Being a new mom, having a full-time job, and training is not all butterflies and giggles. Let’s be honest, being a mom is both taxing and wonderful at the same time. I returned to work as an ICU nurse just 12 weeks after William was born last June and was just rolling with the punches. As I wrote in my last post, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis 6 months after William’s birth. I always expected to be tired and that being a mom would be tough sometimes, but the disease was pushing me to a whole new level of exhaustion. Read more >>
It’s officially Boston Marathon weekend! For about 30,000 runners and their friends/family that means making the trek to Beantown to dive into the madness that is marathon weekend. The banners, the expo, the photo ops, the shakeout runs, the schmoozing, and of course one of the most epic races on Earth.
For many this is the highlight of their running career. Other runners have barely heard of it. Over the years I’ve experienced marathon weekend in many different ways, from “what marathon?” to PR’ing on the tough Boston course. Each time, embracing the life phase I was in allowed me to enjoy Marathon Monday as much as possible.
As we start to ramp up our training for spring races, it’s the perfect time to make sure that our mental game is on point. Coach Hops is here with some tips to help us approach our races with the right frame of mind.
One of the best things I read on Instagram in all of 2017 was Esther Atkins saying it’s not a “dreadmill,” it’s a “dreammill.” Yes, running outside is totes the best — I’m not sure anyone ever started running because the treadmill was so inspiring.
But the treadmill is a great tool to keep your training on track and your dreams in sight, especially in the winter months when it’s dark all the damn time and the weather stinks. Knowing it’s a great tool doesn’t make it less boring, though.
We rounded up our favorite podcast, show and movie recommendations — and we want to hear yours, too, so be sure to leave a comment!
When I first returned to running as an adult I went through a period of time when I didn’t think of myself as a “Runner.” I mean, real runners do stuff like races, right? Then I did some races and thought, “Well, I’m not really a runner, real runners do stuff like marathons.” Then I ran a marathon. “Well, that’s the last one, so I’m glad it was good. Guess I’ll go back to not being a runner.” Then I built a running website for my sister, a real runner. “But I’m not a serious runner like her. I’ve only done one marathon.” Then I ran another marathon. “Well, I’ve never won anything.” Then I won my age group in a 10k. You get the idea.
One day somewhere in there it became undeniable. I am a runner. A real runner. A serious runner. I’ve never won a race, I’m not elite, I’m not chasing down prize money, but I am a real, serious runner and it is obvious to everyone who meets me. Even though I am not training for anything, I am maintaining more than 25 miles per week. There is no longer any way for me to deny my status as “a runner.”
And somewhere along the way I realized I had gotten much better … drastically better … light-freaking-years-better at being a runner, and that I deserved the title. “How?” you may ask. “What’s your secret special sauce to becoming better?” Read more >>
You trained like you’ve never trained before. Your training plan was your bitch this season, and you were happily posting #crushedit selfies right and left on Instagram. You arrived at the starting line ready to slay this race. And then … you don’t.
Okay. You are resilient. You suck it up, sign up for another race, repeat the process, hope for the best… and wind up with the same result.
Early in 2016, I moved to Hungary to escape another North Dakota winter, finish my dissertation, and, honestly, because after just a short trip a little over a month before, Budapest felt like home. I was in the final and hardest stage of my Ph.D., the dissertation. I had a faculty job that I’d begin in May. Literally the only thing I had to do over the next five months was finish and defend my dissertation.
In theory, it sounded easy. In practice, it felt impossible.
As I lived in a completely new and foreign place and was completing my dissertation, a process that I had never done before and should never do again, the only consistent thing I had in life was running. And so, every morning before I headed to Mamut (a Hungarian mall) Starbucks, I ran.
I ran without a training plan and simply according to how I felt that day. Some days I ran long, some days I ran and walked as I toured the city, and somedays I ran around a tiny little track a block from my flat. As I ran, I listed to Travis Macy and John Hanc’s The Ultra Mindset. It was, at that time, exactly what I needed to read. It helped me to stay motivated to finish my dissertation, to continue to run even when life got complicated, and is literally at my bedside (and Kindle and Audible) whenever I need a mental boost.
The author, Travis Macy, pulled from his extensive career and education to write The Ultra Mindset. To call Travis Macy an “accomplished” endurance athlete might be the understatement of the year. He set a record for Leadman, an epic endurance event consisting of a trail running marathon, 50-mile mountain bike race, Leadville 100 Mountain Bike Race, 10k road run, and Leadville 100 Run, all above 10,200′ in the Rocky Mountains. He has completed over 120 ultra endurance events.
Along with his endurance racing skills, Macy also is a coach, speaker, and owns an education consulting firm with his wife. With a master’s degree in education, his background is similar to mine. He incorporates his knowledge as a former high school teacher, experience as an education consultant, and knowledge of motivation research into the Ultra Mindset to create a cohesive text that provides guidance and motivation to complete any major endeavor, not just endurance ones.
The Ultra Mindset is organized into eight mindsets ranging from “It’s All Good Mental Training” to “Be a Wannabe” (which I discussed in this training with a growth mindset) to “Think about your thinking: what and why.” The Ultra Mindset is organized into chapters that discuss each mindset, beginning with the research that supports each mindset, examples of how it can be applied in practice both for endurance sports and life, and personal examples of its application. Each chapter provides useful strategies and exercises to put the mindsets into practice — and the print book has space in the text to complete the exercises, which is part of the reason that I own the book in each of its forms.
While each chapter seemed to be exactly what I needed to hear as I wrote my dissertation, the one that has become my mantra is Mindset 1: It’s All Good Mental Training. Travis writes:
“Viewing your challenges as positive, essential elements of building a winning mindset makes all the difference in the world. When the going gets tough, tell yourself, ‘This is good mental training.’ Which it is.”
As I ran each morning, it helped me to reframe my dissertation from impossible to “good mental training.” Indeed, a dissertation is good mental training for my future life as a researcher. But if I step back, my 100-mile finish at Burning River in 2015 was good mental training for finishing my dissertation. And finishing my dissertation was good mental training for my stage race earlier this year. As with many cognitive strategies to improve learning and retention, training for persistence pays off in every area of our life. To this day, whenever things get hard, I tell myself it’s good mental training for my next race, my next research project, for whenever life gets hard.
In subsequent chapters, the authors discuss how and when to focus, when extrinsic motivation might be helpful, how to make the space to accomplish your goals, and permission to quit when a dream is no longer your dream. From start to finish, each time I read it, it helps me to stay motivated and persist, regardless of what race I’m training for or what is happening in my life. It’s the one book I recommend first when people ask me what my favorite book about running is (and I’ve read a lot). For whatever runner you are or want to be, I recommend this book.
And, for one lucky person, you can win this book and a Team Macy Endurance Coaching cap. Check out our Holiday Book Guide for details.
It’s good mental training helped me through my races this year and to finish out my first semester as a new professor. What in your life has been “good mental training” for your next running or life challenge?
Looking for a last minute gift for your favorite runner? Or, maybe you want to kick-start 2018 with a book to get you motivated. Here are our recommended reads for this holiday season — and a chance to win three of them!
- “Run Fast, Eat Slow” — Pimento spent five weeks cooking from this book by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky and wrote about all the recipes she — and her family — tried. From muffins to salads, RFES is designed to incorporate whole foods and good fats into your diet.
- “How Bad Do You Want It,” by Matt Fitzgerald. Subtitled “mastering the psychology of mind over muscle,” How Bad is a collection of sports stories combined with “psychobiological” research. But it’s not just a lot of pyscho-babble; each chapter focuses on a specific race and specific athlete. HBDYWI isn’t just for elites or sub-elites or the girl who finished in front of you last week. It’s for all of us.
- “Work In: The Athlete’s Plan for Real Recovery and Winning Results,” by Erin Taylor of Jasyoga. Several Saltines do Jasyoga’s videos on recovery days or after workouts with great results, so we’re confident this book will make a great gift for yourself or your favorite runner. Pre-order now, ships mid-December.
- “The Ultra Mindset” by Travis Macy. He has completed over 120 ultra endurance events and is a coach, speaker, and owns an education consulting firm with his wife. He incorporates his knowledge as a former high school teacher, experience as an education consultant, and knowledge of motivation research into the Ultra Mindset to create a cohesive text that provides guidance and motivation to complete any major endeavor, not just endurance ones.
- “Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory” — Deena Kastor (yes, we know, it’s not out yet, but DEENA. Pre-order only, ships in April 2018).
- The Feed Zone series — Cinnamon reviewed the “Portables” edition a few years back, and there’s also “Table” and the original “Cookbook.” The authors have worked with pro cyclists and triathletes over the years and the cookbooks were created with those things in mind.
- First Ladies of Running: 22 Inspiring Profiles of the Rebels, Rule Breakers, and Visionaries Who Changed the Sport Forever by Amby Burfoot. This is a quick, fun and inspiring read. Each profile is pretty short so you can read a story or two and set it down. A great bedtime book.
GIVEAWAY! We have one copy each of “How Bad Do You Want It?,” “WorkIN,” and “The Ultra Mindset” to giveaway to one lucky reader. Head over to any of our social media pages (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter) to win!
Yesterday, Bergamot wrote about the benefits of training like an elite for every runner. She was spot on, and not just for the reasons that she mentioned, which included making the logical choice to do what has been proven to work for others and having a pro-like attitude that we use to approach workouts and recovery seriously. In addition, identifying a runner (or group of runners) that we want to be like and altering our training to be like them is indicative of a growth mindset.
And in the world of motivation research, a growth mindset is a very good thing. Discussed at length in Dweck’s Mindset, a growth mindset is a mental state where we believe that our abilities are not fixed — that with effort we can improve our performance. This contrasts with a fixed mindset, which is a mental state where we feel like our abilities are set, rooted in biology or our nature, and no amount of effort will improve our performance. Our mindset applies to every aspect of our life, from our beliefs about our ability to be successful in, say, math, and our beliefs about our own ability to continue to improve as a runner.
In a fixed mindset, we feel like our ability as a runner is set, and we won’t be as motivated to continue to improve and work harder, because we think that no matter how hard we work, we will not be able to achieve beyond our innate ability. In contrast, with a growth mindset, we believe that if we continue to work harder, our running performance will continue to improve. Identifying a group of elite runners that we want to be like indicates that we believe we can, if we take similar steps and put in the hard work, begin to move towards (and meet and exceed!) what they have accomplished.
A growth mindset is also important because it helps us to respond positively to failure. A runner with a fixed mindset views failure as evidence that he or she cannot succeed, where a growth mindset sees failure as a learning opportunity to apply to future races.
Identifying a runner or group of runners – in my case, elite ultramarathoners – that we want to be like is the first step in training with a growth mindset. Travis Macy in the Ultra Mindset (the most important book in my motivation repertoire, I own the audiobook, e-book, and have a physical copy in my bedside table), refers to this as being a “wannabe.” Very different than the high school wannabe insult, being a wannabe as an athlete means that we have thoughtfully identified who we want to be like and then — this is the important part — we have deliberately identified why we want to be like that individual.
Being a wannabe and having a growth mindset means not just that we believe that we can be like our role models, but that we have identified what it is about those individuals that we want to emulate. There is a key metacognitive aspect to the growth mindset that requires us to be intentional about how we choose to implement our growth mindset. For example, not only have I identified that I want to be like, say, Devon Yanko, I have identified why I want to be like her:
- She is a successful ultra-endurance athlete.
- She has persevered through traumatic personal events.
- She is a positive role model for women.
From here, I have three areas where I can investigate how Devon accomplishes everything she does: becoming the 2010 50 mile road National Champion, for example. There are many books written about how to be successful at every distance and for every type of runner, not to mention YouTube interviews and blogs. These resources become important in the implementation of a growth mindset. It is not enough to “wannabe,” we have to believe that we can be, and do the work to get there.
Implementing the “how” is the final step. Once we have identified who we want to be like and why and how they have accomplished what it is we aspire to, we have to start doing the work to get there. As Bergamot discussed yesterday, that includes how we approach our training plans and our runs, with the intention that this is just as important as our other work. That can also include how we train (perhaps we need a coach?) or where we train (time to find some hills?). And it means that when we fail, and we will, that we reflect and identify how we failed so we can adapt and adjust to do better next time.
Running better by playing pretend? It’s not just a fantasy that motivates us to take our training seriously, it’s a fantastic way, with intentionality, to adjust our training mindset to believe in ourselves and better respond to bad runs, races, and life setbacks.
You just don’t feel like going for a run, but you know you should, so you push yourself out the door anyway. But once you’re there, it’s a drag. You’re not enjoying it. Your legs feel heavy. Your heart isn’t joyful. You just want to stop, and maybe you do and walk for a while, or cut it short and head home.
Many, if not most, of us have been there. When you run as much as we do, it’s pretty inevitable you’ll reach a point when running just isn’t fun. Maybe it’s just for a day, maybe it’s for a period of time after a big race or maybe it’s a longer-term slump when you’re not training. What to do? Should you spice up your training? Change your strategy? Sign up for a race?
I recently had an insight that these running slumps are a sign that something is out of balance, and although it’s a stretch, I thought maybe I could help myself by thinking about levers. Teeter-totters. See-saws, if you will.
Read more >>
Usually when people learn I’m chasing a goal to run a marathon in each of the 50 states, the first thing they ask while chuckling is, “How many do you have left?” Now that I’m three-fifths of the way there, people tend to be less skeptical than when I “only” had 10 under my belt.
Maybe they’re too polite, but most people don’t ask me why, though I’m sure they’re wondering, just like you are. After all, I’m not trying to break any records and obviously it’s been done before. There is literally a 50 States Club, whose members are people who have accomplished what I now aim to do, and it seems that the more races I run, the more I hear of someone finishing their 50th state.
I’m not doing it in record time. There are runners out there who have done all 50 in a year. I ran my first marathon 12 years ago and at the rate I’m currently going at four to five states per year, it will probably take me another five years to finish. And that’s ok. My training has changed, and so has my running.
While I rationally know no one can expect to run 50 marathons and have them all to be epic performances, part of me does expect that although I know that won’t be the case. And now you understand the dynamic that is Dill, the runner, and a little about the quest I am on.
So if I’m not running my best races and not breaking any records, what’s the point?
It’s late at night and you’re curled up in bed with your beloved smartphone. You open up Instagram to watch some stories, mostly of your favorite runners, the ones you follow out of genuine interest and the ones you follow with morbid curiosity. And then the thought pops in your head: how do these people continue to train for race after race? Why is everything about running? Don’t they ever take any breaks?
The short answer is yes. Many runners take breaks, and these breaks often look different from runner to runner. Even pros take breaks after intense training cycles. For some, a break can be as short as a week or two off. For others, it may be longer, lingering into months-long hiatus territory.
Even so, some people continue to run during breaks, but focus less on structured training and more on running for enjoyment. Like many things, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. And, it’s true: it’s often difficult to take time off from running. But I’m here to reassure you that’s it’s not only possible but can also be done in a way that preserves both our fitness and our egos. Read more >>
I have, I think, a bit of a summer-training secret weapon. I’m a complete wimp about cold weather, a nervous Nellie when I run in slush and snow, and the worst at wind sprints, emphasis on the wind. But I do know how to deal with heat and humidity. And here’s my secret… *drumroll* : I’m just resigned to being a soggy puddle within 10 minutes of stepping out for a run.
That’s it. Full stop. The rest is common sense. Freeze your handheld water bottle, take in electrolytes on the run, stuff ice in your bra or bandana, wear sunscreen and a hat, run before dawn. The secret is there is no secret. The secret is that what you’re really training is your mental toughness. Remind yourself: fall PRs are forged in the summer heat.
In high school, we’d often have PE classes and sports practice at 8.30am or 4.30pm. After the morning PE sessions, we’d all change and have to trudge off to class, still perspiring long after the running was done. (Don’t get me started on enduring a classroom full of sweaty teenage boys!) There was no secret then, either. You just endure.
I’m often tempted to compare my summer-pace self to my winter-pace self. Part of me still believes deep down that this is my real fitness level and that in the winter I’m just getting a cold-weather discount. Most people believe the inverse, that their winter self represents their true fitness level and they’re just slapped with a summer ‘heat tax’. Neither is quite accurate…
But my intent for this summer is ‘Run the season you’re in’. And that’s not just summer or winter, but also the stage of life you’re in, whether you feel up for a few sustained seasons of challenging and competing with yourself, or are pregnant but still want to jump into some fun races, or if you have other work, family and life commitments. Don’t compare yourself this season to yourself in another time. Just run the season you’re in. So – here we are.
This was a much lighter week than usual because of weekend fun plans and because I needed some rest.
Monday – Recovery after Sunday’s 5K. 2 miles on treadmill, 2 on elliptical = about 45 minutes.
Tuesday – off, started on my summer reading pile
Wednesday – 4.5 miles out and back to the grocery store. 0.75 mile walk home.
Thursday – 4 miles easy
Friday – 4 miles easy in the morning (11:00ish pace) – 2 miles with a friend, got home, kiddo was awake, 2 miles with him in stroller at his request!
Friday afternoon was my only time this weekend that I could possibly have done my long(er…ish) run, but by Friday afternoon I was toast. Skipped the long run. No regrets.
Saturday – off for an idyllic toddler-paced Cape Cod day: breakfast at a bakery, trails, petting all the dogs, seeing the seals at the aquarium, nap, ice cream, and beach, with a stop at a pub for dinner on the way home.
Sunday – Warmup + 1 mile in a 26.2×1 relay on the track. 7:13 (insta-PR – the last time I raced a mile was 5th grade). By late morning it was 34 degrees C/ 93F. Scorcher. We had to sneak out because the kiddo was under the weather and grumpy (isn’t cold season over yet?). I’m never there for the group photo any more, but I am there.
The next marathon training cycle begins for me next week (the week of the 18th). I’m trying not to psych myself out. I actually registered for the marathon the other day. Stuff just got real.
About a week ago, I was stretching by my parked car before a run on my favorite local path when I saw a young girl, maybe nine or ten years old, get out of a car with her dad. I overheard their conversation as she was stretching while her dad unloaded his bike.
She looked at him and said, “I hope you can bike fast because I am a really fast runner.”
Her confidence was beaming and she started running down the trail ahead of her dad, calling for him to catch up.
I started my run about five minutes later and saw her about a half mile down the trail. I made eye contact with her dad and I couldn’t stop smiling — her innocence and youthful love of running seems so rare for girls her age, and you could tell that he was so proud of his little girl.
I go to that path at least once a week and this was the first time I saw a young girl exercising. Why is that? Read more >>
I have been an educator in the public school system for 11 years: eight years as a classroom English teacher and three years as an instructional coach. The eight years I was in the classroom, I struggled to think of myself as a good teacher despite receiving commendations from colleagues about my classroom management and relationships with kids, as well as receiving a county Teacher of the Year Award.
When I decided to become an instructional coach, I did so because I felt burnt out and needed a break from the classroom, not because I thought I had value to contribute to my colleagues. After three years, I continue to feel like I don’t know what I’m doing, but have been told multiple times what an asset I am for my school.
I don’t share these stories to brag, rather I share this to tell you my experiences with imposter syndrome … and how running helped me change that mindset.
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