Interview with Gretchen Rubin -The Four Tendencies and Running

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Gretchen Rubin is a bestselling author and expert on how to make healthy habits stick. In this podcast episode she explains how your personality tendency relates to your running goals.

And in this episode’s quick tip, Coach Angie explains how to tell if you need an extra rest day during training.

We’ve had Gretchen on the show on two previous occasions and I finally got to meet her and her sister Elizabeth Craft last summer at Podcast Movement.

Interview with Gretchen Rubin

Short Bio: Gretchen Rubin is one of the most influential writers on human nature. Her books, such as the blockbuster bestsellers The Happiness Project and Better Than Before have sold almost three million copies in more than thirty languages.

The Four Tendencies

The origin of the four tendencies actually begins with a runner. One day Gretchen was having lunch with a friend who expressed this frustration, “I want to get myself into the habit of running, but I can’t, and it really bothers me.”

She continued, “When I was on the high school track team, I never missed track practice, so why can’t I go running now?”

Hear the story in this video clip:

As runners we expect ourselves to arrive at the starting line of a marathon well prepared, having executed our training plan. But sometimes we disappoint ourselves and fail to stick to our goals in a consistent manner.

The Four Tendencies will explain how you handle both inner expectations (which you impose on yourself) and outer expectations (what others expect of you). Once you know your tendency you can optimize for it. There are strategies, tips, and tactics in the book for dealing with each tendency.

I know you’ll love this interview!

Also Mentioned in This Episode

  • The Four Tendencies book
  • The Four Tendencies quiz
  • The Five Points of Life Race Weekend in Gainesville, Florida. Five Points of Life Race weekend February 17-18, featuring marathon, half marathon and 5K in beautiful Gainesville, Florida, home of the University of Florida—where the mean race temperature on race day is a balmy 58 degrees. -Funded in part by Visit Gainesville/Alachua County
  • RXBAR – a whole food protein bar made with a few simple, clean ingredients, which all serve a purpose: Egg whites for protein. Dates to bind. Nuts for texture. Use the code “MTA” for 25% off your first order.
  • -Marathon Training Academy is sponsored by *Health IQ*, an insurance company that helps health conscious people get special rates on life insurance. Go to to support the show and learn more.
  • Sudio Sweden -Bluetooth earphones that actually stay in your ears. They are sweat-proof and have custom, comfortable wing-tips while providing studio quality sound with full sound-transparency, so you’ll always be aware of your surroundings while you run. Go to and use code MTA15 for 15% off today.

How to tell if you need to take an extra rest day during training . . .

By Angie Spencer

It can occasionally be hard to tell the difference between physically needing a break and being lazy. Even as a person who loves to exercise there are some days when I have to really figure out if my lack of motivation is due to a genuine reason or not. And with flu season here there are many people who are struggling with sickness. Here are some questions to ask yourself to figure out what your body needs:

1) Are your muscles really sore or are you feeling achy? This could be a sign that you’re not getting enough recovery or that you’re getting sick and an extra rest day may be just what you need.

2) Are you injured? Or are you dealing with discomfort that hurts while you’re running or afterward? This could be an early sign of injury and giving yourself an extra rest day to help decrease inflammation may be a wise choice. If the issue doesn’t respond to extra rest it’s time to consult professional medical advice.

3) Did you get less than 6 hours of sleep? Getting extra sleep is probably more important and it may be wise to take an extra day or do some easy low impact cross training or stretching/mobility work. Chronically getting very little sleep can lead to unpleasant things like lack of recovery, injury, increased stress levels, lack of progress in your training, and weight gain. I know there is a small minority that can thrive on less than 6 hours of sleep but that’s a very small number. The rest of us are simply functioning sub-optimally if we’re not getting the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep. See The Sleep Episode.

4) Have you been sick? If yes, take an extra rest day or five. It’s been a bad flu season and there has also been a lot of respiratory issues going around. I’ve heard from many runners lately who’ve been struggling with sickness in the middle of their training and it can be very frustrating to feel like you’re getting off track and losing fitness. But if your symptoms are below the neck or you’re dealing with a fever or body aches then strenuous exercise can actually delay healing. If you’ve been sick then it’s wise to focus on rest and recovery and when your energy levels start to normalize then starting back slowly is most beneficial. In most cases there’s plenty of time to pick back up with your training plan. But you shouldn’t train hard until you’re fully recovered. If your race is coming up quickly then it’s more beneficial to be a bit undertrained but healthy rather than try to continue training and prolong the sickness.

You can also use your recovery time as an opportunity to spot train any weak areas with a focus on mobility and then very slowly progressing back into running. I’ve seen many people who haven’t been back to “normal” training for 2-3 weeks after getting sick. Once your energy levels and eating begin to improve you can start with walking and light yoga or ST. If that feels fine then you can progress to easy runs and more normal cross training.

5) Is it just negative mental chatter? If you’re feeling fine physically and know you should get out for a run, then you probably should. If you’ve boiled your lack of motivation down to laziness then promise yourself that you’ll just get out for 1 mile (or whatever distance seems reasonable). At that point you’ll probably be more willing to continue. It’s always the hardest to get out the door and if you do that you’ll probably overcome the whole distance. I’d also encourage you to have a race that you’re training for. Even having a 5k on the calendar (and using a training plan) can help keep you motivated and challenge yourself. Also, understanding which of the 4 Tendencies that Gretchen talked about today can be very helpful in understanding how you respond to expectations and how to stay motivated and consistent.

2 Responses to Interview with Gretchen Rubin -The Four Tendencies and Running

  1. Robyn February 1, 2018 at 9:47 pm #

    I loved this episode! But i have to confess the first time I listened to this podcast I was 100% sure I was a rebel and so I didn’t listen too much to the other tendancies – but then I took the quiz. It told me i was a questioner – which I looked at that and thought – no way – that’s wrong. Only to read the last sentence that says “if your questioning the result you’re a questioner. ” so not only did I go back and re listen to the questioner section more closely (of which I realized it was really me) but I also had to laugh because in my head the first time I listened to the podcast, I was thinking how I have some friends who were questioners and now annoying they could be! Only to find out that’s me too! Haha oh man so many good realizations in this episode for life and running! Thank you!

    • Trevor Spencer February 2, 2018 at 11:47 am #

      Haha, love it! Thanks for sharing . . . I’m glad you enjoyed the interview.

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