Many 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.