Developing more self discipline is an essential skill for those who are training for a marathon. Completing the race is an incredible achievement, but it’s the journey of training for 12-16+ weeks, that leads to a true sense of accomplishment.I’ve always believed that busy people get more done.However, the fact is that people with a higher degree of self discipline spend less time debating whether or not to indulge in activities and behaviors that prevent them from achieving their goals. For some people, simply being undisciplined can cause them mental anguish.
Over the years, I’ve encountered numerous middle age athletes who successfully achieved their athletic goals because they had the discipline to follow a training plan, even while leading busy lives. I have also coached people who struggled to keep up with a plan because they admittedly had a hard time staying focused. Developing more discipline takes time and effort, but there are numerous ways you can make this process easier for yourself. In this article, I’ll discuss a few tips that will assist you in becoming more disciplined, so you can achieve your goals.
Finding your motivation or identifying your “why”
To start the process of getting more discipline, you need to recognize why you may lack discipline and what you stand to gain by gaining more discipline. You may be unhappy with your appearance and believe that training for and ultimately completing a race will help you lose weight and improve your health.Another motivation may come from the desire to “get back in the game” after a long layoff from regular exercise.Having clarity of purpose will help you with each of the next steps.
Make a strong commitment to your goals
Use a training schedule to prepare you for your race. If you work with a coach (which I strongly recommend), he or she can put together a have a schedule that fits your goals, athletic abilities and specific situation (like work and family commitments).The workouts should be laid out for you in a calendar format. Now all you need to do is plan at which time you will complete your daily training.
Understand your weaknesses and rid yourself of temptations
If you are trying to follow a training plan, it’s essential that you plan your workouts. Just like you schedule appointments in your calendar, do the same with your workouts for the week. I like to plan the times and specifics of my workouts on Sunday.If I didn’t take the time to plan ahead, I would find dozens of excuses or other activities to take up my time. Years ago, when I was coming off of injuries that slowed me, I had convinced myself that I had become too busy to train for races. Now I simply work around important things like Church and family commitments. I don’t neglect these important activities, instead, I ensure that I also include time for exercise.
“Ultimately, working out becomes a part of my life.It’s something that I just do almost everyday.”
If you want to improve something like your productivity at work so you don’t have the excuse that you’re too busy to exercise, try turning off social media notifications and silence your cell phone. Make a list of “to do’s” for each day and commit to minimizing distractions, so you can stay focused on accomplishing your goals.
Just as important as committing to regular exercise is eating healthy.Another common weakness for many, including myself, is sweet and processed foods. I know that having these foods around becomes incredibly tempting when I’m hungry. Having the willpower to avoid unhealthy food is far easier when you are not surrounded by it. If you want to eat healthier, remove the junk food and soda from your house and don’t buy it when you’re in the store.Shop only from your list and only go grocery shopping after you’ve eaten, so you avoid the temptation to get food you don’t need.
The bottomline is that you set yourself up for success by “ditching” bad influences.
Create new habits by taking small actions – the key to Self Discipline
Start getting better a self discipline by accomplishing a small/easy task.If you haven’t been working out regularly, schedule 30 minutes of exercise.Don’t overdo things, with a workout that will leave you sore or unable to workout again the next day.Instead, start with 20 minutes of run/walking and finish with 10 minutes of stretching.The key is to build momentum with consecutive days of exercise. Once you start seeing results, it will be easier to make exercise a part of your routine
Another variation is the time version
This strategy is where you say “I will spend a certain amount of time on this project.” For example, say to yourself “I will just do this for the next 15 minutes,” you may find that you actually get into the flow of what you are doing and end up spending a longer period of time on it and getting more done.The same thing goes for exercise. Just getting out the door for 20 – 25 minutes may be enough if you only have 30 free minutes.
When you find yourself struggling, dig deeper into your motivation
If you’re training for a race so you can be healthy or for a charity, don’t forget that you’re doing something not only for yourself, but as an example for your spouse, kids and others who might benefit.
Plan non-working times
You cannot work all the time, or you will burn out very quickly. So be sure to schedule times where you have fun activities, or even just a half hour of relaxing. This gives you something to look forward to, and gives you a chance to recharge your batteries. This is especially important if your work requires a lot of creativity like writing, designing, and other such endeavors.
Celebrate your victories, but don’t get too down when you fail
Give yourself something to be excited about by planning a reward when you accomplish your goals. Just like when you were a little kid and got a treat for good behavior, having something to look forward to can give you the motivation to succeed.Also, recognize that failure can actually be a victory, because failure means you tried. Hopefully you learned something too, so you now know what doesn’t work. Next time, try something a bit different. This is why it’s important to practice your pre-race routine. Whether it’s in 10k or 1/2 marathon before your marathon or just a long run, find out what foods, drinks & gels work best for you.
Form a support team by reaching out to the people around you, and asking for their help. It really helps to have a coach who understands your goals and specific situation.Don’t hesitate to ask for suggestions when you’re struggling to follow a plan.Another alternative is to work and discuss your challenges with a training partner or partners. Remember, that you’re not on an island by yourself. Develop and use your support team.
I’m happy to help you. Please contact me if you’re having challenges staying or getting motivated to train for a race or to simply resume running.
Losing motivation to keep training? It’s very common with busy middle age athletes. I’ve worked with a number of clients over the years and developed some proven “tricks” to stay motivated to continue your training despite poor weather, being busy or when you miss a few workouts. With a little preparation and solid planning, there’s no reason why you can’t stay motivated all the way through race day.
1. Start with the big picture.
What is it you’re trying to accomplish or what is your why? You need to write this down, because the clearer the vision, the more likely you are to keep going, even when times get tough. Start by asking yourself what it is you’re trying to achieve.Are you simply trying to finish a particular race, like a 1/2 or full marathon? Maybe you have a goal time (PR) in mind.Another “why” for many athletes is that they are trying to raise money for charity they may be representing on race day.
The visualization of accomplishing this goal is essential. Picture yourself standing at the starting line on race day.You’re fit, confident and ready to get to the starting line. Now picture yourself finishing the race. We tend to perform in the way we expect to. So if we expect to fail, we do. By seeing success, you’re more likely to attain success.
2. Re-confirm your “why,” take time to ensure it’s truly YOUR goal.
This may seem like a waste of time, but I can assure you that your success depends on you “owning” your goal. I like to ask prospective clients about their “WHY.” Inside my athlete profile/questionnaire which is used to develop personalized training plans, I want to understand what’s behind an athlete’s why. If the word “should” comes up, chances are the person may haveset a goal because they feel like it’s something they’re supposed to do, and not something they want to do. In my experience, more often than not, people are less likely to stay motivated when they’re on the path of “should.”
3. Break down your training into weekly buckets (or microcycles) instead of looking at the entire 12 – 16 week plan.
In other words, follow a training plan. Once you have a goal and and a “why,” it’s normal to feel a little overwhelmed about how you’re going to accomplish that goal. Consider hiring a qualified coach to write you a custom plan that will help you meet your goal while fitting your athletic abilities and specific situation. Don’t use a generic plan off the internet.In coach speak, we refer to an entire plan as a macrocycle, which depending on the length of the plan, is comprised of 3-4 mesocycles, which are each made upof 3-4 microcycles (think weekly or even 4-5 days of workouts).By breaking it up into smaller pieces, you regain the feeling that you’re doing something possible.
4. If you’re overwhelmed or feel like you’re not following your plan, talk to your coach or a running partner with whom you have been training.
It might be that you don’t feel prepared to run your race because you’ve been injured or missed some key workouts.It may be necessary to slightly adjust your goal. Figure out what you need to do next and then go about making sure you do your best to move forward. You might have to pick up where you left off on the training plan or you may have to back track a week or two and redo some workouts.The important thing is to get some momentum by simply doing some kind of workout followed the next day by another workout.
5. Always remember your “Why.”
Post your why on an index card or post it, where you can see it daily. Just this little reminder can provide you with the fresh motivation to keep going.
Pro tip: Celebrate the small successes (such as completing a long run or challenging interval workout). This will help keep you motivated to continue your journey.
Motivation is something many lose during training. However, I found that you can regain it or keep your levels high with a little planning and with the help of others (this last one is huge). By keeping on track with your goals, I’m confident you will find you will maintain your motivation and continue training.
If you need help or just have a simple question, please reach out to me through the contact link at the top of blog.
Many runners hate hills because they’re hard. This is exactly why you need to include hill training into your training. Hills can increase your strength & speed. They also boost your confidence, improve form and help to minimize the chance of injury when you complete them on a soft surface (grassy hill). The muscles you use when completing a hill workout are the same as ones used for sprinting, so the strength you build will improve your speed. This article discusses the benefits of hill training and outlines when in your training plan they should be completed to achieve the maximum benefit. Lastly, I will provide some examples of hill training that can be performed for short races and other hill workouts that are best for ½ and full marathon training.
Which Phase in Your Training to Complete Hill Training
Usually hill training is completed during the strength training phase of a plan. Similar to Fartlek and Tempo runs, hill workouts help you transition from base training to faster interval workouts.
Typical hill workouts include a brisk running uphill with rest breaks on the flat or on the downhill. You can run at a sustained pace uphill, then relax back to conversation pace (catch your breath) on the downhills or flats. 15-30 minute of faster running is a good target. Paces depend on the grade and amount of repetitions. If you’re going by heart rate, target 85 – 95%.
Before completing hill training I recommend starting with an easy warm-up at conversation pace for 10-15 minutes. Next complete some stretching exercises including lunges, leg swings & strides. Complete your workout and then finish with an easy cool down and stretching.
Another benefit of hill training is that it can make you a more efficient runner because you’re training the cardio-respiratory and muscular systems to absorb, deliver and utilize oxygen while removing waste products such as lactic acid.
Types of Hill Running (Workouts)
Hills at conversation pace (just including hills during your general training). Just be cautious of doing too many hills and/or too often. A good example is picking a hilly course for whichever distance you run. A hilly long run is a great workout for ½ and full marathon training.
Hill repetitions – vary your workouts to include any of the following:
Hilly out-and-back course. This is the most common and probably best way to get yourself into hill training for a marathon or half marathon. Run comfortably hard on the uphill and then relax or run controlled downhill. Be careful of running too fast/hard on downhills. The distance of these workouts depends on the athlete’s ability, goals and what kind of base/foundation they have. New or novice runners should simply just try running up the hill without stoping. Don’t worry about picking up the pace (hills are hard enough).
400m-1000m. Alternatively 1.5 – 4 minutes uphill. 5 – 8 repetitions with rest or easy jogging on downhill. Try to avoid hills that are too steep. I recommend no more than 7-8% grade. This workout is perfect for marathoners. 3 – 4 minutes for recovery depending on the length of the hill.
Short hill (100m-400m) or 30 – 90 seconds. 5 – 8 repetitions with rest or easy jogging on downhill. Pace is faster than the longer uphills. Recovery is 1.5 – 2 minutes depending on the length of the hill.
Combo hill. Instead of distance, run uphill and vary by time. Start at 1 minute uphill and increase by 1 minute up to 4 minutes. Then decrease by 1 minute for 7 total hills. This workout more closely simulates what you’ll see in a race where the size of hills varies.
Downhill training – important for some race courses. Although it may be easier for your heart and lungs to run downhill, your legs certainly don’t get a break. It’s important to remember that you don’t want to run too fast downhills. I strongly recommend practice running downhill to prepare you for races like Big Sur and Boston. A perfect workout before the Boston Marathon is to add 2-3 miles of downhill after a long run of 14 – 18 miles.
I recommend including various hill workouts in your training. Modify the distances and speed of each hill. For example, to start hills complete 3 x 600m at 10k pace and 3 x 200m at 5k pace.
Last year, I ran Sauvie Island Marathon, which is flat, so I didn’t incorporate hill training into my 12 week plan. Instead, I ran hills in March, just before I started my plan. I completed the short hill workout by time. I completed 8 repetitions of 90 seconds. I didn’t complete any other hill training. In previous years when I ran either Portland or Boston, I included a lot more hill training in my plan.
To prepare me for the last 6 miles at Boston (which is downhill), I would add 2+ miles of downhill after my 16-18 mile long runs. To prepare me for the St John’s Bridge in Portland (which is around the 15 mile point), I would finish my 14 – 18 mile long runs with a 2.5 miles uphill.
Where to find Hills?
For many runners out West or along the East Coast, finding a hill may not be an issue. However, you don’t need to live at elevation to get in a hill workout. For many athletes in the Midwest or Florida, where it’s flat, you may have to get creative with your hills or inclines. Try parking garages (just be careful) or stadium ramps. High school stadiums, office buildings or hotels with stairs could also be used, but the duration of the uphill will be shorter. A word of caution about stairs is to start with just a few stairs and then build up. Stairs can really stress your achilles.
Another alternative for hills and stairs is using the treadmill or stair climber at the gym. If you’re completing stairs or stair climber workouts, ensure you stay sufficiently hydrated for longer workouts.
Hill Running Form:
Practice surging at the top of the hill with confidence & speed.
Lean forward, but don’t hunch
Keep your shoulders relaxed and drive your elbows back
Use a shorter cadence, but faster arm swing
Look a few feet ahead, not straight down at the ground
Try landing on your toes
Remember that every hill has an end
The more you include hills in your training, the less intimidating they’ll seem when you face them in a race. Hill running is an important component of any well-rounded training plan. As you can see, hills will help you become a more complete athlete. The improved strength and technique you gain from regular hill workouts will provide you with a significant confidence boost when you’re racing.
Whether you have a New Year’s resolution to get in shape for a race or you want to set a personal record in 2019, in order for you to achieve your goals, it’s essential that you stay healthy so you can continue your training and improve your running. Practicing healthy habits isn’t as simple as eating plenty of vegetables and getting 8+ hours of sleep each night. I wish it was that easy, but the reality is that life gets busy, we start “burning the candle at both ends” and eventually we lose focus of our wellness habits.
Even if you do have a few “bad days,” don’t beat yourself up. Having a piece of cake once in a while isn’t bad for you, it’s having cake everyday and not exercising to burn those calories off, that will lead to declines in your health.
Do what you can from the following list. Obviously the more healthy habits that are a part of your daily routine, the better.
Get plenty of sleep
Without proper rest, your mind and body can start to suffer ill effects rather quickly. Lack of sleep leads to depression and anxiety as well as confusion and overall cognitive impairment. When you don’t sleep enough, you just don’t feel like yourself, so be sure you are getting plenty of shut-eye. Have a sleep routine, and stick to it. Going to bed on time is one way to improve your mental wellness. Because sleep is crucial for restoring your body and your mind, you must value this activity. Going to bed and waking at the same time every day reinforces your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, which means you are more likely to sleep better and longer.
Pay attention to what you are and are not eating
Your diet has a profound effect on your mental wellness. Not only can eating unhealthy foods affect your body, but they also disrupt your sleep, rob you of energy, change your mood, throw your hormones out of balance, and lower your immune system. All of these can leave you feeling lethargic, sad, and confused. Focus on eating healthy foods, including those high in vitamins and minerals as well as healthy fats (like fish, avocados and nuts), which your brain needs.
a) Eat more omega-3 fatty acids
The fatty acids found in cold-water fish, flaxseed, and other foods are not only good for your heart and gut but also your brain. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce depression and lower the risk for dementia.
b) Stop Drinking Soda
Drinking too much soda increases your risk for type two diabetes by as much as 26 percent. People who drink sugary drinks such as soft drinks tend to weigh more and have poor eating habits.
c) Eat More Fruits
Add some more fruit to your diet. Fruits provide access to fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium and folate. Vitamins are necessary for the overall function of our body. They contribute to the repair of skin, hair, nails, and organ function.
d) Eat More Veggies
Do not skimp on your veggie intake. Vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals which help to lower blood pressure, promote digestive health, protect our heart and contributes to our eye health.
If you’re interested in joining me, I can put together either a custom training plan or I can personally coach you. Either program will be specific to your goals and athletic abilities. Just click on the links for details.
e) Eat Nuts!
Aside from containing omega-3 fatty acids, nuts are an excellent source for magnesium and vitamin E. Which nuts are the best? Almonds, macadamia nuts, and pecans are among those who appear to offer the best benefits.
f) Drink Water
Water intake is essential for good health. Water improves the function of our kidneys, serves as a cushion for our spine, supports hydration, and can prove beneficial to those trying to lose weight.
g) Eat These Foods to Improve Your Cholesterol
Need to improve your cholesterol levels? Try consuming barley, oats, nuts, apples, grapes, citrus fruits, and beans. Aim for foods that are rich in sterols and polyunsaturated fats. These substances are important for blocking cholesterol absorption.
h) Eat these Foods to Improve Your Cardiac Health
Protect your heart health by heart-healthy foods. Salmon, blueberries, dark chocolate, lean meats, soy, citrus fruits, extra virgin olive oils, nuts, and legumes may boost your heart health.
i) Eat these Foods to Lower Blood Pressure
Change your diet to lower blood pressure. Try to eat foods that contain magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Pomegranates, pistachios, olive oil, dark chocolate, bananas, oatmeal, and beets may help you control your blood pressure. Consistency will be critical for success.
j) Improve Your Energy with These Foods
If you’re in search of the best foods to give your metabolism and energy stores a swift kick, try adding lentils, fish (i.e., tuna, salmon), eggs, chia seeds, oranges or green tea to your diet.
k) Avoid Processed Foods
Processed foods are high in sugar and contain large amounts of high-fructose corn syrup. They can produce devastating effects on the body over a period causing heart disease, obesity, cancer, and diabetes.
l) Drink Water with Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar with water can offer a wide assortment of health benefits including a reduction in high cholesterol, weight loss, improvement in overall cardiovascular health, liver function and reduce the risk of cancer.
Set realistic goals and put a plan together to achieve them
I discussed this in an earlier post. Goals provide you with a purpose and sense of direction. Set a few critical, meaningful, and attainable goals for your personal or professional growth, and devise a plan that will help you achieve them. Keep working regularly to make progress toward reaching these.
Complete Strength training & conditioning exercises weekly
Strength training for runners won’t bulk you up and slow you down as long as you complete runner-specific training that emphasizes movements that directly correlate to running performance. I discussed some of the exercises I completed during my marathon training last year. Increased strength contributes to improved running because it can help improve your form when later in races when you’re fatigued. Strength training can also assist in preventing injuries because you have stronger muscles & tendons. Completing strength and conditioning exercises regularly is a proven way to make your body more resilient to the demands of running.
In order to help prevent injuries, make Active Isolated Stretching (AIS), rope stretches & foam rolling a part of your daily routine.
It’s essential to maintain your flexibility with a set of simple daily exercises. You should also include activities that will relieve muscle soreness and speed the healing & recovery process after your workouts.
Start the day off right and plan your workouts for the week
To avoid the rush of the morning preparations, prepare as much as you can the night before. Pack lunches, lay out clothes, place workout clothes in easily accessible places, and make sure devices get charged overnight. Having a morning routine and help you get your day started smoothly and eliminate unnecessary stress.
One of the keys to completing your training is to plan ahead. You may have a schedule and know which workouts to complete each day of the week, but the key to actually finishing each workout is to plan when during each day you will workout. I provide a number of proven strategies to help plan workouts. Whether it’s first thing in the morning, at lunch or after work, plug your workouts into your calendar like a meeting and do your best not to allow any changes. When you start missing workouts due to a busy life, it can get discouraging and very difficult to get back on track.
Beware of Fad Diets
Fad diets do promise results, but some have health risks tied to them or they’re simply not proven for long term health. Keto and fasting may yield results initially and result in immediate weight loss, but those results may prove difficult to sustain and even later contribute to higher weight gain. A balanced diet has stood the test of time as the best way to lose and maintain a healthy body. Follow my recommendations above regarding diet and you won’t go wrong.
Complete exercises to keep your glutes strong.
Glutes are arguably the most important muscle group for runners. Studies link glute weakness to achilles tendinitis, runner’s knee, iliotibial (IT) band syndrome and other common injuries. Read my comprehensive post about glute weakness and how to strengthen your glutes.
14 Things You Can Do Right Now To Improve Your Diet
It’s almost the new year, so you’ll start seeing a lot of commercials for dieting and ways to improve your health. Although eating more “greens” is a step in the right direction, there’s a lot of things you can do to help improve your diet. Whether you want to enhance your nutritional practices for health reasons, weight loss purposes or as a personal goal, there are many ways to sensibly accomplish your goal. Following are a few of my favorite.
If you’re training for a race, you’re going to have to fuel properly. Each of the following recommendations will help.
1. Avoid Drinking Your Calories Take time to evaluate the number of calories you are drinking in a single sitting. Some drinks contain as many as 150 calories in a single serving. Multiply that by three, and it’s easy to consume one-third of your calories for the day by way of beverage.
2. Increase Your Fruit Intake Fruit is an excellent way to boost your fiber intake, protect your immunity, and get a pretty steady dose of antioxidants.
3. Increase Your Vegetable Intake Get your veggies every day. Vegetables are a wonderful source of calcium, fiber, and antioxidants and can protect you from multiple diseases and illness.
4. Bake It or Grill It. Don’t Fry It Stay away from those fried foods as much as possible. They may be tasty but are not suitable for your diet or body. Baked or grilled foods tend to carry less fat which is good for the heart.
5. Make a Grocery List Make a grocery list before you visit the grocery store. Drafting a grocery list will save you from buying unnecessary foods or beverages.
6. Skip Deprivation of Foods A healthy diet should not equate to deprivation. Allow yourself to indulge in the foods or meals you like from time to time. This action will enable you to avoid binge eating or experiences feelings of guilt.
7. Limit Processed Foods This is tough, but is one of the best ways to improve your diet. So many processed foods such as cookies, chips, cereals, anything in a wrapper, sodas and especially candy can adversely affect your long term health. Processed foods contain a large amount of sugar, chemicals, high-fructose corn syrup and most important, they hold a large number of “empty” calories, salt and fat. The bottomline is that the combination of ingredients in processed foods, if consumed regularly, have been proven to increase the odds that you’ll suffer from heart disease, diabetes, obesity and stroke.
8. Increase Your Fiber Intake Your digestive tract loves fiber. Fiber supports the efficient movement of material through your system. Fiber also helps your stomach to feel full after meals and has proven to be useful in promoting weight loss.
9. Eating Enough Calcium Calcium is necessary for bone health, heart health and muscle function. Make sure you eat a diet that contains low-fat dairy and green leafy vegetables.
10. Drink Plenty of Water Water assists with digestion and can support weight loss efforts. Obviously water has no calories and consuming it regularly ensures proper hydration. As a runner, I like to think of water as the highway for the calories/energy to get to your muscles. Without getting too complex about the role water plays for runners, just remember that it’s absolutely essential to drink plenty of water before & after your workouts. If you’re running for 1+ hour or it’s really hot and/or outside, then it’s not essential to drink during your run (although I leave it up to people to gauge their own thirst)
11. Go Vegan for One Day There’s countless studies about the value of a vegan diet. I think the key to this diet is ensuring you consume sufficient protein. In fact, the best rule with any diet is keep your diet balanced. Go vegan for a day! This decision will not only help to boost your veggie intake, but it will add variety to your diet.
12. Enjoy Your Morning Coffee I’m totally on-board with this one. I love coffee. Numerous studies contradict each other regarding whether or not coffee is good for you. Other research shows that coffee provides stimulation for the mind, promotes heart health and boosts your metabolism.
13. Track Your Meals I think this habit of tracking your meals, can help you to subconsciously get your arms around the foods you are eating and promote a healthier approach.
14. Eat Fish! Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids which are a complete plus for the brain and your body. Cold water fish are a great source of healthy fats. Salmon is my favorite, but Tuna Steaks a good alternative. Omega-3s help to reduce your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Medical advice should always be obtained from a qualified medical professional for any health conditions or symptoms associated with them. Every possible effort has been made in preparing and researching this material. We make no warranties with respect to the accuracy, applicability of its contents or any omissions.