Several bloggers I read are training for marathons. For several brave souls, this is their first foray into running 26.2 miles. Some are running their first half marathon, which is still an accomplishment. 13.1 is not easy. Over the last week or so, I noticed the dreaded “training blues” aka, “WTH did I get myself into?” creeping up on them. Some have been sick or battling soreness or injury. I decided to talk about motivation to train when it’s the last thing in the world you really want to do. I love to run, I just hate running. It’s like that sometimes.
One concept to remember; marathon training and racing is hard work. Athletes push our bodies to the limits and often beyond. When we engage in a difficult, high mileage training program, our bodies are both broken down and strengthened. This can be a frustrating process. Hard work is being put in and we may not see immediate results. As a matter of fact, we may seem to be getting slower and less conditioned! We encounter soreness. Our legs may feel “flat” on runs. Usually, flat legs happen when there wasn’t enough recovery time between hard workouts. This is a good phenomenon to experience. It allows you to feel the fatigue in practice that you may experience in the race. Our runs may seem harder. Bad training runs doesn’t mean a bad race follows. They are part of the process. Athletes may also have a reduced immune system, leading to illness. Marathon training stresses the body and mind.
There are a few things to take under consideration. Firstly, maintaining proper hydration not only during the run but also throughout the day. Water is an excellent hydration source prior to your run. During the run, you may want to carry a sports drink to help keep electrolytes balanced, especially on hot, humid, and/or long runs. Runners can actually take into too much water. Without proper electrolyte balance, it leads to medical problems. Secondly, proper nutrition. When we hit the high mileage weeks, our bodies need fuel. Runners’ World Online has a great section of recipes and sample diets for runners. See here: http://www.runnersworld.com/channel/0,,s6-242-0-0-0,00.html Proper fueling helps us to run better and recover faster. After a long run, you should also take in a snack with carbohydrates and protein within 30 minutes of finishing. It doesn’t have to be high calorie but replacing resources immediately leads to more efficient recovery. It can be as simple as drinking a glass of chocolate milk. Fueling on the run is also important. There are several products on the market, such as GU, Cliff Bars, and Power Bar that are made specifically for endurance athletes. You can also carry items of your own choosing. I like Jelly Bellies. Other athletes I know have used Gummy Bears, trail mix, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and a variety of other foods. Whatever you choose, make sure you experiment with your food and beverage choice before the marathon. I broke that rule one race and paid “porta potty penalty” on my times. I did see several nice porta potties, though.
Temperature and humidity also play parts in training. Dress appropriately. Remember to hydrate even on cooler days. When the temperature and humidity are higher, workouts are more difficult. Our bodies are being stressed to not only run but also keep our core temperatures at an appropriate level of functioning.
Rest and cross training days are vital. The runner’s body needs rest days to rebuild muscle and prevent injury. Cross training allows for other activities that build strength or stamina in other parts of our bodies. Runners need to do some resistance training. Building a strong core helps facilitate energy transfer. Lean muscle also burns calories and cools the body more effectively. Cardio cross training allows for reduction of stress on the legs while still engaging in cardio activity.
Lastly, sleep is extremely important. Sleep is when our bodies repair the damages done during the day and builds muscle. It recharges our bodies. It rids the body of toxins. You may find you want to sleep more during high mileage training. That is normal. It’s your body’s way of recovering.
Marathon running is not only physical, it’s mental. How do you deal with the hard workouts? How will you make it through the dreaded wall? It’s about motivation. Why am I running the marathon? How willing am I to go through the pain to succeed? I run because I love to run. I marathon because I love the challenge. It pits me against myself. I remember running a race where everything was going wrong. Ironically, I was well-trained. I was having a horrible day. The marathon had one final long, steep hill. After that, it was a downhill run to the finish. I felt awful. I was exhausted and really just wanted to stop running. But, I told myself I would make it to the top. I looked over to the side. The race managers had put out signs to encourage the runners. “Only 1/4 to go.” Only. Really? What a stupid word! For some reason, that sign took my moxie out. I walked. Why? After I read the sign, my mind immediately chirped in, “I can’t run this hill for another 1/4 mile. I suck. This stinks.” And assorted four letter words. What could be different? “Hey! I already ran over half way up this hill. I can kick the last 1/4 mile!” “I may be tired but I’m strong.” Attitude. It’s not so much what we experience as it is how we describe it to ourselves. When we use negative words, it brings negative energy. It tears us down and leads to a drop in confidence. If we use positive words or descriptions, it builds confidence and brings positive energy. It’s challenging when we notice pain, fatigue, or discomfort. Dwelling on the discomfort, we become more aware of the discomfort. It becomes larger. If we find a way to describe the discomfort in a way that is positive or empowering, it lessens its importance to us. This is also part of mindfulness. “It’s ok that I’m tired. It means I’m challenging myself and improving.” “I can make it up this hill. I’m already half way there.” “I can do this for 3 more miles.” In the end, it’s our minds that will get us over the finish line. Our bodies follow.
Currently, I am training for a half marathon in July; Missoula MT. Those of you who have followed my blog know about my injury in a car accident. I suffered a traumatic brain injury. This will be my first long race after the accident. Training for this race has been a difficult undertaking. My body no longer has the same level of stamina. I’m also much more sensitive to light, sound, and motion. I have to carefully monitor my hydration and blood sugar. If I get out of balance, I will pay the price with a migraine. Yet, this “only half” marathon I am running is much more important to me than any of my other full marathon races. Running has been a part of my life since I was in fourth grade and won my first running ribbon. Completing this half will be a huge accomplishment. I am still a runner. I also want to use the race to raise awareness of Traumatic Brain Injury. The training has been brutal. In addition to the regular challenges of increasing stamina and distance, I also fight with the ongoing symptoms of TBI. It’s exhausting. But, every day I run is a victory! Keep movig forward! Good luck with your training. And great racing to you!