I’m right at the tail end of marathon training and I really want to tell you that it is wonderful and I love it, but I’d be lying if I did. Until recently, this training cycle has been a real struggle for me. I am a creature of habit and my training showed it, which meant that my training runs became really, really boring. I often run in the same place and do the same workouts week after week, which was making it incredibly hard to get out the door.
I’ve found all kinds of articles about how to beat the post-marathon blues, but I haven’t found much about how to survive the actual training process, so I’d like to share some of the things that have worked for me over the last few weeks. I’ve gone from really dreading my long run every weekend to actually enjoying it. My easy/recovery runs have become one of my favorite runs of the week, and I’ve made some great new friends in the process.
Change the scenery.
This one was a BIG one for me. I live in a suburban area with plenty of wide sidewalks and paved trails to run. They all tend to run together though, particularly after running them over and over during the course of a training cycle. One of the best things I did was joining a running group that got me out of my neighborhood and into some new areas of town.
I recently did an 18-mile run at Amelia Island (home of ZOOMA Florida!) and the miles flew by. The last several miles, which are usually the ones I struggle most with, ran right along the beach. How can you be miserable when you get to run along the beach just after sunrise? You can’t!
Give yourself a break.
I used to beat myself up over missing training runs. After doing a lot of reading and talking with more experienced runners, I quickly found that sometimes it is better to miss a run than to head out for one that your heart isn’t in to. There are days that running is the last thing I want to do, so instead, I take my 5-year-old out for a bike ride to get ice cream or I head to the gym for an extra yoga class. I’m still doing something active, but it really helps get my mind in a better place so that I can enjoy my runs and not dread them.
Run with friends.
This has made a huge difference for me. I always thought I was a solo runner. I liked the idea of having some time to myself where I could get lost in my thoughts and just zone out. That was nice for a while, but I guess I’m not all that entertaining because I ended up bored! One of my friends convinced me to join her running group for a long run and after I did, I was hooked.
I was really worried about running with a group. What if I can’t talk and run? What if I can’t keep up? None of that mattered. When I was too out of breath to talk, I listened to the other conversations going on around me. When I struggled to keep up, they encouraged and motivated me to keep pushing. I’ve reached out to a few of my runner friends and found some running buddies through my local Moms Run This Town chapter, so these days it’s rare that I’m out there on my own.
Don’t stress so much about the numbers.
I’m so guilty of this. I look at my training plan and get overwhelmed. Then the self-doubt starts to creep in, “I’m supposed to run how many miles.. at what pace?” I have to keep reminding myself that while training plans are nice, they are not everything. Maybe I was up with a sick kid last night, so I’m tired and really struggling to hold my pace through a tempo run. Maybe my allergies are going crazy so I am having a hard time breathing and need to walk some. It is OKAY! You’re not going to DNF your race because you had a few rough runs.
Vary your workouts.
When I was training for my first half marathon, I got into a habit of doing three 5-milers around the same loop in my neighborhood and a long run on the weekend. At the time, it worked out well for me. I was still new to running and it made me more confident that I could finish 13.1 miles. Now, a year and several races later, doing that would make me crazy! I try to switch things up and keep it interesting. Right now, I have a love/hate relationship with Yasso 800s. I’ve never done speed work so it’s kind of fun.. in the “hurts so good” kind of way.
All of this really boils down to one thing — just make a change.
Do something different. For me, running was all about stepping outside of my comfort zone and doing something that I never thought I could do. I’ve found that to keep myself happy, I have to keep doing that over and over again. The really wonderful thing about running, for me at least, is I always have something to work toward, something to keep pushing myself to reach. I hope I’m able to keep pushing and keep reaching new running goals for years to come.
I originally wrote this “Beat the Training Blues” article for the ZOOMA blog in November 2013, as part of my ambassador duties with them. Since I’m starting a new marathon training cycle today, I wanted to go back and read it today to hopefully prevent the blues from creeping up on me during this training cycle. I wanted to share it with you all here, in case you missed it the first time around!