Apologies to Led Zeppelin…
August is the time when motivation seems to breakdown for people training for fall marathons or endurance even. For marathoners, the excitement of starting training in June has worn off but the countdown to the start hasn’t begun. For people training for a fall Ironman, the excitement of beginning training has LONG run out and there seems like nothing but monster weeks ahead.
The weather has become hot and humid so one needs to either get up before the crack of dawn, run later at night or toughen it out in conditions that drain energy faster than normal. Any and all of those don’t exactly make the athlete scream “YEAH!!!!”
Those nagging aches and pains can turn into injuries from overuse and you get tired of trying to eat healthy when all your friends are drinking boat drinks and eating BBQ all weekend long.
If you race during training, you might be getting a motivation smackdown when you can’t seem to PR short events and wonder why you seem to be training so much but getting so slow.
Vacations in August remind us how nice NOT training is.
Here are a few quick tips to deal with the inevitable motivation breakdown:
1) Friends. If you train alone, try to find some friend(s) who will train with you. Even if you can’t find a friend to run 15 miles with you, you might be able to find one who will run the first 6 with you, or meet you at the halfway point and run you in. Having someone train with you will a) help you avoid blowing off a session and b) provide you with someone to distract you from the monotony of long distance running.
Many local running stores have running groups that meet weekly or you can seek out groups on social media. I know of a runner who recently had success finding an informal running group using meetup.com.
Try going to one or more of those runs as they fit in your training schedule. Even if it is a short run, doing something different will break up your training and be something new. You might find that someone in that group is also training for a long distance event and would be willing to do the long runs with you.
If you have a non-runner friend, you could ask if they would ride a bike next to you as you jog. They might not get the greatest workout (depending on your speed) but it would be some fresh air and a time for you and your friend to talk without work, family or other distractions.
2) Cross-train: You should be doing some cross-training anyway, but if you aren’t, add it in. Once or twice a week do something other than running. Take a class at a gym, go to yoga or do some other sport.
Running is a repetitive front/back motion. Try playing tennis or basketball to get a good aerobic workout while working in a multiplaner direction. It will help build up the knees and hips, while giving you a break from the same old same old runs.
Yoga builds strength and flexibility. Both good and, again, it is a break from 5-6 days of running.
3) Focus on the goal: This isn’t as distracting running with friends or playing tennis, but now is the time in training where the goal tends to get forgotten.
We get bogged down in the day to day schedule and keep looking ahead at the 18-20 mile runs to come. It seems like training has been going on forever and doesn’t seem to have an end!
Take a few moments each week to look back at your training plan. See how far you’ve actually come. Look at the total mileage for that first week and compare it to the current week. Get excited about how far you have come, but don’t pay attention to how far you have to go. Just be mindful of how much you have accomplished and be proud of that.
Often, doing just that will provide you with a bit of a motivation boost. “Wow, I’ve really come a long way. I can’t wait to keep going and look back in another two weeks and see my progress.”
In addition, by looking back at your training and your written goals and targets (YOU DO WRITE DOWN YOUR GOALS AND TARGETS, RIGHT?!) you can refocus and reorient.
If you are racing and see your 5K time getting a bit sluggish, by reminding yourself of you goal (a marathon) you’ll remember that marathons are run in zone 2. You aren’t working on 5K type speed. You are supposed to be running slower than that. Unfortunately, training slow tends to make you slow so of course your 5K time suffers.
When you hear co-workers or friends talking about their recent PR in an event, instead of getting upset that you don’t seem to be keeping up, you’ll be able to remember that you aren’t training for the events they are doing. Someone training for a marathon is training endurance not speed. Sure your friend might have a better Olympic distance triathlon because they were training for that. When you look back at your goals and targets you will keep the focus on the fact you are training for a 70.3 or 140.6. It’s not the same training as a short course event.
Again, by reminding yourself weekly of your goals and targets you won’t get caught up in what other athletes are doing and/or comparing yourself to them. You will remember that this race is about YOU. What YOU want.
Finally, as always, rest and recovery goes a LONG way to keeping motivation levels where they need to be. As an aside, I said “where they need to be” not “high” or “elevated.” Not even Macca or Kara Goucher or any elite athlete always has high motivation. They just have the ability to work through the low points. You WILL have low points. That’s to be expected. It’s what you do about it that will separate athletes.
Making sure you get good sleep, use foam rolling, self-massage or professional massage, eat properly and take rest days during training will help prevent overtraining and burnout. I can’t stress it enough. Even if it means taking a few days off from running when you feel mentally and physically exhausted. Do it. Those few days off won’t cripple your training program, but trying to push through just might.
That doesn’t mean blow off training sessions whenever you just don’t feel like it. It means learning the signs of overtraining, talking to your coach, and cutting back as soon as you see them crop up. I’ll have a quick post about the signs of overtraining in a few days.
In the meantime, if you have any questions, feel free to ask away!