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This is the time of year when many of us reevaluate the direction our life is taking and set goals for the New Year. As a runner one of the things that comes to mind is continuing your success and taking your running to the next level.
With this episode we want to help set you up for marathon success. And often to have the most successful training you have to resist several natural impulses that lead to improper training.
Resisting Impulses That Will Jeopardize Your Goal
Why are we talking about impulses? Studies have been done in which people were asked if they would rather have fruit or cake one week from now, they usually say fruit. A week later, when the slice of German chocolate cake and the apple are offered, you are statistically more likely to go for the cake.
“When you are making plans your better angels point to the nourishing choices, but in the moment you go for what tastes good”. -David McRaney
This is called Present Bias, the belief that what we want now isn’t the same thing you will want later. The future version of ourselves that we imagine always has more willpower and a flatter stomach than the present actual version.
The trick is to realize that you can only control the now you. Make the future you thankful for the action that the now you takes. “The problem isn’t that you are a bad manager of your time —you are a bad tactician in the war inside your brain.”
5 Things to resist to enhance your marathon success:
As humans our natural impulse is often to try and find the path of least resistance. We want to get to our destination as soon as possible and that might mean taking shortcuts along the way. However, marathon training is not a time to take shortcuts. One reason many runners develop injuries or have a less than ideal first marathon is by not taking the time to build a solid running base and train properly.
We understand the impulse, you’ve heard of an awesome race or your cousin is doing a marathon and has challenged you to do it with them. The problem is that this may mean cramming for a marathon which is not ideal. We’ve all heard stories of young and in shape people getting away with shockingly little training, but this is the exception, not the norm. It really is important that you take the time to build up a solid running base before starting a marathon training plan. You’ll respect the marathon and your body through this process.
And what is a proper running base? In general, running 6-12 months prior to marathon training is a smart thing to do. That will give you a chance to lay a firm fitness foundation and help decrease your chance of overuse injuries.
Another impulse most commonly found in Type A personalities is the thought that doing more is always better. We think, if three days of running is good, then six days per week is automatically superior. However, it’s important to respect the level your body is at and truly listen to the signals it is giving you. I know many people who have overtrained for their first marathon (or subsequent marathons) and have either gotten injured or had a very poor experience.
My belief is that quality runs over quantity runs is important for the beginner runner. And while your friend may be signing up for races every weekend this may not work for you, especially if you’re constantly chasing a PR (or PB). Another mistake beginner runners make is setting a time goal for their first marathon. This can often lead to overtraining and possibly a disappointing race experience. Your first marathon should be all about staying injury free and crossing the finish line strong and happy.
Runners who overtrain often don’t take regular rest days and neglect proper cross training. Signs of overtraining also include: frequently feeling fatigued and lacking energy, changes in appetite, disturbed sleep patterns, depression, anxiety, irritability, increased resting heart rate, frequent muscle soreness or pain, upper respiratory tract infections, and increased injuries. If you’re experiencing these symptoms it would be wise to reevaluate your training.
3. Skipping cross training
One very common impulse for beginning marathoners is to skip cross training in favor of just running. After all, running is where you get that good feeling and it will help you prepare for your race. They often skip cross training because they don’t realize the importance or because of a lack of time. I made this mistake while training for my first marathon and suffered with low back pain and IT band syndrome.
Running long distance can be stressful for the body so it’s important to build up the joints, muscles and tendons for added support in order to be a strong and healthy runner. I can’t say that I always feel like doing cross training but it is one major key to keeping me injury free. And over the years I’ve truly come to love doing yoga (even substitute teaching it on occasion). Doing regular core strengthening exercises and low impact cross training like cycling, swimming, rowing, Pilates, yoga, and weight training will help decrease your chance of injury and help make you a strong and healthy runner for life.
Another common impulse is thinking that lots of extra calories are needed for long distance running. Often these food choices end up being copious amounts of carbs or processed foods which can lead to fat gain. That’s why runners can be shocked to find that they’re actually gaining weight while training for a marathon. And nobody’s got time for that!
It is very important to stay fueled for your workouts and not starve yourself so be sure to examine the amount and types of foods you’re consuming. Make sure that you’re eating plenty of protein, healthy fats, veggies, fruits and complex carbohydrates. Think of quality over quantity. Another helpful way to battle the bulge is do what you can to eliminate or reduce the amount of sugar and processed foods that you eat. This will give you the best success in running and keeping your weight in check. The training period is also a good time to figure out what your fueling needs are for long runs. You can practice what works best with your body before, during and after these long runs so that you have a tried and true system by race day.
Each of us can struggle from time to time with mindset. In fact, in the beginning I didn’t realize how important a strong mind was for successful marathon training. Once the newness wears off and training start to get tough it can be natural to let excuses hold you back. It can definitely be a struggle to find the time for your workouts, to get up early on the weekend for your long run, to not give up in the middle of a long run, or feel motivated to do your core exercises. This is where mindset and mental toughness is key. Reframing your challenges into something positive will help keep you going and provide valuable tools that you can draw on during the marathon and in the rest of your life.
Having a strong support system during your training can be of great help to give you the encouragement you need to keep going and to reach your goal. We created the Academy to provide valuable information and support so that you can take your running and fitness to the next level. Marathon training is much more fun when you don’t feel alone in it.
Also Mentioned in This Episode
The Drury Hotel Company. They have 140 hotels in 21 states (we have stayed at dozens of their locations). Exceptional service, free wifi, huge breakfast and free evening food and drinks! Get 15% off your stay and a free gift from us.
Health IQ -a life insurance company that celebrates marathon runners and other health conscious people. Visit healthiq.com/mta to learn more & get a free quote, or check out their life insurance FAQ page to get your questions answered. In addition, take the MTA quiz and see how you score!
The Runner’s Toolbox for preventing injuries. Get it free when you sign up for our newsletter.
The Happiness Project book by Gretchen Rubin. I’m reading through this book again and using the Happiness Project One Sentence Journal.
A good start to the new year – thank you.
You hit upon a point which has been playing on my mind recently. I run for fitness though I have never thought of myself as a runner. I never hated running but nor did I particularly enjoy it – it was just something which I did. And then a few months ago things changed and I now enjoy running. I think I have become addicted to the endorphins; rather than confess to an addiction I’ve settled for describing myself as a runner!
PS. The future me will thank the present me for finishing the cake and cookies last night so that the future me doesn’t have the fruit vs. cake dilemma. The present me is full of self loathing and will run this lunchtime!
Hey Rob, Thanks for the great comment. It’s awesome that you’ve decided to identify as a runner (which you clearly are). It’s definitely a challenge to make decisions that our future self will thank us for and it sounds like that run today will be a good start 🙂
Hey, great running tips you have there! My advice is to choose a running app to track your progress, thus it’s easy to stay motivated. I use SportMe running app which calculates distance, pace, time and calories.
Good point! There are many great apps out there to help you stay motivated and train safely.