Somewhere between the excitement of registering for a marathon way back in the fall and crossing that finish line in the spring comes a particular challenge I like to call the training doldrums. Much like the winter doldrums, this is where training begins to feel monotonous and dreary. February is one of the hardest training months for me. The promise of spring is still weeks away, the short days feel never ending, and the threat of cold and flu just won’t go away (at least for a school teacher). The culmination of all of this can leave us feeling less motivated to get out and run. As much as I love running, and I really do, I certainly have days-yes plural dayssssssss where I feel less motivated to get my training done. Here is how I cope with the doldrums of training.
Prioritize your workout first thing, even if you feel tired, it is undoubtedly the freshest you will feel all day. At the end of a work day still knowing that I have to whip up a fabulous dinner (infer Top Ramen), do battle with the laundry pile, and navigate the subtle nuances of toddler negotiation, still having to face a tough workout would do me in. Some days I do run a double but the miles are always easy paced and feel more like a refresh than a workout. It serves as the “me” time or the running reward for the the hard work and sweat I put into my training earlier in the day.
Focus on your Goals
The mental endurance of training can take a toll on even the toughest competitors. Willpower is finite, even successful athletes have days where they feel unmotivated, the difference is that they don’t let their emotions stop them from doing the work. Races are the best way I have found to hold myself accountable to do the work because it’s a tangible deadline. It’s also a great way to celebrate the weeks and months of hard training. Focus on the big picture, find joy in the work that you are doing, and remember it is getting you closer to achieving your goals. I like to keep my goals posted in a place where I check-in with them daily to acknowledge if the work I did that day helped me get closer to them.
Read Running Blogs
One of my favorite ways to stay motivated is to stay interested. I love learning about products, workouts, books, and advice that other runners are using and incorporating into their training. I love reading about other people’s struggles and successes and blogs are one of the best ways to connect with other runners and feel like a part of a larger running community. Experience is a great teacher and runners sharing their insight helps us become more knowledgeable about running and helps us stay motivated as well. Check out my “Blogs I Love Page” these are some of my favorite runners and writers who inspire me.
Simplify the Math
I recently had an epiphany with my training. When I considered the next six weeks of training, the work and miles began to feel daunting. After a good planning session with my coach and my training partner last weekend, I was able to simplify our plan. Instead of focusing on the cumulative work and miles over the next weeks of hard training, my goal is to make sure that each week I get 3 workouts in. I am committed to giving my all for my tempo runs, speed training, and long runs. The rest of the miles are just for the love of running. Thinking about only having 5 more tempo runs, 5 more speed workouts, and 5 more long runs feels exciting, and more importantly, doable. Simplifying the plan can help us stay motivated.
Build a Network of Running Friends
Friends provide us with accountability and support which helps us stay motivated. Humans are inherently social beings and having a friend is a powerful force of positive reinforcement. It’s important to choose a friend who shares our same goals, or who is close to our ability level, otherwise we risk feeling pushed too hard or even an injury by doing too much too soon. Miles and miles of solo runs can take an emotional toll, sharing the load with a friend can help manage the stress of serious training or increase your motivation for staying with your commitment to workout. Workout friends are one of the things I am the most thankful for, runners in general are some of the most upbeat and positive people I know. My running friends have been teammates, coaches, and cheerleaders who have helped me through challenging workouts and through life challenges as well.