Four Weeks Left – Finishing Strong
By now you have probably been running regularly for at least a few months and may be having trouble staying motivated to keep consistent with your running plan. Now is not the time to let up on your fall race training plan, so I’m sharing my best tips to help you stay on track. Hopefully, a few (or a lot) of these ideas will work for you.
Add cross-training. As I discussed in my recent blog post on injury prevention and care, cross-training can help preserve and improve your fitness when you are injured and can’t run. Cross- training helps in other ways, too. It not only improves overall fitness, but can also keep your running from feeling stale and monotonous. Mixing up your workouts and including cardio other than running can really help you stick to your overall running plan and avoid boredom.
Focus on self-care. Taking care of yourself can help reduce mental and physical stress. Less stress allows you to stay motivated and committed to your running plan.
Get yourself out the door. Sometimes, just taking the first step is the most powerful thing you can do. To make sure you complete each run in your plan, consider the following:
- Schedule it. Put each run on your calendar – on a specific day and at a specific time. Include the duration (including driving, changing and showering time, as necessary) and location. Your runs need to carry the same importance in your life as your other meetings and obligations. By committing to a specific time, you can avoid scheduling conflicting activities and stay on track for your runs. If an unavoidable conflict arises, don’t just cancel your run. Reschedule it to a different time or non-running day later in the week.
- Prepare. Make it as easy as possible to go on your run. Lay out your clothing, shoes and accessories the night before or some time in advance of your run. Charge your smart watch and/or phone in advance so that you are ready to go. Set aside your pre-run hydration in the refrigerator so you can easily grab it and hydrate before your run. Have your sunscreen and bug repellent handy for when you leave the house. (I keep mine on a table in the garage so that I can apply it on my way out the door.)
Have a goal (race). Training for a specific event will always increase your commitment and motivation to stick to your running plan. If you aren’t already training for one of the fall Healthy Driven Naperville Races, choose one of them or a goal race that is a reasonable distance and calendar date for your fitness level. Tell friends and family about the goal race, put the race on your calendar, post your plans on social media. Do anything you can to make it more real and tangible. If you are not interested in running in an actual race with other people, lots of races (including the Healthy Driven Naperville Half Marathon, 10K and 5K) have a virtual option.
Keep variety in the mix. Make sure you include runs on different paths and trails as well as different distances and paces so you don’t get bored with your running plan. Mixing up the terrain, running surface and pace will provide variety for you mentally, as well as give your muscles a more varied workout, which will make you physically stronger. In addition, make sure you train on surfaces and terrain that are similar to your goal race terrain. For the Healthy Driven Naperville races, choose training routes that are slightly hilly and on asphalt. Be prepared for a variety of weather and temperature conditions since the race is in October and it could be cool or warm on race day.
Find a community. Having a group (or a buddy) to run with can really help you stay focused and accountable and stick to your running plan. If large groups aren’t for you, try to find one person to run with consistently. Someone with similar goals and capabilities is ideal. Also, keep in mind that your running buddy can be your dog! If you are a more social person, there’s no denying the benefits of a running group or community. Here are my favorite reasons for lacing up with a friend or friends instead of hitting the road solo:
- Commitment. The most important aspect of your training is consistency. You’re more likely to get out for your run if you feel you’ve committed to others who expect you to be there. Even if you run in a group, be accountable to one or two specific individuals for each run. The thought of letting someone else down will make it hard to sleep in or skip your run.
- Camaraderie. Sometimes, when we run alone, time can drag and our runs seem to take forever. The camaraderie and distraction of being with others can really help you stay with your running plan. As your runs become longer, the “we’re in this together” feeling becomes even more important.
- Safety. We’ve all heard that there’s safety in numbers and it’s true for runners, too. If someone gets hurt, others are there to get help. Larger groups ward off wildlife visitors or humans up to no good. Groups of runners are more likely to spot trail hazards – like obstacles or holes in the road – and warn others. Lastly, your group is less likely to get lost while together, but if you do, you have each other to develop a plan to get back home.
- Creative stimulation. A running community is helpful outside of actual runs, too. It’s helpful to have others to discuss ideas with or find a creative solution for a training issue.
- Motivation. Running with others makes it hard to quit mid-run. You’re more likely to finish and reach your goals in a group. Being with others also makes you feel that if they can do it, so can you.
- Performance. A little friendly rivalry or competition can be a good thing and improve your running performance. Just make sure you don’t make every run a competition. Remember to keep your easy days easy.
- Networking. You never know who you’ll meet in your running group. They just might end up being contacts and confidants who will help you with other personal, career or philanthropic goals.
- Social/friendships. Some of my best friends over the years have been my running friends. Long runs are a great opportunity to really open up with someone and get to know them on a deeper level. I have running friends who retired from running years ago, but I’m still in close contact with them. Running friends are friends for life.
As you can see, there are lots of techniques you can use to stay on track with your running plan. Try a few or all of these tips to build your consistency, achieve your racing goals and finish strong.
Laurie Lasseter Marathoner
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
RRCA Certified Running Coach
Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness