Right out of the gate, I want to say much of the following will parallel my Marathon Training with a Chronic Illness post, but this article applies the principles in a slightly different direction.
1) YOUR System
Everyone wants to know what marathon training plan you are using. Higdon? Hansen? Black Magic? (P.S. Let me know if you find out how that one works.) Well, I like to do things my own way. And sometimes, sure, that means you learn the hard way. But I think finding the right training plan is like finding the right pair of jeans. Educate yourself, look to what you know has worked for others, but, ultimately, this is YOUR TRAINING. Don’t be afraid to try new things, either. Maybe yoga is great for you, or perhaps you need more Pilates or weight training.
Write it down, in doubt or not. Document your journey. During my first training (and definitely still, but to a lesser extent), I wrote down my diet and what I did and at what times. I wrote on the days before and of my long runs and every time that I had a twinge or did a foam roll. I wrote is all down—if I had a big day of walking, if I sat a lot but I went to yoga after, if I ate a giant burger the night before and I had cramps during the next day’s run, if I napped the day before… Before long, patterns emerge.
Learn to listen. I started to figure out that I needed to plan a nap on certain days, and that as long as I fueled and hydrated the day before, I didn’t have to be so careful about exactly what I ate the day before. Also, there is a huge difference between Discomfort (means you are pushing your boundaries) and Pain (STOP).
4) Flexibility (and Documentation)
Schedule in pencil, record in pen. So, put together that documentation and assessment, combine it with YOUR system, and realize that even so, you are going to have to be flexible. I plan out my week, but I write it down in pencil and record what gets done in pen. That way, I never feel like I have failed myself. Just that I am going to find a way to figure it out later in the week. Illness, injury, and life are part of the journey–and sometimes get in the way.
Dangle the carrot. That doesn’t just mean new shoes or whatever else floats your boat. I love the flexible structure of training—the fact that you get to look forward to a morning yoga session on Wednesdays with your favorite teacher, or your Saturday run with your ladies (we know I wouldn’t have gotten to Phoenix without them!). I love my skin rituals after my long run and my bikini waxes. It’s a chance to be selfish and spoil myself!
You won’t look forward to a run if you don’t have energy, or if you spend the entire time expecting a blow out. Marathon training is long for a reason—to prep every part of your body! Talk to friends, research, find what works!
7) Support Crew
You can’t do it without them. From leg and foot rubs to understanding that 9:00 p.m. is totally acceptable for bedtime. They help talk you from the ledge and celebrate your successes, too.
8) Balance, Structure, and Variety
Don’t overdo it. I train conservatively. That doesn’t mean that I don’t improve. I knocked nearly 15 minutes off my time between Twin Cities and Phoenix and this was my mindset going into it!. And I don’t run more than three times a week. Better yet, I look forward to my long runs because I don’t think of them as just another run. My eight-milers during the week help my mental fortitude and give me an hour out there without being kaput. Then I add in cross training, like spinning that protects my joints but allows me to still get work done! Not every day is about work, too. Vary intensities and volumes.
Goals that sustain YOU and that YOU can sustain! Similar to number eight and going out too fast at the start, don’t train at a level that you can’t sustain. Alternatively, pick a goal that excites you and keeps you going. Get a little nervous, but don’t psych yourself out!
10) Past, Present and Future
Learn from the past, live in the present, and look beyond the race into the future. Don’t live in the past, or the future. Live in the here and now —with the body and the conditions that you are currently working with. But use the lessons of the past (thanks documentation!) to inform choices and work toward your goals for the future. And most important, look beyond the race itself—rest, of course, but have a plan so that you don’t just fall apart!