Training 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.
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.
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.