Last week, Cilantro discussed how she chooses a training plan. Today I want to talk about how to make it from the first step of your intimidating training plan to race day. [ed. note: she knows what she's talking about. Right this very moment she's on the other side of her Rocky Raccoon 100 miler training where she came in 3rd!].
As a somewhat seasoned ultrarunner, I’ve found myself many times staring down a training schedule that looked and felt absolutely impossible. Insurmountable. I’ve literally written one up, reviewed it, and then thought “Are you kidding me?”
But wonder of wonders, I’ve completed each cycle. 100+ mile weeks for three consecutive weeks; track workouts after long runs; back-to-back long runs, you name it. But the truth of the matter is this: whether you’re working your way up to running four days a week instead of three, adding speedwork to your repetoire for the very first time, or doing the longest runs you’ve ever done, some tried and true tips may be all you need to keep you motivated and on track. So let’s get started!
1. Take “step by step” literally. When I approach a new training cycle, I’m almost always completely overwhelmed. That’s when I remind myself to go week by week – and then workout by workout. Even when I’m training at two runs per day, I remind myself to focus ONLY on the current run or the next run. By keeping my focus on the most current workout (or even the most current 800-meter repeat), I’m able to do that workout properly – and alleviate a great deal of stress.
2. Your rest day(s) are exactly that: REST. I know how hard it can be to do this, but I revel in my rest. It took me a long time to turn off my “runners brain” on my rest days, but I’ve gotten to the point that I don’t even think about running on my off days. I enjoy a slightly larger glass of wine the night before, a little more sleep in the morning, and staying in one outfit all day. By turning off “the runner” for a day, I get psychological rest as well – and I’m that much more ready to turn it back on the next day.
3. I love rewards! My chosen race distance does require some extreme training, but no matter what your new goals are, you certainly have one or two workouts that concern you more than others. For me, it’s the back-to-back long runs on the weekends, and the mid-week 800-meter repeats. And when I’m really struggling, I will indeed give myself small “rewards.” My rewards are merely small indulgences, something to look forward to after a job well done. Three of my favorites? Ending a long run at the Starbucks about a half mile from my house and getting a double-tall peppermint mocha to enjoy while I take a lazy walk home. Picking a favorite “chick flick” before my run (Pitch Perfect or The Holiday, anyone?) and setting it out with a blanket and some cozy pajamas for when I get home. One week, I had to do some bikini shopping for an upcoming Cabo trip, so I saved that to do after my 800 workout. I was getting the bikinis anyway, but the point is, I had something fun to look forward to post-workout – and shopping when I was proud of what my body had just accomplished made it even better!
4. Speaking of looking and feeling good: A good outfit can really make all the difference, whether it’s 16 degrees or 60. When I’m facing a tough or unwanted workout, I make sure to pick out an outfit that makes me look and feel strong – even if it means a late night load of laundry. Feeling tough – and maybe even a little runner-sexy – has often pushed my motivation meter up to where it needs to be.
5. Close the book. To be frank, this has been a guiding principle of my training. “Closing the book,” a phrase coined by the character Quentin Cassidy in John Parker’s “Once a Runner,” means choosing a goal, committing to a training plan, accepting the process, and doing the work. Closing the book doesn’t mean that work, family, illness or injury won’t get in the way. It doesn’t mean that streets won’t be covered with ice and tracks by snowdrift. These things will happen, and you will make adjustments along the way. You will not, however, make excuses. There’s a big difference between an excuse and an adjustment - and once committed, you must ponder this closely.
6. Cut yourself some slack. Workouts will go poorly. Tune-up races will have disappointing results. Entire two-week stretches of training will be marred by all those circumstances above. Stay the course, don’t open that book back up, and cut yourself some slack. The key is consistency, and if you are consistently doing the work, those tough runs and tough days are nothing but that: tough runs and tough days, but not indicative of your commitment or even your fitness. So be good to yourself, leave the tough days behind, and pick up the next workout (see point 1 above) as a brand new opportunity.
What about you, Salties? What are your special tips for staying motivated?