How successful distance runners stay motivated

How successful distance runners stay motivated

Motivated Boston Marathon RunnerTraining for and then successfully completing a race is a fantastic achievement.  Regardless of age, reaching your goal time, getting to the starting line healthy or simply finishing the race can make you feel so accomplished.  This is because of all the hard work that must be completed over months of training.  The challenge faced by many runners is the risk of losing motivation and stalling somewhere along the way.  I have found that Runners who are consistent with good habits almost always enjoy success.

I work with a lot of competitive people who must balance a busy work, family and commitment filled life along with managing their running.  Following are some of key components of their lifestyle that keep them motivated to train and enjoy running success year after year.

Make It Routine

Successful training and staying motivated to train is about finding the right balance in your life. When you’re nailing your workouts, this will lead to greater motivation, which in the long run leads to successful racing. There’s tons of articles discussing how marathon training tears down your body.  Although long runs, speed work and marathon paced workouts among other workouts are necessary components of a good training plan, one of the key elements of a good plan is rest.  With proper rest, your body will build itself back stronger than before.

Once you identify this balance between hard and easy workouts and rest, you need to make it a routine where each week serves a purpose. If you start experiencing frequent poor workouts or races or if you find yourself often sick or injured, then your training or even your life stresses may be too much.  This can be demotivating and is a sign that you aren’t allowing sufficient recovery.  Speak with your coach or if you don’t have one, try to include more recovery into your training.

Confidence

The most important ingredient of success and staying motivated to train is confidence. Having a positive mindset is important.  If you’re an experienced runner, you likely know the workouts that give you confidence. I strongly recommend completing these in your training throughout your year to keep you motivated.  Greg McMillian and others suggest including “confidence-building” workouts close to your key races.  In my experience, I feel great when I’ve been able to run a marathon paced longer tempo within a few weeks of a race.

If you’re a beginner runner, I recommend using the services of a coach who can personalize a training plan with workouts and rest days for you based on your athletic ability.  As you progress through the plan, you need to have confidence in the coach’s system.

Even when you don’t have successful workout or race, it’s important that you don’t dwell on it. This is important for all levels and ages of runners.  If you’ve put in the work, you still may have a bad day.  You can’t let one bad workout or race knock you down.  Successful runners are ready to move on to the next day’s training or another race because they know that bad days aren’t a true indication of their fitness.

This goes back to life’s stresses.  I’ve learned and often remind my clients that you have to take control over what you can, and stop worrying about what you can’t.

Consistency

Training consistently month after month and year after year will lead you to your full potential. Avoiding overtraining and the resulting injuries and sickness will allow you to focus on long term goals.  Years ago, I trained with the Hanson Method and I recall Luke Humphrey stating that a year of running without injury or illness was much better than a month or two of awesome training.  When you train long enough with a smart plan and trust in a proven system, you reach your goals as long as you stick with it.


Don’t train on your own, let me help.  Achieve your best performance with a personalized Crushing 26.2 “middle age marathoner” training plan.


Run In the Morning

I believe that morning runners are productive people. Being productive can certainly help your motivation and remove a reason often used for not getting out to run (“I’m too busy). I don’t run every morning, but when I do, I usually plan every hour of my day. In this way, I’m more motivated because of how productive I’ve been throughout the day.

If you’re not used to running early, test the waters and start with one or two days per week. Knowing you have other mornings to sleep a little later can make getting up early less painful. Also, to make running in the morning easier, it’s important to go to sleep earlier or you risk suffering the effects of insufficient sleep.

Strength Train Regularly

Building muscle not only improves your health, but also helps to reduce injury risk and I believe helps your overall running performance.  When your performance improves, you’ll be motivated to continue to train.  There’s numerous studies documenting endurance athletes and the impact of strength-training programs (either plyometrics or weights) on boosting fitness and improvement of runners’ times in 3K and 5K races.

I detail an effective 15 minute plyometric workout on this site.  It’s a tough workout and it’s not for beginners, but I think it’s been effective at keeping me injury free and maintaining my level of fitness.  Additionally, I continue to video numerous strength & flexibility workouts on my YouTube channel.

My recommendation is to complete strength training on your hard days.  If you have the energy after a track workout or long run, perform a 15-20 minute strength & conditioning workout.  In this way, you keep your hard days, hard and your easy days, easy.

It can be challenging to stay motivated to train throughout the year, especially if you typically workout on your own.  Work these strategies into your plan. They key is to develop a routine and stay consistent.  Try to complete a few workouts each week with others and if possible, use a coach to develop a plan that’s suitable to your abilities and with whom you can discuss modifications for instances when injuries, sickness or life just gets a little too hectic.  In the end, motivation is really about having confidence in what you’re doing and how you feel.

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Finding Time to Run Really Means Making Time

Finding Time to Run Really Means Making Time

How to find time to runFor many runners, one of the most common challenges impeding their ability to train for a long race such as a 10k or especially a marathon, is simply finding the time to workout.  Following are some tips that my clients use to make running and exercising a habit.

If it’s hard to figure out when you could possibly schedule a workout, try tracking your time in a planner or use an app. If you are struggling to fit in a 30-45 minute workout, you may find that you spend that much time doing tasks that you could easily rearrange.  This is appropriate for household chores like laundry, house cleaning, etc that you could do in the evening.

When you find a good time to exercise, I suggest marking it on your calendar and keeping it like you would any other appointment.  Alternatively, to stay consistent, use that time in your routine every day.

  1. Break up your runs. Sometimes you might only have 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes later in the afternoon/evening. Trying running during both time frames to get in 6-8 miles.
  2. Find a training plan that’s appropriate for your physical abilities and follow it. Oftentimes, I find that the real reason people don’t seem to have time, is they don’t know what to do. Think of a personalized training plan as a blueprint for your success. Simply follow the workouts prescribed.
  3. Make running a priority. This means that you should plan when you run. Every Sunday, I look at my training plan and determine where/when I will get each workout completed.  I plan around my workday, family activities and other commitments.
  4. Take full advantage of downtime. Unless you’re sick or injured, make sure that you get out for a run or get to the gym for some kind of workout. Even if you don’t have time to complete the run that’s on your training schedule, get something completed during downtime if it’s the only time you’ll have to exercise.
  5. Run in the morning. Make sure you get to bed early enough, so you can get up early and run. Completing your planned exercise prior to breakfast is one of the best ways to start your day.
  6. Train during lunch. This one’s for those that work out of an office or from home. I think it’s easier than identifying a separate workout time (like early in the morning or after work). This is a good strategy because you’re exercising during a time that’s likely least important to you. Don’t go to a restaurant for lunch, instead pack your lunch and eat it at your desk after your workout.
  7. Complete a 20 minute High Intensity Circuit Workout using Body Weight. This workout, detailed in ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, promotes strength development for all major muscle groups of the body. This sample workout, is a series of exercises that are performed in quick succession, with proper form and technique Exercises are performed for 30 seconds, with 10 seconds of transition time between each. Total time for the entire circuit workout is approximately 7 minutes. Repeat the circuit 3 times for a 20 minute workout.  See the image below for details.

    high intensity circuit training for runners

    ACSMs Health & Fitness Journal     (May/June 2013)

  8. Train alone if you need the time to clear your head.
  9. Keep your weekly training routine consistent regarding when you go.
  10. Run to/from work or to/from the bus stop. This works great if you have a place to shower/clean-up at work.
  11. Invest in a jogging stroller. Most middle age runners don’t have kids, but as we approach our mid 50s and early 60s, grandkids come into the picture. If you’re helping to care for your grandkids, consider using a jogging stroller so you can complete your run while your grandkid gets some fresh air or a nap.
  12. Find a gym with childcare. Same as above. If your kids have graduated from child care, this may not be an issue. However, if you’re old enough to have grand kids, don’t let their presence keep you from working out or going for a run. Check them into the childcare for 60 minutes.
  13. Partner with another parent. For runners with younger kids, this is a great strategy.  The concept is simple.  You run while your friend watches both yours and her kids. Switch places and allow your friend to run while you care for the kids.

When you make time for exercise, you’re likely to keep up with exercise that has value for you. Either the workout’s enjoyable or you benefit from the results you get out of it. When you find a workout has a place in your schedule and a reason to keep coming back, then you’ve created a habit.

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Finding Motivation to Run When You’re Not in Shape

Finding Motivation to Run When You’re Not in Shape

How runners stay motivatedMany new runners give up early in the game because they feel that they’re not going to be shape in time for the race.  It’s understandable when injury or sickness is the reason for not being in shape. However, what’s more common, is that life gets busy and 5 runs/week turns into 1-2 per week.

Suddenly the reality of not being in shape for the race can “sinks in.” Inevitably, the motivation to get “back on track” diminishes and self-confidence takes a hit. In this post, I will provide proven strategies that help runners get past that point in the training schedule where self-doubt about one’s performance lead to lack of motivation and low self-confidence.

The Importance of Goal Setting

First, it’s important to set realistic goals for yourself.  Although how to properly set goals is a topic for another blog post, my point is that if you’ve set a goal that requires more time or even athletic ability than you realistically have, you may be setting yourself up for big disappointment.

Setting goals involves more than just a specific finishing time, it may also include the race itself or simply being able to run a certain amount of workouts. For example if the farthest you’ve ever raced is a 5k, it may not be appropriate to sign up for a marathon that’s 3 months away.  Give yourself adequate time to build up towards a 10k, then ½ marathon and finally a marathon.  It may take 12 months or more depending on your current abilities.

By setting reasonable goals and committing to a training plan that’s personalized to both these goals and one’s athletic ability, we stand a much better chance to succeed.

Learn how to run slow

Another reason many new runners struggle to get in shape is that don’t know to pace properly.  They simply run too fast. The result is that they associate running with pain.  Since running hurts every time they do it, it’s no wonder that beginner runners get frustrated and end up losing the motivation to continue to train.

In my marathon training book, Crushing 26.2, there’s a complete section on how and why it’s important to run slow.  Although it takes time and practice to get fit and learn how to pace yourself, it’s a skill most experienced runners have mastered.

I’ll admit, for beginners, running feels tough when they first start, I can assure you that this agony won’t last and although early on you may feel exhausted, you will progress.

Most runners are different, so they get in shape at different rates. Before training for a race such as a 10K, ½ or full marathon, the body needs to build a solid fitness base.  The best way to accomplish this is to run at an easy pace for as much as 85% of your running.

It may take 3 months of running 4-5 times per week to be able to build up to 3-4 miles without stopping. The good news is that unless you become injured or sick, most people, if training properly, will quickly improve and be able to run further than 3-4 miles without stopping.

The other benefit of running slow is that it promotes recovery.  You can’t run fast all the time and expect to stay healthy.

Having the patience to run slow and build up a running base, will pay huge dividends when it comes time to complete a 16-20 week training plan.

How to Beat the Excuses Not to Run

We all have busy lives with daily or weekly challenges that can make it hard to get out and run.  Successful middle age runners have figured out how to deal with potential obstacles by employing some creative thinking.

Following are a few of the most common “barriers” my clients have presented and the solutions we’ve devised to keep them training.

  1. I’m too busy with work that I don’t have time to run – We’re all busy, but if you’re serious about your running and it’s important to you, the best solution is to schedule your exercise.  At the beginning of each week, I look at my training plan and determine how much time will be needed to complete each workout.  I currently coach a runner whose only time to run on weekdays is if he runs to the train station. He completes his strength training and mobility exercises before his run.
  2. I’m injured and can’t run – Definitely understandable, but I recommend asking your Dr. or Physical Therapist if there’s alternative exercises that you can perform. Most injuries require some kind of rehab. Ask if non-impact exercises like swimming, cycling or rowing are acceptable. I’ve coached people who actually return to running stronger than before their injury.
  3. I’m too tired to run when I get home from work – Try exercising at lunch or early in the morning before you leave to work. Running early requires getting to bed earlier, but finishing your workout by 7-730am and then heading to work is a great feeling and typically makes you more energized the rest of the day. You will also be tired and ready for bed early when you workout first thing in the morning.
  4. It’s too hot, cold, rainy, snowy (the weather obstacle) – I’ll admit that it’s tough to run when it’s single digits or 90+ degrees outside. When it’s really cold, you may have to simply use indoor equipment at the gym (treadmill, elliptical, etc) or if you’re lucky enough to have access to an indoor track. If you dress warm-up enough and don’t leave any bare skin to the elements, you can actually handle single digits, just be aware of the direction of the wind.

When it’s hot out, you have to either run early or late in the day. Ensure you drink a lot of water before, during and after your run. Hydration is critical.

Remember that on those days when you’ve lost your motivation to run, just try to do whatever you can. 2-3 miles may be all you can “eek out.”  Accept the fact that sometimes your running simply goes back and forth with your lifestyle.

 

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How to wash your Lycra athletic gear

How to wash your Lycra athletic gear

How to wash Lycra

Photo Courtesy of Instagram

You spent a lot of money on that fancy running gear that “wicks” sweat or keeps you warm, even when it’s raining and 40 degrees.  The tags say “Handle with Care”  What exactly does that mean? Today’s exercise clothes like running shorts, shirts, pants and Compression Socks are often made of material called Lycra®.  For those of us who were around in the 1980s, you may remember some “rockers” wearing Spandex.  This is the generic Lycra® version. Lycra® is a brand name trademarked by DuPont.

After your workout

As much as we hate it, we’re all drenched in sweat after a good workout, which means our clothes are, too. If you don’t have time to wash your clothes right after your workout, or you’re too tired like me, then hang dry your workout clothes, making sure there are no wrinkle or overlaps. This prevents your gear from turning into a mildew breeding ground. It also helps prevent bad smells from staying trapped inside your clothes.

How to get the stink out

The best method for to care for soiled workout clothes is to give them a prewash. Soak your Lycra® outfits in one part vinegar, and four parts water for at least 30 minutes before hand washing, or putting them into the washing machine. Ensure that you rinse your clothes thoroughly before washing them to get rid of the vinegar.

Some Don’ts to Remember

Do not mix vinegar and bleach ever! If your detergent contains bleach rinse out your vinegar soaked clothes before throwing them in the washer. Do not use vinegar in the rinse cycle of your washer if your detergent contains bleach.

Do not use heat for any of your Lycra® garments. This is really important.  READ THE LABEL BEFORE PUTTING ANYTHING IN THE DRYER.  Heat will destroy the elastic properties of the Lycra® fibers in your outfits.  Just avoid the dryer, ironing and the sun. Remember: Heat is bad for Lycra.

Do not use chlorine or bleach. This will destroy the fibers of the fabric and you will get “bag and sag” syndrome.

Do not use Fabric Softener. These are used to soften clothes and will ensure your expensive garment will never again retain its shape.

Wash Lycra in your machine 

Although it is said that hand washing is always the way to go, most of us don’t have time for that. Don’t worry! It’s okay for your Lycra® garments to go into the washing machine, but ensure that you follow these steps.

  • First, make sure that all of your zippered garments are zipped all the way up.  This helps prevent the zipper track from snagging onto other fabric during the washing cycle.
  • Turn your clothes inside out.
  • Put delicate items into a mesh laundry bag, lingerie bag, or pillowcase to protect them.  I strongly recommend this for something like Bib Shorts.

Washing machine set-up

If you are worried that a pre-soak won’t get all the smells out, then simply put some vinegar in the fabric softener dispenser of your washer. This will ensure your washer dispenses the vinegar in the rinse cycle. Always use cold water when washing your Lycra® garments. Don’t forget, heat will destroy them. Also, always set your washer to “Delicates” setting.  This helps to prevent damage of your clothes.

Less is actually more?

Use less detergent than you would for regular washing, when you care for Lycra® clothing.  Although detergent cleans your clothes, it can leave a build up on your clothes if you use too much. A build up of detergent will trap in dead skin cells and trap bacteria into the fabric. If you want to make sure your clothes last, try a detergent designed for washing workout clothes.  You can find this type of detergent at most running stores.

Finishing The wash

After the washing cycle has been finished, hang your clothes up, or lay them down flat to dry. Never put them in the dryer and try hard not to put them in the blazing Sun.  Lycra® is a fast drying fiber, so your clothes should not take too long to air dry.

This article was contributed by SLS Compression and Triathlon Gear.  No samples were provided.

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Why I switched from Garmin to Polar M400

Why I switched from Garmin to Polar M400

Polar M400

I’ve been training for the Portland Marathon with the Polar M400 GPS Running Watch for the last 7 weeks.  For the last 6 years, I have been using the Garmin 110 Forerunner.  In this article, I will discuss the features of the M400 that I have put to test, how they have significantly improved my training and why I’m switching to the M400 from Garmin.

The 110 is Garmin’s older base model. It’s a good watch and has served me well with basic distance and time tracking of my runs. I’ve also used Garmin’s heart rate sensor and monitor features, but I often have challenges syncing the watch and the heart rate sensor.


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The sample for this review was provided by Polar.


I started testing my M400 at the beginning of August. It was a little challenging to set-up and sync with the (Polar Flow) iPhone app, but by following the directions very carefully, I was able to load all my personal information (age, weight, running goals, etc) and complete the set-up so I could take advantage of the benefits of the watch and Polar Flow (the online 24/7 activity, training and sleep tracking web service that is also an app for iPhone and Andriod).  Downloading the app allows Bluetooth sync between the M400 and your mobile phone. Not only can I see workout details on my phone, but now I can see incoming texts and alerts on my watch (similar to the Apple Watch).

M400’s Amazing Technology

Once the set-up was complete and I started to use the watch, l felt like I had moved into the “21st Century” from the “Dark Ages” compared to what I was used to with my Garmin 110. I’m very impressed with the technology that Polar packs into this watch. It’s easy to instantly sync workouts to Polar Flow via Bluetooth to my iPhone.  This allows me to instantly see all the details of my workouts.

Polar Flow iPhone App

Following are a couple of screen shots of my watch and the Polar Flow iPhone app with workout details.  As you can see, basics of the workout are covered.  I didn’t wear my heart rate sensor with this particular workout.

polar-flow

Polar Flow Workout Stats

Polar M400

Map of Run

polar-flow5

Splits & Ave Heart Rate

Although I have not had the time to use all the features offered with the M400 GPS watch, I can assure you that this watch does far more than simply track your pace and distance.  It tracks steps, daily calories burned and your sleep at night. The watch is very smart. In fact, it knows when it isn’t being worn, when you are sitting, standing, walking, jogging or resting.

Heart Rate Sensor & Monitoring

When coupled with a heart rate sensor, the M400 is a heart rate monitor.  I really like this feature, I not only use heart rate zones during my training, but I rely on my heart rate monitor during the later stages of marathon training to keep me from overtraining.  One of the signs of overtraining is an inability to elevate your heart rate even though you may feel tired and unable to run much faster.  Although, there are many other signs of overtraining, this is the one I use where a heart rate monitor is essential.  The M400 shows your heart rate in big bold easy to read numbers. The watch can also verify which heart rate zone you’re in at any time during your run.  The benefit is that it provides a more accurate account of your effort level.

In my article about training with a heart rate monitor, I discuss these zones and how you can incorporate zone training into your workouts (3-5 are the most common zones that I run in).

You can get additional in depth information about Running heart rate zones by visiting the Polar Website.

Polar M400

Polar Flow Heart Rate Monitor

Cadence

Understanding your running cadence (steps per minute) and increasing it if necessary, can help you improve your running efficiency.  If you’re overstriding (low cadence) you may be at increased risk of injury. Measuring your cadence is easy with the Polar watch and increasing accordingly, can reduce muscle damage caused by overstriding.

Your height, weight, leg and stride length and running ability will determine your optimal cadence. Everyday runners generally fall between 160-170 steps per minute.  With the M400, just multiply the average cadence shown on the watch by 2.

Polar GPS watch review

Average & Max Cadence

Recharging the M400

Instead of using an awkward clip with wire/pin connectors like Garmin, the M400 has a small rubber flap on the back of the watch that covers a micro USB port. I used to have problems with my clip making a connection, so charging through this port is a great feature. The micro USB port and M400 watch is waterproof (up to 30 meters).  This is perfect if you’re training for or running in a triathlon so you can swim with your watch on.

Overall, I found that the buttons are easy to press and large enough to engage while running or other types of exercise. On the right side, the up, enter, and down buttons help you scroll through features such as your diary of activity, personal settings and even a fitness test. On the left, there are the light and back buttons. Managing the M400 with these buttons does not take long to figure out.

The Polar M400 gives you a considerable amount of information during and after you have completed your run.  Below you can see the details of my heart rate and the amount of time I was running in a particular heart rate zone.

Heart Rate Zone Training

Ave Heart Rate

Polar Heart Rate Zones

Time Spent in each HR Zone

You can view the start time, duration, distance, calories burned, fat burn percentage of calories, average pace, max pace, max altitude, ascent, descent, auto lap times, best lap time and average lap time. It will also keep track of your personal records and will notify you after you complete your longest and fastest runs.

Memory of Activity & Battery Life

The M400 can store up to 30 hours of past runs on its internal storage. All of this information can also be uploaded to Polar’s website. I really like how it’s easy to access details of previous workouts right on my watch.  Following images show the workouts for a particular week that have been tracked.  As you can see, I can easily scroll to any day and then click on it to view workout details.

Polar Flow Training Info

Diary of Completed Workouts

M400 review

Average Pace

 

I like the M400’s battery life. I run and use the GPS daily, but I found that the M400 goes 3-4 days before requiring a recharge. If you’re not using the GPS, Polar claims up to 10 days before a recharge is required. I found that my watch required juice the more often that I used the GPS.

Overall, the big selling point of the Polar M400 is that it’s not just a GPS enabled watch for running, but that it can be used to track other outdoor activities, like cycling and hiking. The Polar Flow is an amazing dashboard where I can track all of my personal results and progress towards my goals.  There’s also multiple tabs which can connect you to a vast Community of other Polar watch users around the world, a Program tab which can generates an individualized training plan for 5k, 10k, ½ and full marathons and the Feed tab which shows you details of all of your activities.

 

Polar Flow Training Suite

Polar Flow Feed Dashboard

The coolest feature on the Feed tab is the “relive” button. You can get a view of the sites of your workout and the times/pace of various intervals.  It literally helps you relive the experience of your run or race.

M400 GPS Watch Review

Polar Flow Relive Workout Feature

I plan on reviewing the Polar Flow web service in much more detail in subsequent posts.

For me, the M400 is a great tool to effectively track both my indoor and outdoor activities. I highly recommend this GPS enabled watch, the heart rate sensor and the Polar Flow website and iPhone app to not only track your training, but all daily activities.

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Pros:

  • Very easy to use
  • Tracks run distances by GPS
  • Water and sweatproof to 30 meters
  • Heart rate and daily fitness (distance + pace data)
  • Large numbers on easy to read screen while you’re running.
  • Polar Flow iPhone app and web portal with dashboard and suite

Cons:

  • A little challenging to initially set up and sync with your iPhone. Just follow directions very carefully and it will work.
  • Slow sync’ing if completed via Bluetooth to your mobile phone.
  • Uncomfortable to wear at night (not really a huge deal for me because I’ve never worn a watch to bed).

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