starting point. It doesn’t matter how much caffeine you consume or how great you feel; if you’re 40, you will probably have less money to spend than if you are 15. Respect that fact and you will be in good standing. Other factors include genetics, how much rest you're getting, how fast or slow you recover, and the volume of training you're doing.
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