Running Motivation: Tips for Runners at Every Level

Running Motivation: Tips for Runners at Every Level

You can’t buy motivation. Most runners probably wish they could.

We hit walls. Life can seem to get in the way of running–so having a playbook of motivational techniques is important for runners at every level who are fighting the same battle to log miles.

Running motivation can come in different forms when the finish line isn’t in sight–new running shoes, a new training plan, or even joining a running club. But at its purest, motivation is the human desire to do something; unlocking that desire may be even more difficult than the task itself.

Joshua Sommers finds it within himself–the hedge fund VP is also a triathlete who has competed in over 100 races. When asked what motivates him, he keeps it simple.

“The pursuit of excellence and self-improvement.”Joshua Sommers

We aren’t all like Joshua, but we can learn from him. In this piece, we’ll explore what types of motivational tools different runners can use, and how they can impact your training–and your life outside of running.

Motivation for Beginner Runners

As a new runner, it can be daunting to look at the miles ahead and know the only way to get there is with your own two feet. 

A runner looking over the edge of a cliff

Set a Goal

Begin at the end. Setting a goal provides something a runner can work toward. It can be a number of different things: maybe it’s weight loss, or picking a 5k race, or a certain number of miles a week, or even a half marathon. Whatever that goal is, keep it in mind each time you lace up those sneakers for a jog.

This will also help track progress. Write the goal down and place it somewhere you’ll see it every day, keeping markers of the steps taken to achieve it. After a few weeks, look back at the work accomplished and you’ll be able to see it actualized. See yourself achieving those goals and surpassing them.

Get Social While Holding Yourself Accountable

Incorporating a training partner into your new life as a runner has layered benefits. Finding a running partner will provide an immediate desire to run, even if simply knowing that person is counting on you.

Executing on a training program together, with a shared goal, can increase the level of accountability. Joining a running club or finding a running partner removes the element of choice, the ability to reason with yourself and find ways not to run. Excuses are ever-present, and a good running partner won’t take “no” for an answer.

Even though running is an individual pursuit, clubs and teams are everywhere. Besides the motivational aspect, things like networking and safety and developing a sense of community are all extended benefits of making running social.

A female runner jugging up colorful stairs

Make it Routine

A morning run can ripple positively into the rest of your day. Acute aerobic exercise activates the prefrontal and occipital cortices in the brain, increasing “executive control.” This can help improve cognitive ability and can help control emotion.1 Morning runs can have effects that last into the night, like improving sleep quality.2 And it doesn’t stop there; studies suggest running can have overall health and cognitive benefits, especially later in life.3

Besides the mental and physical benefits, there are less social obligations in the morning. You won’t get stuck at work or be tempted by a happy hour at 6am. Even if you’re not a morning person, you can likely train to become one. Pack all your running gear the night before. Set an alarm and place it across the room, forcing you to skip the snooze button.

Developing a morning running routine provides a nice reset of the body’s clock; it can feel like adding hours to the day. Another benefit? A solid training schedule can positively impact your regular schedule.

Ted Bross is a newly-graduated medical student starting his residency. He has participated in almost 30 ultra marathons, and developing a running habit helped him with medical school.

“Part of what helps me get through several of the mental stressors of medical school is pushing my body physically and relieving that stress. It makes me more of a disciplined athlete and is something that has given me a lot in my life.”Ted Bross

Develop a Training Plan

Checking boxes on a training plan can feel really good. It also answers some of the mental questions runners ask themselves before setting out: Where should I go? How long should I run? What pace am I aiming for? Just look at the running program, where it’s all outlined. Remember to develop your training plan in alignment with those goals you’ve set. And try to incorporate one long run per week.

A comprehensive training plan should incorporate all aspects of your routine. Account for extra pre-run warm-ups and post-run stretches. Add in weekly or monthly goals. Budget some days off. Your training plan doesn’t have to be a bible, but should be a document frequently returned to, and one around which other aspects of life can be considered.

“I train on average for about ten sessions a week, for a total of ten hours a week,” Sommers said. “I’m spending all this time on it, so I want to get the most out of my workouts.”

Use the mind to drive the body forward.

Motivation for Experienced Runners

There’s a fine line between getting into a groove and finding yourself in a rut.

Buy Some New Gear

Sometimes you need to pick low-hanging fruit. Purchasing some new running clothes, like a new pair of running shoes or running shorts, can provide motivation to run and test all that new gear. Depending on what you buy, it may also improve your training (like a fitness tracker).

New gear can also serve as a reward; small goals can be treated as important steps to accomplishing larger goals.

There’s also the “gear guilt.” Shiny new toys should be used instead of sitting in the back of a closet. Some may think using money as a type of running motivation is shallow, but there are few drivers in life like cold hard cash.

Introduce Supplements

So much of success when running comes before (and after) feet hit the pavement. Nutrition should be looked at holistically, because supplements can provide a boost during the run and also help with recovery.

“Especially in the longer races, figuring out nutrition is something most people don’t spend enough time on.”Ted Bross

Pre-run supplements include caffeine for energy, calcium for bone health and even creatine to reduce muscle inflammation. Post-run, focus on protein for muscle recovery and fish oil to reduce muscle soreness.

HVMN Ketone, a ketone ester drink, can be used both as a pre-run supplement and a recovery mechanism. By elevating ketone levels in the blood, HVMN Ketone unlocks a fuel source the body produces naturally, one fundamentally different from carbohydrates or fats. Post-workout, taking HVMN Ketone can expedite the resynthesis of glycogen (by 60%) and protein (by 2x), which enable faster recovery.4,5

Cross Train

Varying training can provide easy motivation to try a new sport–one you know can improve your running–and it’ll also keep you active on days you’re not running. It can also supplement during rehabilitation periods from physical injury, and improve overall physical performance.6

Specifically, cross training can improve VO2 Max capacity (the measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen utilized during intense exercise).6 Swimming and cycling are great choices, but things like yoga can also increase flexibility and balance.7

By introducing strength workouts or cross training into your regimen, motivation can be found in presenting new challenges and accomplishing new goals.

A woman jogging on the beach

Switch Up Locations

Don’t become a running rodent. Running on a treadmill can feel like a hamster on a wheel, just like running the same path multiple times a week can feel Groundhog Day-esque. The essence of running harkens back to being outside, and in a more spiritual sense, connecting with the space in which you’re traversing.

It’s easy to feel invigorated by discovering a new place or hitting a new distance, so trail running or cross country running are always good motivators for the simple fact that they place you out of your element. The simple feeling of dirt under the feet and soaking up the essence of the trail provides an immediate lift and motivation.

We’ve also heard from runners that there’s something special about running in the rain (even if it’s the last thing you want to do). It presents a new challenge, and almost a primal sense of motivation; you’re miles away from home, and the only way to return is to run back. Your heart is pounding, you smell the rain, each wet step is experienced in a totally new way–it’s an hour that can feel different than all the other hours in the day.

Motivation for Advanced Runners

Advanced runners can have the most difficult time finding motivation because running is such a part of their life that it becomes an unquestioned obligation. 

Remember (and Embrace) the Pain and Vulnerability 

Stop and ask yourself: Why do I run? If running has become numbly intrinsic, this question can serve as a reinvigorating reminder to look within and remember why you fell in love with running in the first place.

Because running is hard; it hurts; it requires time; it takes mental fortitude. Some might think this is admitting defeat–but reminding yourself that you’re accomplishing something difficult can inspire you to keep going.

In a physical sense, powerful running comes from your core. So, in essence, you’re running from the gut. There’s something vulnerable about exposing yourself in that way, and showcasing the ability to be broken down (and thus built back up).

It can all come to a head at the end of a race. Ted Bross has been there.

“You share some really special moments. You’re pretty raw emotionally, when you get broken down physically there’s less barrier to connect with people.”Ted Bross

Ditch the Tech (This Includes Music)

Technological tools have forever changed running, giving anyone the opportunity to track pace and miles and calories burned. These also changed training by providing actionable targets to hit and measure performance.

Select one day to run untethered by technology. It can serve as a great way to reconnect with the simple joy of running, ditching the gadgets to escape the metrics. Sometimes you have to operate on feel, and it can be motivating to find that energy within yourself instead of hitting a number on your wrist. Some of your best runs aren’t necessarily your fastest.

Many of us train with music, but that can act as a barrier between you and the world in which you’re running. If you’re participating in a race that doesn’t allow music, it’s especially beneficial to train without tunes and run to the beat of your own pace.

A plate of avocados, hardboiled eggs and strawberries.

Improve Your Diet

Seeing results provides motivation to continue working. The results garnered from eating healthy show themselves in training. While carb-loading has been a staple of many runners’ race day routines, growing evidence suggests that a periodized approach to nutrition is optimal, especially for long distance races. For example, a marathon runner might undertake periods of training with a low-carb, high-fat diet, to boost fat burning followed by maximizing carb fueling for a race.

Exercise after an overnight fast can also increase fat oxidation,8 which can help with weight loss and, when the body gets better at burning fat, it can also help increase endurance.

Taking HVMN Ketone can provide some of the benefits of ketosis without the necessary dieting or extreme fasting.

“My diet isn’t as good as I would like it to be,” admitted Sommers. “But that’s more a function of time and other stress factors, like if I’m traveling or if I don’t have time to cook what I want.”

Even the most elite triathletes struggle to incorporate diet into life.

Trying a new diet can have results both in training and recovery, and noticing the difference provides a motivation to continue pushing your personal best with newfound fuel. But that happens on an even smaller level. Incorporate a new fruit or vegetable into your diet.

Haven’t had Brussel sprouts since your grandma served them boiled? Give them another try (and maybe try roasting them) and fold in more vegetables over the course of your training.

Even for those unwilling to make extreme dietary changes, there are incremental benefits to be had by cutting back on refined sugars, avoiding seed oils and getting plenty of omega 3s.

Enjoy the Small Wins

Advanced runners arrive at a point where they can only improve so much. It’s a point of fear for many–that they’ll plateau, and eventually decline.

So the small wins are important to celebrate. Seconds off your mile pace, or increased weight while strength training or even a feeling of energy after a run–individually these are small, but together they can make a big impact. The world’s elite athletes understand the power in recognizing small successes.

Testing of HVMN Ketone illustrated that athletes go ~2% further in a 30 minute time trial.9That can mean the difference between placing on race day and looking up at the podium, a desire shared by the crop of marathoners and cyclists and NFL teams and world champions in boxing and MMA who are all using HVMN Ketone.

Accomplishing small wins while training provides a motivation to keep achieving them, and the confidence they’ll translate to race day.

Motivation is an Endless Cycle

Remember: motivation comes and goes. But recognizing when you’ve lost motivation is almost as important as getting it back.

The struggle challenges all different levels–from beginner to expert runners. On the running journey, goals will be accomplished, routines will become stale, good habits will wane. This is all part of the process.

Finding the ability to motivate yourself won’t just improve your running. It’ll improve your life overall, and some of these strategies should translate to life off the running road.

Go forth. Run. And maybe find a bit of yourself in the process. \

Give your motivation a boost

Adding supplements or specific training techniques can help power the body through those final miles.

Scientific Citations

1. Lin Li, Wei-Wei Men, Yu-Kai Chang, Ming-Xia Fan, Liu Ji, Gao-Xia Wei. Acute Aerobic Exercise Increases Cortical Activity during Working Memory: A Functional MRI Study in Female College Students. 2014; 9(6): e99222. 10.1371/journal.pone.0099222
2. Kimberly Fairbrother, Ben Cartner, Jessica R Alley, Chelsea D Curry, David L Dickinson, David M Morris, and Scott R Collier. Effects of exercise timing on sleep architecture and nocturnal blood pressure in prehypertensives. Vasc Health Risk Manag. 2014; 10: 691–698. doi: 10.2147/VHRM.S73688
3. Carl W.Cotman, Nicole C.Berchtold. Exercise: a behavioral intervention to enhance brain health and plasticity. Trends in Neurosciences Volume 25, Issue 6, 1 June 2002, Pages 295-301. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0166-2236(02)02143-4
4. Holdsworth, D.A., Cox, P.J., Kirk, T., Stradling, H., Impey, S.G., and Clarke, K. (2017). A Ketone Ester Drink Increases Postexercise Muscle Glycogen Synthesis in Humans. Med Sci Sports Exerc.
Authored by Nate Martins •
October 6, 2018

Why not take a planned break from running?

For most keen runners the idea of taking a planned break from running is hard to swallow. All the fitness they’ve worked hard to develop will go and they’ll be lazy and unfit. Usually injury is the only reason a keen runner would even think about a break from running, but it may not be such a bad idea.

So your coming to the end of the racing season, there’s no goal race on the immediate horizon. You’re either satisfied with the results you’ve produced or not satisfied. So whats next? You can either keep training in the interests of keeping your fitness, ease your training back and try and maintain a fitness level you are happy with. Or just stop for a few weeks and focus on other things in your life. At times you’ll get to this point in your racing year and lack motivation to continue training. Is it time for a break?

Four good reasons to take a break

  1. You have a niggling injury
  2. Your motivation to train has decreased
  3. You race times have stagnated or gone backwards
  4. Running feels difficult

The easiest reason to decide to take a break from running is if you have a niggling injury. If you don’t have a race on the horizon then taking time to take a break can help you rest and recover the body and come back rejuvenated. Long periods of consistent running takes its toll on the body and minor niggling injuries can be easily overcome with a period of rest. There may be nothing to be gained by continuing to train.

If you’ve finished your racing season and your motivation has decreased taking a break is very worthwhile. Again there is nothing to be gained by pushing yourself through training when you aren’t motivated to run. Taking a break can rejuvenate the mind as much as the body. Enjoy other aspects of your life  during the break that may be sacrificed through daily running habits.

If your race times have stagnated or even gone backwards continuing to train through without an immediate goal can also be deflating. If your race times haven’t improved you may need to look at your training schedule and make adjustments for your next goal. Taking a break from running can allow you to reset and assess whats working or not working in your training. It might be a time when you decide you need a coach and reach out to one for help. A few weeks break from running may also spark your motivation to get back into training and right the wrongs of your recent results.

If running feels difficult and each run doesn’t come easy, it could be time for a break from running. Often this happens after long races where you’ve fatigued yourself physically and mentally and haven’t recovered yet. If running feels difficult and there isn’t an immediate goal, theres nothing to gain from pushing through. Slow down and take a break.

When you take a break from running you can go one of two ways. You can retreat completely from running or you can use the time to start to plan your next goal races and plan your next phase of running. You’ll likely need to find an outlet in your life where running has now left. The goal is to enjoy the break so finding something outside running you enjoy or gaining motivation through planning new goals is important.

When you take a break from running you should remember you will lose fitness. But if you’ve gained it once then it will be easier to gain the next time. If you are an experienced runner the fitness will come back relatively quickly. A good rule is for each week you break it will take two weeks to regain the fitness lost. If you are planning your next races during your break from running you should factor this into how far into the future you plan these races.

Taking a planned break from running is a scary thought for some runners. If running gives you joy in your life then the goal should be to run for a lifetime. Taking a break from running in the short term may just help keep you running further, faster and happier in the long term.

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What is your Kipchoge easy pace?

While most of us will never be able run like Eliud Kipchoge, understanding his training may help us become better runners in our own right.

A full month of Eliud Kipchoge’s training in the lead up to the Berlin Marathon was recently published, you can find it here.  Kipchoge follows a very simple structure to his training, he runs seven days a week and doubles on five of these days giving himself two afternoon rests. Each week he runs three distinct workouts being his interval track session, long tempo run and fartlek session. The remainder and the majority of his running is described as easy or moderate running and in these sessions Kipchoge runs well within himself to recover and build an aerobic foundation.

So how fast does the fastest marathoner of all time go on an easy day? Well as it turns out not that fast. Kipchoge often runs a 10km easy run in 40 min or at 4 min/km pace. This is really easy for a guy whose marathon pace is 2:55 min/km.

So what can the average runner learn from Kipchoge’s day pace? Average runners of all abilities and experience levels often run their easy runs too fast. What this does is not assist recovery and they spend too much time fatigued and not absorb training load and improve.

So what is your Kipchoge easy pace?

Relative to his marathon pace Kipchoge’s easy pace is 27% slower than his marathon pace.

Runner                                            Marathon Pace               Easy Pace

Kipchoge                                       2:55 min/km                 4 min/km

2 hour 30 min marathon               3:33 min/km                 4:30 min/km

3 hour marathon                            4:16 min/km                 5:25 min/km

3 hour 30 min marathon               4:59 min/km                 6:19 min/km

4 hour marathon                            5:41 min/km                  7:13 min/km

4 hour 30 marathon                      6:24 min/km                  8:17 min/km

Kipchoge runs his five weekly afternoon easy runs at this pace and four times a week his aerobic runs are at a similar pace but for distances between 17 – 22km. For him this pace is very easy, just as the paces for your goal marathon above will look very easy.

If you are running your easy days too quick you’ll likely not run your harder workouts as effectively as they could be. Slowing down on your easy days will let you absorb training and let it take effect.

Run like Kipchoge and run slower.

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Goals of a successful marathon taper

 

Within every successful marathon program is an effective marathon taper. The taper is used to absorb the hard training you’ve put into your marathon and have you feeling rested but not stale or sluggish on race day. Most marathon programs use a two week taper from the last long run, with the hard training tapering off over this period before the race.

We will break the taper down into three areas;

Training

Over the course of your marathon training you have put in a tremendous amount of hard work. The discipline and commitment to get through the training is what gets a marathoner to the race fit and ready to race a great marathon. In this last two week period you can forget about the hard training and utilise your training to assess your fitness and enjoy the runs.

For a simple way to manage the marathon taper training, take an extra day off. If you normally run five days per week run four. You won’t be running and long run in this week so have another rest day. You can still run your hill and interval workout if you like but keep it shorter and not overly challenging.  If you’ve been running six reps of your hill, run four and likewise on the intervals. The intensity of your training doesn’t need to change but make each session shorter. For your aerobic or easy runs the same should be done, make them 10-15 min shorter and enjoy the run.

A marathon taper that doesn’t change too much from your normal routine will keep you a happier runner over the taper period and motivated up until the race.

Sleep

With a busy life and adding the rigours of marathon training to it runners often don’t get enough or prioritise sleep. One of the great benefits to running less is the advantage of more sleep. It is important that the marathoner takes advantage of the extra sleep available. Whilst the body clock may have you waking early any way do your best to sleep as long as possible and be as fresh as possible when it comes time to run your marathon.

With an extra rest day scheduled this should be viewed as a sleep in opportunity. With every other run shorter than normal there is an opportunity to sleep longer and run slightly later in the morning. The marathon week is a key time to make sure you get enough sleep, go to bed early and sleep.

Imagine if every extra hour of sleep you could get in this two weeks is a minute off your marathon time (not saying it works this way).

Nutrition

Whatever nutrition or dietary strategy you used for your marathon training shouldn’t need to change too much in your taper period. If it has worked for you for the 12-14 weeks of marathon training there shouldn’t be too much reason to alter in these two weeks.

Be mindful of how much less running you’ll be doing and how many calories your won’t be burning off. Cutting your weekly mileage by 30-50% from what it’s been used to may have an effect if you continue to eat the same way. Monitor how you feel, if you start to feel sluggish you may need to adjust your portion sizes. There is certainly no need to over think your nutrition and change your food intake too much though. keep it simple and you’ll be happier and feel good about this upcoming marathon.

Whether you are experienced at tapering or beginning down this journey stay focussed on why you started the marathon journey in the first place. If you’ve come this far and stayed healthy and uninjured than you are almost ready to run a great race on marathon day.

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The last month of marathon training

If you’ve arrived at this point in your marathon training without injury or illness interrupting your training you’ll be feeling pretty good about the marathon that awaits you. With 10-12 weeks of quality marathon training in your legs you should certainly be feeling fit and well trained and almost ready to put the training into action on race day.

The last month of marathon training are still an important period with some solid training followed by a taper period. During these last 2-3 weeks of heavy training the long runs are still vital for continuing to build endurance but also to five you the confidence that you’ll be running your best on race day. We recommend to continue running your long runs with race pace work throughout them. This can easily be achieved by adding some race pace efforts during your run or finishing the run at race pace. These could look like 4 x 5km during the run at race pace or the last 10km at race pace. Using your last two long runs of your marathon training with these type of work will give you confidence that can run your race pace when you fatigue during the marathon. Marathons inevitably become very difficult over the last 10km, there is huge advantage by being trained and ready to give your best when it matters most.

Mileage over these last few weeks of heavy training should still be consistent with what you’ve managed to build to this point. There is no real advantage in building further at this point but a risk of injury close to the race. A smart decision is to maintain the mileage that you’ve achieved so far and be confident that you’ve done work. There is no substitute for the aerobic miles you’ve worked hard on putting in over the course of the last 10-12 weeks.

This last four weeks is a time to transition away from building strength and move further into building speed. This can be as simple as making your hill sessions shorter and your interval session more challenging. By this stage in your marathon training you are feeling strong and don’t need to build more strength, working on your speed and more importantly being able to fast as you fatigue. Interval sessions at this point should challenge you with short intervals, short recovery and more reps. Work hard in these sessions to give you the speed benefit before race day.

Once these last few weeks of hard marathon training is completed it’s time to taper. It’s an individual choice on how long this needs to be. For a marathon two weeks is generally considered optimal but many people decide on a one week taper and this is fine. If you choose a shorter taper recommendation would be to not run your last long run within the last 10 days of the marathon. At this point you don’t need the training, you need to absorb the training and rest before race day.

Taper’s can be a difficult time for runners who have been training hard and don’t feel like they need to rest. As we get closer to race the nerves and anxiety are heightened and this can add to the feeling. Tapering can be helped if you continue to run to your normal plan but lower the mileage. If you are used to running six days a week you probably still can, just cut your runs in half and continue about your normal schedule.

During your taper use sleep as a training tool and don’t set an alarm in the morning. If you run early in the morning your body clock likely is set to wake early anyway. Let yourself rest and run after you wake naturally, if this doesn’t leave you much time so be it, you could use a rest day anyway.

The last month of your marathon training is a great time to reflect on how far you’ve come from putting in 2-3 months of hard work. You are almost ready to run a marathon, something most people never get to experience. Enjoy every moment of the journey along the way.

 

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Review – Naked Running Band

The Naked Running Band is a high performance running waist band with 3-4 litres carrying capacity. It is distributed internationally by Naked Sports Innovations and available from their website for US $45.99 plus postage of US $7.95 within the USA.

The Naked Running Band features unique design with three individual mesh pockets which cover the circumference of the runners waist. These three pockets are designed to store almost all running accessories such as water bottles, sunglasses, gloves, mobile phones or nutrition products. Available in 12 different sizes to fit every individual correctly.

One of the main complaints with running belts or bands I have used in the past is when they are filled with anything remotely heavy they suffer badly from bounce. When running bands or belts bounce they become uncomfortable and annoying. One of the claims of the Naked Running Band is that is bounce resistant, so I was hoping this one would be different. Having seen this product being used by some of the ultra running worlds best athletes including Timothy Olsen and Pau Capell I was keen to test it out. I’ve been using the naked Running Band now for approx. a month and used over a variety of runs carrying a variety of accessories.

The first noticeable positive is that bounce is virtually eliminated even when each of the pockets are heavily used. I used during a three hour long run and utilised all three of the pockets with a mobile phone, nutrition gels, gloves and a 500ml soft flask, there was no bounce or discomfort from wearing the band. Using the three individual pockets is very easy to access while running as there are pull tabs on each pocket and the mesh outer easily moves away to allow access both in and out whilst on the run. This is a simple design and very effective, no need to play around with zippers while on the run. This will be particularly helpful during races allowing you to concentrate on running rather then accessing your running band.

Another positive is that comfort while running is excellent. With 12 sizes to choose from it is important to get the right size as there is no adjustment available or required. When selecting my size I used the sizing chart provided and was easily able to choose my size which fit perfectly. The Naked Running band is tight across the waist but very comfortable and virtually unnoticeable when running. Even with all pockets utilised the weight in the pockets doesn’t alter this and comfort is fantastic.

A couple of cool features included are the race bib shock cord adjustments allowing for easy attachment of race numbers. Another feature on the back of the Naked Running Band is two silicone elastic straps that can be used to secure a rain jacket or folded running poles.

The Naked Running Band is a brilliant running product, the storage capabilities from the three pockets are extremely impressive and perfect for using over long training runs and races. This is head and shoulders the best running band I have used. The comfort, even after a number of hours running is perfect and the storage is fantastic. Without doubt the best feature is the elimination of bounce when wearing the band even with all pockets filled. This is a must have product for all long distance runners.

 

Disclaimer: Thank you to Naked Sports innovations for supplying a Naked Running Band for the purpose of this review. 

 

 

Marathon Training: The halfway point

You’re at the half way point of your marathon training program, so where should your training be and how should you feel? If you’ve completed all or most of your key sessions as designed you’ll be feeling fit, strong and motivated to get to the marathon start line.

Long Runs

With 7-8 long runs under your belt you will have developed a good endurance base and strong aerobic capacity. Running for over two hours at your long run pace should feel comfortable and dare I say relatively easy. This is why we run weekly long runs so that running for long periods feels comfortable. At this stage in your training you should have built to your maximum long run time or distance, your base endurance training is almost completed. One of the great feelings from regular long runs is the bodies adaptation to endurance. As the body adapts to regular increases in the long run distances, the distances that were difficult early in your marathon training now feel easy.

Over the next 5-6 weeks before a taper you can add some quality marathon specific training to your long runs. These can consist of race pace efforts during a long run. A favourite session is on a 30km long run to include 4 x 5km at race pace in the middle of the run with a 1-2km recovery between each. You can easily structure a long run session on a similar theme but add race paced efforts during the middle or finish the long run this way and really build your resistance to fatigue at your race pace.

Hill Sessions

Half way through the marathon program you will be strong from regular hill sessions. These sessions have given you the leg strength to be able to feel stronger as you fatigue during your longer runs. This strength will be vital in the later stages of the marathon when running gets tough. Over the next 5-6 weeks hill sessions we recommend continuing completing hill sessions weekly and ensuring a strong body on marathon day.

On top of the long runs and hill sessions, the two most key base marathon fitness sessions the interval and aerobic runs you’ve completed will have assisted in building a really strong fitness base. As mileage has increased over these 7-8 weeks as has a solid aerobic capacity. People whose marathon training has gone to plan to this point could quite easily run a good marathon this weekend.

The second half

For the second half of the marathon training you will most likely want a 10-14 day taper at the end. If you are on a 16 week marathon cycle this leave six weeks of training before the race taper. From this period you can focus more on race specific training and less on building your endurance and strength.

The three key sessions won’t change too much but the focus shifts slightly to long runs that incorporate race pace, intervals that are shorter at a slightly higher intensity and hill sessions that are shorter. The focus in this period will give intervals the priority over hills. This is reversed from the first half of training when building strength was a great priority then speed. This is because your strength base is now built and we shift to getting ready to running your fastest on marathon day.

Remember you don’t need to become a faster runner to run a faster marathon, you need to stop getting tired and run your best at the end of the marathon. Therefore long runs should be run throughout the training program and will always be the most valuable run of each week.

If you are feeling this way at half way then you should be confident that you are on track for the marathon start line and  a good performance. Stay motivated and keep working hard and you’ll achieve your race goals in your marathon.

 

Runners: Stop getting tired

 

“Distance runners don’t need to get faster, they just need to stop getting tired” – Matt Fitzgerald

When most runners think about improving their performance over any race distance they think about how to get faster. What we really should be thinking is how do I stop getting tired during races. This thinking and Matt Fitzgerald’s quote is synonymous with the way elite runners approach their training. It is mostly not about becoming a faster runner, it is about getting through an event reducing the effects of fatigue on your running performance.

Most runners suffer nerves or anxiety before a race, however not usually nerves at whether we can run the desired pace. Nerves before a running performance are often directed at the pain and suffering that runners go through as muscle fatigue sets in. It is not the speed we are running that is the problem, it is being able to keep running that speed as we tire that runners need to improve.

Your goal pace in the marathon for instance is not that fast for you. However it is extremely difficult and painful to continue at that pace at mile 24. The only difference is you are physically and mentally fatigued.

How can you stop getting tired?

If you want to be able to perform at your best practise makes perfect. If you want to improve your running, run more. Simple advice,  but there really is no shortcut to improvement.

  • Consistent long runs

If you want to give yourself the best chance at running well as you fatigue then consistent long runs are essential. Legendary running coach Arthur Lydiard used to have his 800m and mile runners complete 20 mile long runs every Sunday. These were completed at an aerobic pace and designed to have the runner build endurance. Elite 800m runners are no different to elite marathon runners in that they don’t need to become faster, they need to stop getting tired when they hit the home straight in a fast run 800m race. Quite simply, if you want to minimise the effects of fatigue during the business end of your next race you should be running an aerobic long run weekly.

  • Aerobic mileage

Aerobic mileage means running at a pace that builds the aerobic capacity, this means low intensity, low heart rate running. If you want to improve your running, run more at an aerobic mileage. It is not the weekly interval session that will make you tire less but the repeated aerobic mileage. Increasing your aerobic mileage and sustaining this over a period of time will give incremental improvements. These will be difficult to see in the short term but over time the improvements will be able to be measured. If you need to skip a workout for whatever reason it’s better to skip the interval session and run the aerobic session. Remember, you don’t need to get faster, you need to stop getting tired.

These are two simple ways you can train your body and mind to make a small change in your running training. Almost every one of us has been guilty at some stage of running our easy runs too hard, shifting your mindset to believe you don’t need to get faster can change this habit. If you run your easy runs at a lower intensity you will recover quicker and be ready and motivated for the next run allowing you to run more often.

When you go into a race knowing you’ve done enough training you will be better equipped to deal with everything a race throws at you when you get tired. You may not ever become a faster runner, you don’t need to, just stop getting tired.

 

 


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Interview with a runner – Melissa Ensink

 

Melissa Ensink is a runner from Melbourne, Australia and a six time marathon finisher. Melissa is also an accomplished yoga teacher and vegan. Melissa recently ran the Canberra marathon in April and is currently training for her home marathon in Melbourne in October.

Melissa has personal best times at the following distances;

Marathon PB – 3:54:58

30km PB – 2:33:30

Half marathon PB – 1:45:08

10km PB – 48:24

5km PB – 23:45

 

How long have you been running, and how did you start?

I was always a runner back in school, from as early as grade 3 I was competitive in athletics and cross country. My events were 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m relay. I also did cross country and although ‘long distance’ running wasn’t a natural gift, I did okay and was a part of a pretty successful cross country team in secondary school. This was mainly due to two of the runners in our team being very competitive at state and national levels. For a few of my teenage years, back in my home town, I was also a boundary umpire for the local football leagues. At the time, I loved footy and thought it was the best thing to get paid to run and watch footy – even if it was raining. After school I didn’t continue any formal training and just ran to keep fit and healthy and also for the positive mental health effects.

I decided I wanted to run a half marathon back in 2012 but after I injured my knee playing netball, I didn’t get around to this until August 2013 – Sandy Point Half Marathon. My training consisted of running one or two of the same loops near my house, and timing it with a fake purple Casio watch I got in Thailand for $3. After that I got more focused on my running, bought my first Garmin watch, completed a proper training plan and ran my first marathon.

What running achievement are you most proud of?

Finishing the Honolulu Marathon is my favourite running memory to date and I was proud to just finish. My training went really well but a few weeks out I injured my hip and was barely able to walk! With the right rest and guidance, I was able to run again and complete the marathon. It wasn’t fast and certainly not pain free but totally worth it.

What is your biggest tip to becoming a successful runner?

For me it is being organised and having a structured plan. If I haven’t set out what I will do for the week, I probably won’t do it. I like to know in advance what mileage I am shooting for and what workouts I will do.

If I am not training for a particular race, things are less structured but I still have a general idea of what I would like to do that week or phase. Mixing up training and events to keep things interesting is also important.

What is your favourite training session?

At the moment I am enjoying kilometre repeats. for example: 2km warm up, 4x1km @10km or HM pace (depending on the day) with 0.5km easy in between. 2km cool down. Distance and pace might vary depending on the day or where I am in the training cycle.

How do you stay motivated when you don’t want to run?

Instead of relying on motivation, I am clear on my ‘why’, make the commitment to my goals and my training and stay disciplined in this pursuit. In an ordinary week, I would say half the time I am super motivated and pumped to run, and the rest of the time I would rather do other things. But I know that the work has to be done to get closer to my goals. I also tell myself when I can’t be bothered running that I will feel so much better afterwards which always ends up being true!

What are your favourite running shoes?

I used to love the Mizuno Sayonara but they’ve stopped making them. So I am on the lookout for a new favourite. This year I am testing the Asics Cumulus and Nike Lunarglide.

What are your goals for the future?

My overall goal is to be running for as long as I can, hopefully into old age. Right now my main goal is to run the Boston Marathon, so I am trying to get a qualifying time in the next 6-8 months. I would also like to run a marathon in every state in Australia and on every continent of the world.

Thanks for taking the time out of your schedule for this interview Melissa. If you wish to keep up to date with Melissa on her running journey you can follow her at pranarunning or on instagram also at pranarunning. Thanks again Melissa and good luck in the future.

 


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Goals of the first month of marathon training

 

A month into your marathon training program how should your fitness have progressed? A standard marathon program duration is usually 14-16 weeks giving you basically three months of training and a two week taper before your race.

In this initial month the goal should be two fold;

  • Increase your endurance
  • Increase muscular strength

This first month or even longer can be considered your base phase of training where you work on these two goals. We have spoken in depth about increasing your mileage to increase your endurance, this is a fundamental goal in the base phase of marathon training. You can build your mileage and endurance through regular aerobic workouts and stretching your long run time each week.

During the first month of the marathon base is the time to increase muscular strength, incorporating hills into training is essential for this development. Ensuring you complete your weekly hill session as well as running regular aerobic runs over hilly terrain should be increased during base training phase. This increase will build strength for when you do longer or more challenging interval and tempo sessions later in the training. Simply put running more over hills at an aerobic pace will develop both your endurance and strength.

If you use Strava or another online site to log your mileage you can focus on two metrics. Monitor your weekly mileage and elevation run. Your Strava profile will measure your last 4 weeks of running, focus on increasing this number during this period of training.

While the focus is on endurance and strength in this phase running a weekly interval session should still be completed. As part of the three weekly sessions it is recommended that an interval workout is run every week. During the base phase you can run longer intervals, the goal of intervals is usually to increase speed. However running a longer interval will give you an endurance pay off as well and teaching the body to be able to run fast as it fatigues. Being able to run fast through fatigue is a vital component of developing endurance for the marathon. At some stage in the marathon you’ll be asked to dig deep and stay on goal pace and these longer intervals and long runs are where you’ll teach yourself this skill.

After this first month of training you should be feeling comfortable with running the increased mileage you’ve developed. From here the recommendation is to continue to build the endurance through increasing long run distance, strength through hill workouts and more focussed speed through shorter, faster intervals. However you will need to recover from the harder workouts and you can run your aerobic runs on flatter terrain and possibly slower than the previous phase. After eight weeks of marathon training you should be reaching close to your maximum distance of your long run and be ready to build speed and strength to get you through the marathon. the value you’ll get from a quality base phase of marathon training will help you get through the hard training thats ahead and to the finish line of the marathon.