Training… that word can be very scary for people who are throwing themselves into a new long distance race. There are a lot of negatives that come with training; waking up early on your weekend to get your long run in, waking up early on weekdays to get your runs in before work when it’s cooler, spending money on fueling products and proper running gear (and let’s not forget the race fee’s themselves), running in rain and snow and other terrible conditions, etc. I mean early wake-up calls, a lighter wallet, possibly even getting sick all because of training?
Prepare yourself… here comes the therapist in me.. it’s all about your mindset! When I first started training, I thought what am I getting myself into.. I’m not a runner! But, I have learned that if you re-frame your mind set on training and all that comes with it, all of those negatives actually turn into positives, and you really begin to enjoy yourself and the progress your making. Rather than dreading waking up early on one of my only days to sleep in, I began thinking of it as “I get to wake up and have a few hours to myself in the great outdoors, while the rest of the town is still asleep” I really started to look forward to those early morning runs; people get so busy in their schedules and routines that they forget to just take some time to themselves, myself included. So for me, my runs became my form of “self-care” where I could just be alone with myself, my thoughts, my music, and the pavement and really focus on me and just me. Plus there aren’t as many cars about which means less pollution in the air and less distractions, and who doesn’t enjoy a beautiful sunrise? Now I won’t lie…. coming in from a run in the pouring rain or snow is not fun… not at all. But during those runs, I literally feel like superwoman. It brings me back to my elementary gym class days where I would be running around the gym to The Final Countdown and feeling like nothing could stop me! It’s all about your mindset people… so set it right!
Now that your thinking about this training thing positively, lets get down to the nitty gritty, what training program is right for me? If you’re like me… you’ve spent countless hours researching articles and reading other runners training guides, hoping that you can find one that speaks to you. They’re out there; plenty of people have released their own training guides and what they used to train for their first half-marathon, or their first marathon. It’s all about what works for you and what you want out of your running. If your strictly wanting to just finish and only focus on running, plenty of plans have schedules that only focus on running and a day or two of cross training. The more advanced and serious you become in your running and begin focusing more on PR’s and RPM’s, you may want to look for schedules that incorporate speed training work and even some strength training. Again though, do your research! For my first 25K I didn’t incorporate any strength training and rarely did my cross training. Sure I finished without stopping, but I hurt… bad. I knew after that race that I had to really focus on building my muscles up and being strict on incorporating cross training. But that’s what works for my body, and I have learned that through experiencing with different training plans and different strength training/cross training. You may find yourself two weeks into a training schedule, and realize it’s just not for you; maybe the build-up each week is too intense, or maybe it’s not enough. That’s okay, start the next week using a different plan and see how that one works. Or get crazy and make your own! Here are some plans that I have found to be really helpful when training for my races.
http://www.halfmarathons.net/training_tips_schedule_beginner_runners.html (focuses only on mileage build-up)
http://www.halhigdon.com/training/51131/Half-Marathon-Novice-1-Training-Program (focuses on increasing mileage while incorporating strength training and cross training)
http://www.jeffgalloway.com/training/marathon-training/ (this one talks a lot about hydration, fueling, cross training, etc.)
If you can’t tell…I really like Hal Higdon’s and Jeff Galloway’s training sites. Their sites are great too for information regarding training, fueling, race day preparation, how to handle being sick during training, etc.
What happens if I miss a run?! All of my training will go to waste! This couldn’t be further from the truth. As most of posts point out in one way or another… life happens. You get sick, you fall and hurt yourself on a run, an emergency came up, or you missed your 5 alarms at 5:00 am. Be calm… you’re going to be okay. I have missed several runs, and I still crossed every finish line with a big smile on my face. I even missed a week once after hyper-extending my knee. It happens, more often than not you’re going to miss a run during training. If it’s a week day run there’s no pressure to try and make it up or to tack on those miles to your next run; however if it’s a long run… try and make it up. If you can’t… make sure you don’t miss your next one. Your long runs are the most important ones for building your endurance and getting your body equipped and adjusted for race day. In order to finish those long runs though, you need to take care of your body and listen to it. If something hurts or doesn’t feel right… DO NOT ignore it. Trust me, you’ll be kicking yourself in the butt in a few weeks when your laying on the couch for a week because you ignored that pain in your foot when you only had 2 more miles to go. If you’re hurt or your sick, don’t push it. Take some time for your body to heal and rejuvenate itself before you get out there again. A few runs are not worth jeopardizing your health or your body for that matter. Especially if running and exercise is something you’re in a long-term committed relationship with. Along the same line….make sure you utilize your rest days.
The more you get in the routine of your training program, the more comfortable you get with your schedule and the amount of running your doing in a week. You may even begin to feel down about yourself or guilty on your off days because you’re not putting in some more miles. But rest days are critical to your success! Your body needs rest to rejuvenate and to repair itself, and if you don’t allow it your body is going to feel very fatigued and you won’t have the energy to put in miles throughout the week. So enjoy your rest day; sleep in, spend some time outside not running, cook/bake some goodies, or if you’re an chidult (child-adult… it works!) like myself, buy some crayons and coloring books and go wild! Just use your rest days and I promise you’re going to learn to love them 🙂
Again…I digress. To finish this post up, I’d like to leave you with some helpful tips that I have learned in my experience while training. If you want more information or have any questions let me know… I’m happy to answer them 🙂
1. DO NOT overdress…. it is not fun when you’re 2 miles into a 12 mile run and you decide to take off your jacket, to only find yourself adjusting it around your waist every 5 seconds. Remember to always dress as if it were 20 degrees warmer.
2. DO NOT underdress… especially if it’s going to be cold or rainy… wear the proper running gear (gloves, hats, coldgear, etc.)
3. Always have water on hand for your long runs. I use a Nathan running belt with two water bottles if I’m not going to be passing any water fountains on my run. If you don’t have a belt, make sure you plan accordingly to pass somewhere where you know that water is available, or drive your route ahead of time and stash some water bottles. Even if it’s cold and you may not be sweating as much or at all, you still are losing fluid and you need to replenish!
4. Train in gear that you plan on wearing during the race. Never try and wear new gear on the actual day of the race…. that has bad idea written all over it. Also, try out what foods work best for you the day before and day of the race. Don’t eat pasta for dinner the night before a long run every week during training, and then the night before the big day go out and smash a giant cheeseburger and fries with ranch. Stick to what you know and what your body knows, that’s the key to feeling great.
5. I’ll talk about this more in my fueling section, but try out different fuels throughout the earlier portion of your training. That way, as you find out what your body can tolerate and what flavors or brands you prefer, you can begin incorporating them into your longer runs and getting your body used to them.
6. Tell EVERYONE you know about your training, that way you are not only holding yourself accountable, but your friends/family/coworkers/the check-out lady at the grocery stores are holding you accountable as well. It’s not easy skipping a run when you know you’ll have everyone and their mother asking you how it went.
7. Stretching and yoga will become your best friend. I admit, sometimes stretching after a run just seems time consuming, but I always am thankful that I did it the next day. In my best Shaun T impersonation “NEVER SKIP THE STRETCH!”
8. If the weather is cold or rainy after your race or a long run…. do not get in a hot bath/hot tub/or take a hot shower. I learned this the hard way. After my first half-marathon where I was running in rain, sleet, hail, etc. all I could think about was getting back to the hotel and jumping in the hot tub. Well I did…and the rest of my day was spent laying in bed with a pounding head ache and body aches that made me want to scream. The heat can aggravate your muscles and cause inflammation, which is the exact opposite of what you’re hoping it will do… soothe and make better. If you’re looking to soothe sore muscles, ice baths are the answer. They’re not fun…. and they’re definitely not enjoyable, but they help.
9. Get creative with your training. I like to create and customize calendars for each month of my training, and then make notes about what fueling I used that day, how I felt, etc. You can also create a journal or log to go along with your training. Again, if you’re a child like me, you can use crayons and stickers to make it look snazzy!
10. Let someone know where you’re going. I live in a pretty safe area, but I still try and not be naive to think that nothing will ever happen while out on my run. I always tell my boyfriend or family the route I am running and how long I intend on taking to complete it. That way they have a rough idea about when I should be done. I also use my phone for music so if need be, I can call if it’s an emergency, like hurting yourself or not being able to complete your run, and can have someone come and pick me up.
11. Protect yourself. If you’re running in the early mornings or later in the day when it’s dark out, stay on roads that are lit well, preferably in a neighborhood or subdivision, rather than on country roads. Also make sure you run against oncoming traffic so that cars are aware of you…. and if it’s dark I always wear gear that has reflectors on it. For extra protection… carry mace. No, I’m not kidding. I have a bright pink one that I put in my water belt, and I make sure that it’s loose and easy to grab if need be. Lastly, be aware of your surroundings. If I’m running in an area or during a time where there are less distractions, it is easier for me to zone out and lose focus on where I’m at and what is around me. I’ve learned to not listen to music on those runs, that way I am forced to focus on the environment around me.
12. You are one Bad Ass Mother Runner! – This is just one example of the many things I say to myself while running if I am lacking motivation, or if I need to step my game up. “You’re legs are not giving out, they’re growing stronger with every step”, “If I keep going, I’ll be able to eat my cookie quicker!”… you get the picture.
13. Always imagine your goal. On days where I feel bored with my runs, or I’m getting too caught up what I’m doing and the last thing I want to do is get into my running gear and head outside… I imagine myself crossing that finish line and how good it is going to feel. I am one of those people that I need to sign up for something or set a concrete goal where there are consequences for not following through, in order for me to do something. So if I sign up for a race (specifically one with a $150 race entry…) the only person that’s losing if I don’t cross that finish line is me. For a college student… $150 is a lot of money to just throw away. Plus it can be really fun to imagine how the race is going to go for you, and what you’re going to do in certain situations. I like to think of myself crossing that finish line and being given a giant doughnut at the end… with lots and lots of cream filling, then I top it off with a big glass of chocolate milk 🙂 Oh… I guess there is lots of joy and happiness too because I did just run 26.2 miles… but let’s get real, it’s all about the food at that point.
14. Believe in yourself. If you don’t, nobody will. Some days you’re going to feel defeated and like you’re not accomplishing anything, but trust me when I say, everyday you are accomplishing something that matters. One more run completed is 3 more miles to add to your total miles that week. That long run that you ran at a .20 second slower pace than last week? Who cares, you also just completed the longest run you ever have and this week you did it without stopping! When you start having those negative thoughts or feel like you’re in a rut, sit down and think about all of the accomplishments you have made so far in your training, big or small, they all matter and they’re all important. Celebrate every single success…. you deserve it!
15. Eat, eat, eat. Seriously…. I have never eaten as much as I have since I became a runner, and I’m in the best shape I have ever been in. On average, you lose about 100 calories per mile that you run… that’s a lot of calories, especially on your long runs. Your body needs to be refueled, and fast. But it needs to be refueled the right way… like with protein shakes, breads, fruit, etc. Not with chips, pop, ice cream and candy. You also need to make sure that you’re eating enough before your runs to ensure you’re getting the proper energy and nutrients that your body needs to sustain the exercise. My favorite pre-run meal is whole wheat bread, with crunchy natural peanut butter, bananas, cinnamon and honey. Try out a few things and figure out what works for you.
16. Get excited about your running gear! Honestly, when I buy really bright shirts or shoes, or even crazy styled leggings, I’m definitely more excited to get dressed and go for my run. I don’t care how girly that is, it’s true. It’s like buying a new outfit for a new job, or a wedding, it’s something to get you excited about going. Why not buy a new outfit to get excited about your running? Honestly, anything I buy that is related to running gets me excited, new shoe laces, new fueling products, a new watch… whatever it takes. They always say that hobbies can get expensive… but running is a survival tool for me, I’ll die without it. Okay I’m being dramatic… but I feel better after shoveling out money if I say that to myself.
Last but not least….
17. Don’t do something if you’re going to do it half
ass way.. 🙂 My dad used to say that to us when we wouldn’t do our chores correctly, or not move things on the table when we were dusting.. lol. But honestly, that is a lesson that has stuck with me my entire life, and that I now incorporate into my own work. Same goes for training… don’t skip a run every week, or eat like crap all the time and expect to get great results… because you won’t. If you’re going to do this and do it seriously, you need to take it seriously. For me, that means cutting out the soda, alcohol and junk food altogether. I know that some times it’s hard to avoid those things, but I just tell people that I’m training. I’m sure a beer every now and then won’t kill you (actually it won’t… I have slipped a few times on this during training because I always am training during st. patty’s day…), but still… limit yourself. It’s no fun trying to complete a run or ride a bike when you’re hungover. Why put in all of your own time and effort to not see great results?
I think that’s it for now…who knows… I may find some new tips while I embark on my current training plan. We shall see.
Make it a great day!