I was hoping to run 10 miles yesterday morning, for no other reason than to see if I still could, since my half in September. I managed 8. This was adequate, but disappointing but it is hard to motivate yourself to keep going for just under two hours (that’s how long 10 miles currently takes me) when there is no race on the horizon.
Although I’ve put my name down for the Helsby Half in January, I’m on the waiting list as they’ve reduced their numbers. I’m 77th in the queue so it doesn’t look like I’ll be getting the call up any time soon, but then again, there could be a flurry of withdrawals in December when people have realised they’ve larded up too much over a festive period that feels like a long time coming.
This makes for a difficult limbo land. Do I carry on training as if I will be running, or do I assume it’s a non-starter and give myself over to the gluttony that is to come?
Of course, if I did have an ounce of my dad’s self-discipline, I would be able to take everything in moderation and maintain a balance between the hard work and the play. In the absence of that, however, I need to reshape my thinking. Instead of worrying about the length of an individual run at the minute I should just work on increasing my weekly mileage. I’m hovering around the 17 miles per week mark and I’d like to get it up to a comfortable 25 by the middle of December. That should be very doable if I just remind myself that, most days, I just need to pop out for a quickie, as it were.
Base training can come in different shapes and sizes, but what it basically means is maintaining, or getting to, a decent level of stamina for what you want to achieve in the long run. If you have a race in six months’ time, you don’t want to push too hard from now as you’re more likely to get tired, or injured, or miserable, or all of the above. But, you also don’t want to start from zero, so the first few months will be getting to a nice level of fitness, where you feel healthy but still energetic. It is a hard balance to strike
If I don’t do Helsby, then my next big run is in June, so how do I resist my natural inclination to stay in my pyjamas and crack open an early box of mint chocolate matchmakers?
Well, it’s not easy, but this is a list that (most of the time) works for me.
Number 1 – Get other people to kick you up the proverbial
In my experience running buddies do help. Either, friends who regularly run with me (get better soon Bev!) or being part of a running club. Especially a running club where several of the members are decades older and still wipe the floor with me.
Actually I think that is an important point that I made without realising it: if all the people you hang out with are quite sedentary and you’re the fittest of them all, then it’s easy to get a little laissez-faire about exercise. But if you add a few people who are regularly active, then that starts becoming your new normal.
Number 2 – Break down the time frame
If you’ve got oodles of blank squares in your calendar between now and the big run, then you will probably do what I did for most of my undergraduate degree. Not start until it’s way too late and then cram like crazy to produce a mediocre offering.
Put in some mini challenges between now and then. Parkrun is a great go-to for that, as it’s free and it’s in the same place every Saturday at 9am. Yes it’s only a 5k but if you’re going hell for leather on that one run, then following the 80/20 rule, that’s your 20% done. And the rest of the week can consist of some longer runs that are nice and slow. Plus you get to see an indication of your progression, if you do the same run every few weeks, and if it goes in the right direction, that can be very motivating.
Number 3 – Mix it up
Do other stuff: like cycling, or dancing. Even taking your two year old grandson for a big splash in the baths counts as an add on, as semi-permanently squatting in the shallow end so my shoulders didn’t get cold and keeping hold of him as he didn’t have armbands, was definitely a workout. I have also been doing yoga, a little more regularly at the moment, alongside my running, and from personal experience I think that, or any other big stretchy workout, should be a crucial extra when you run long distances.
Number 4 – Enjoy it
What is not to love about the carpet of autumnal colour ahead of me as I lope along the pathways. The crunch underfoot (well I hope it’s crunchy!), as the brittle leaves break apart beneath me. If you can convince yourself that you’re going out for a bit of fresh air, to clear your head, to explore, to be one with nature, or any other reason that is different from ‘to train’ then it feels a whole lot less onerous to get out.
So those are my tuppence worth of thoughts on keeping motivated between races and I’ll attempt to put them into practise between now and June, or if I’m lucky/unlucky, between now and January!