Have you ever found yourself looking at future workouts while thinking I’m never going to be able to do that? Sometimes it is better to jump in with reckless abandon than to calculate every step. I get it. It’s hard to “admit failure” or miss the training mark….cutting miles, slow splits. It comes in many forms. Training for a big goal race is a delicate balancing act. You have to be willing to push the envelope just far enough without causing burnout or injury.
If it was easy to run at your target paces, you wouldn’t actually have to train, right? But how do you conquer this mindset to trust your training? First, let’s talk about why your training plan works for you.
The Theory of Adaptation
Each time a new stimulus is introduced, the mind and body start to adapt. As you continue to introduce new stimulus over a period of time you continue to reach new levels of fitness. In a running training plan, there are four different variables that can be manipulated (intensity, frequency, rest, and volume). As you progress from the beginning of your training plan to the end, you will move to harder workouts that are increasingly race specific. Every new challenge might make you cringe but it will get you one step closer towards achieving your goal. As you start to repeat your workouts, they should become easier.
Cumulative Fatigue & The Taper
As you approach your peak weeks in training, your volume and intensity will reach its maximum. The quality days per week may leave you tired at the beginning of your next run forcing you to dig deeper mentally to complete the mileage. Especially for a marathoner, building the mental toughness to run on tired legs is a paramount training goal. Just when you think that you can’t take any more, you arrive at the taper. It’s now time to rest, repair, and recover for your peak performance. Now it is all about prevention, proper nutrition and rest to ensure that you toe the line in peak shape. Do not do anything stupid in this phase of training!
This is the phase of training that I think requires the most trust. First you have to dig deep and give it everything you can muster. Then you have to respect the training that you have done. Taper is not the time to cram in any extra training. The hay is already in the barn.
What has helped me to get through this training cycle so far?
1. Leave your baggage at the door. I could find a million reasons why it is easier to continue to run at a 10 minute pace than to push myself to run repeats at a 6:40 clip or to run tempo at a 7:40 pace. But, If I’m too afraid to even try…If I start to make excuses before I even start, I’ll never get there. Figure out your reason why or find a mantra that you can repeat to yourself when that doubt creeps in.
2. Find a buddy. Misery loves company? I’m kidding! Actually, for me having a “pacer” for my runs makes it easier for me. If I have to think about pushing my own pace, looking at the watch, breathing, and form, it can easily become overwhelming. Having hubs out there to push me keeps me going when I want to give up.
3. Track your results. The numbers don’t lie. Some days I see big improvements over last year and sometimes I just see small incremental improvements over last week. Each time I can push the envelope, I am proving to myself that I can do this and I can push harder. One bad workout or one missed workout isn’t going to have a major impact on your training. Just like the business world and process improvement, we are looking for an overall trend. We’re going to have ups and downs along the way.
4. Find something good in every run. Keep a journal. After every run write down at least one good thing that happened. There is always one thing that you can pick out.
5. Start with the end in mind. Eye on the prize here – it’s all about making it through 8, 12, 16 weeks of training. One workout may not change you but weeks of working out will. Keep your focus on the big picture and think about that finish line. Actually, think about it often. Visualize crossing the finish line and think about what that is going to mean for you. It might just come in handy for that extra motivation you need to fight through on race day when it gets hard and it starts to hurt.
Is it really that easy? It actually is. You just have to decide you are willing to commit.
I had an “Oh, crap” moment this week looking at my training plan. There are some scary workouts staring back at me. Have my workouts been perfect? Have I hit all of my splits? No. There is never going to be a perfect training cycle where you rise to the occasion every day. If you do, your training plan is too easy and it is not serving you if you have a big, scary goal. However, I am not going to let that hold me back from giving it my all every day I lace up. In fact, I am very pleased with my progress over 3 short weeks.
Let’s take a minute to compare to last year. Last year, I was training for two fall marathons. I was in excellent shape. I did a lot of cross training but most of my miles were at an easy pace. My long runs were at a 10:30 pace. Once a week, I would go running with the True Runner group. They didn’t have specific pace groups so every week, I just went out as fast as I could to keep up with other runners. My primary motivation was not getting lost on the route. This usually meant an 8:30-8:45 pace for three miles. I guess you could call that my informal speed work of the week? I was able to pull off a 24:00 5k (7:43 pace) at my race. My training wouldn’t indicate that I should have been able to run that pace last year but, it’s mind over matter. Right?
I have to make the decision to go all in this year in my training. This means pushing my limits and trusting in the process. With an actual plan, I feel there is almost no way that I can go in to this race and not PR. The worst thing that can happen is that I miss my goal or I don’t PR. At the end of this, I’m still going to be a much stronger runner with more discipline than when I started this cycle. If I don’t hit my target now, I’ll get it eventually. Persistence always pays off. You can’t be afraid to fail. The way that you truly fail and cheat yourself in training is by sitting on the side lines or holding back when you can push hard. The way to get ahead is simply to start. Make your decisions and take action today.
Need some more help? I’ve got you covered:
How to Survive the Rest of Your Summer Runs – Tips for Hot Weather