You know the excuses: “I’m too tired”, “My stomach hurts”, “It’s too early”, “I just don’t want to run today”, and the one I use the most: “It’s too hot!”. Sticking to a training plan can be hard, it requires an equal balance of motivation, reward, sacrifice, and fun; your whole schedule changes, you don’t get to see your friends as much, and you don’t get to eat ice cream everyday. Often the pressure of sticking to a training plan alone causes doubts and excuses. As many runners (including me!) begin hitting the streets for fall race season, I want to share some of my tricks and tips to staying on track with training.
Often, when I hear a friend is out running to get ready for a race, I’ll ask if they have signed up yet. In most cases, the answer is no. This instantly leads to slacking off: “What’s the big deal if I don’t run this week? I haven’t signed up for anything!” The most important thing you can do to stick with your training is to put that cash money down and reserve your spot in the race. Knowing that you are signed up to run is pretty good motivation to get out and get ready. Plus, the earlier you register, the cheaper it generally is!
2. Write it down and hang it up!
If you are serious about doing well in an upcoming race, you most likely have a training plan in mind. So write it down! I highly suggest that even if you print out a training program from the internet to write it down by hand, on a calendar, a sheet of paper, basically on something big and noticeable. Physically writing down how much you are going to run a day helps to imprint it in your head, much like taking notes for a big test. Think of it as making a contract with yourself.
Next, hang your training schedule somewhere noticeable, such as on the fridge (in my case), on a mirror, or on a bulletin board. Furthermore, if you are someone who keeps a To-Do list everyday, add your run to your list so you can check it off!
3. Organize a support team
Surrounding yourself with folks who want to see you succeed in your running endeavors is key. Find a friend to run with; you are more likely to get out of bed to meet someone at the track to do speedwork with. Running long distances with a friend can be very enjoyable, and often becomes a social event chatting about sports, gossip, news, etc. while getting your run done.
If you live with roommates or your significant other, make sure they know you are in training. Let them know that its ok for them to force you to get out and run! During my last marathon training, I had to pound on my roommate’s door on several occasions to get her out of bed to go run. I am also sure to have my boyfriend kick me out of bed when I have an early morning long run.
4. Find inspiration!
The more you read about running, the more you are going to be motivated to run! So pick up a subscription to a running magazine, read some running blogs, or pick up an inspirational book about running. Reading about other’s experiences will not only inspire and motivate you, but you will be a more informed runner as well. Talk about a win/win.
5. Don’t run.
OK, what I mean is to find time to do other things you enjoy while you are in training that don’t involve running. Burning out by focusing on running too much is one of the top reasons runners quit. So, if you can manage it, on an easy day or a day off, find time to socialize with friends, go to dinner with a special someone, go to yoga, or spend time working on another hobby. Just go out and do something other than run.
6. Eat right and sleep well!
This one’s pretty obvious and is typically the solution to the “I’m too tired” and “My stomach hurts” excuses. Watch what you eat; Chinese takeout the night before a long run is probably a very bad idea. Make sure you are drinking enough fluids and eating as little processed foods as possible.
When you are in training, your body requires a lot of sleep. Think of sleep as the time that your muscles get to build and repair themselves. Get at least 8 to 9 hours a night. I also take at least a half hour nap everyday (typically it’s closer to and hour and a half).
7. Reward yourself!
Just finish a 15 mile run? Go use that Groupon for a massage or go have a nice, big mojito. When you break a major goal or milage in your training, treat yourself. My personal favorites are having breakfast for dinner after a big run or treating myself to licorice all-sorts(my favorite candy). Just make sure to keep it within reason!
Good luck to everyone getting ready to race this fall. Remember, that feeling you are going to have after you complete your training and finish your race is going to be awesome! Keep on running!
Ashley is a geologist at Schlumberger, specializing in geologic modeling software. She completed her Masters degree in geology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is an avid runner, cyclist, and rock climber. She will pretty much race anything and everything. You can find her hanging out on White Oak in Houston, TX or climbing and running in Austin.