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 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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