The thing about goals

Making resolutions at the beginning of every new year has never really worked out all that well for me.

If I’m going to make a change and try to better myself, the fact that the calendar changes and a new year begins is probably not going to motivate me to do it. Usually I write down a whole lot of things I want to change or do (couldn’t we all think of hundreds of things if we really tried?!) but the list gets overwhelming and then I don’t follow through with any of them.

Last year I kept it pretty simple and realistic with my 2016 running goals:

1. Beat my Boston 2014 time of 3:38. – done, by 5 minutes.

2. Sign up for more races (I only did 3 in 2010). – done, I think I did 7-ish in 2015.

3. Stretch after every run. – not yet every run, but getting much better.

4. Foam roll at least twice per week. – yes, for most of the year.

5. Pay more attention to what I eat and what works for me. – not really sure how to judge that one but maybe slight improvement.

I know those sound like pretty whimpy goals, but at the time of writing that post, I probably knew I wasn’t ready to committ to a PR goal. And at least those were little things, all of which I really wanted to do, and was pretty much able to accomplish them. I also knew I would be ending a job and starting school so from August to December I had no clue where I would be or what I would be doing.

I am almost surprised that I wasn’t tempted to set some kind of crazy running goal, but maybe in my head I was thinking I would judge how Boston training and the marathon went, see if I could finish un-injured and go from there. Obviously that didn’t happen and it just made me want a PR even more, but this year I think things will go much differently.

My expectations for myself at this time have changed, and my priorities are not what they were a year ago. I am demanding a lot of myself in terms of school and career, and running has become something that provides relief and precious alone time, not another category in which I need to perform.(Just to clarify, this doesn’t mean I’m not pushing myself or enjoy seeing the small improvements in my workouts – it just means that I’m pushing myself to the extent that I want to and not as a means of achieving a certain time goal).

I still have long-term visions for myself with running, and I think being 20-something with a handful of marathons done, it will be a perfect time to take at least a year off from intense running after Boston. (I’m not saying I will completely stop running, but definitely long distances.) There are also things going on with my health right now, that I’m not willing to share on the blog, that suggest a break is what I need.

So in 2017, my ‘goals’ are:

1. Finish my 2nd and 3rd semesters of grad school.

2. Have fun running Boston and accept what my body is able to do on that day.

3. Take a real break from running after Boston.

4. Accept that I am still learning and take each day one at a time.

That’s it.

In reading everyone else’s goals for 2017, it is hard to not compare or feel like I’m falling behind, but I know that these goals are what’s right for me right now, and that I have plenty of time to accomplish my long-term visions for myself as a runner. Sometimes short-term breaks are necessary to move forward long term.

Running means having patience

 

If I’ve learned anything since running my fall marathon, it’s that  I need to have more patience with myself if I want to continue running.

I spent at least a month in a bad pattern of running too hard, getting the (still mysterious) pain behind my knee, and having to take a few days off from running. Finally I let myself cross-train more and run much less frequently and much more slowly. I also spent too long being frustrated that I couldn’t quite put into running what I wanted to, being in grad school full-time and working.

But now I really feel like my priorities are in the right place and the 2017 Boston Marathon is going to be all about fun for me, because that’s all I can really give to my running right now.

So when outlining my training for this year’s Boston, I decided to try something different that would also work with my busy schedule. I found an old Runner’s World Article (“The Less-is-More Marathon Plan“) and decided to modify this 16-week plan in the article. It’s called the Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training (FIRST) marathon program.

The FIRST Training Plan
The FIRST marathon program includes three running workouts per week—a speed workout, a tempo run, and a long run. Here’s the full, 16-week marathon training program. Participants are also encouraged to cross-train for 40 to 45 minutes on two other days per week.
Week Tuesday
Speed
Thursday
Tempo
Saturday Long
1 8×400 meters 3 miles 10 miles
2 4x1200m 5 miles 12 miles
3 6x800m 7 miles 13 miles
4 3x1600m 3 miles 10 miles
5 10x400m 5 miles 14 miles
6 5x1200m 5 miles 15 miles
7 7x800m 8 miles 17 miles
8 3x1600m 10 miles 13 miles
9 12x400m 3 miles 18 miles
10 8x800m 5 miles 15 miles
11 4x1600m 8 miles 20 miles
12 12x400m 5 miles 15 miles
13 6x1200m 5 miles 20 miles
14 7x800m 4 miles 15 miles
15 3x1600m 8 miles 10 miles
16 30 min easy w 5x60s 20 min easy w 3 or 4 pickups Marathon
The FIRST Paces
The training paces recommended by the FIRST program are somewhat faster than those recommended by other training plans. Of course, with just three running days a week, you should be well rested for each workout. Here are the paces you’ll need to run, each expressed relative to your current 10-K race pace.
Long Run 10-K pace + 60 to 75 seconds/mile
Long Tempo 10-K + 30 to 35 seconds
Mid Tempo 10-K + 15 to 20 seconds
Short Tempo 10-K pace
1600m Repeats 10-K – 35 to 40 seconds
1200m Repeats 10-K – 40 to 45 seconds
800m Repeats 10-K – 45 to 50 seconds
400m Repeats 10-K – 55 to 60 seconds

The plan looks pretty simple – one speed workout, one tempo run, and one long run every week, plus at least 2 days of quality cross-training. I don’t plan to stick to the pacing suggestions rigidly – I think it would be way too ambitious for someone coming off of not doing any speed work and doing few miles in general. The article also explains the principles of this type of training, like the varying types of tempo runs and not making up for lost time in training.

I like that this plan will allow me to cross-train and continue the strength and injury-prevention exercises I’ve been doing. Last week when I did 10 miles I probably started out a bit too fast on some downhills and ended up feeling the pain in back of my knee the last few miles, so I’m not totally convinced that my body is back to normal yet. I think only running 3 days a week will be great for that though, giving me time in between runs to recover.

Running 3 days a week to train for a marathon is a little scary to me – it just doesn’t seem like enough. In the past I’ve always done 5-7 days per week of running, so this is a big change. But I don’t want to cross the threshold back into on/off injury, and I also need something realistic for me right now, and I think this is it. Hopefully the long runs will give me confidence that I’ll be able to finish my 7th marathon.

My running time goals will need to wait until after grad school (in 1.5 years) but that doesn’t mean I can’t still enjoy running to the fullest and push myself to the extent that I can and want to.

Now that the temperatures are finally feeling like winter, my motivation hasn’t exactly been at it’s peak, so I also wrote down some of my favorite running quotes that I can look at when I really don’t feel like going out for a run.

In other fun news…I got a KitchenAid for Christmas, which hopefully means I will rediscover my love for baking!

On Non-Achieving



It’s been a while since my last post. Hi again!

I’ve missed blogging. I wish I could say the only reason I haven’t written anything lately is because I’m busy. That’s partially the reason, but the other part is that I just don’t know what to say. I haven’t been baking very much (and when I have, I’ve forgotten to take take pictures) and running has been, in a word, frustrating.

I got out of my “do a way-too-hard workout then need to take 3 days off” cycle, thank goodness. But I still don’t feel back to my normal self. To be honest, I’ve been really slow. When I try to pick it up during a run, it just does not feel right and I end up feeling crappy the next day.

One might argue that this is just another sign that I need to take more time off. If the only miles I can handle are really slow, I should just continue to rest.

That might be true, but after taking 3-4 days off at a time and doing only easy running, and still not feeling back to usual…that just about hits my maximum patience right now. This may sound ridiculous or just plain stupid, but I actually need running in my life right now, maybe more than I ever have. It might be smart to take a month or two off, but I cannot imagine doing that right now (unless I injured myself).

Running has always been my way of de-stressing, working out my emotions and just setting myself up to feel good for the day, but the past (crazy) 2 months of grad school have made me realize that those functions are even more necessary right now. Because of the confidential nature of so much of what I do every week, I obviously don’t want to get into the details of what it is…but sometimes at the end of each day my head is filled with all sorts of pretty heavy “stuff” to process, and I’m still adjusting to that. Change is hard, and running helps me feel normal.

Running is pretty much the only time of day that is just about me, not my clients, the people I serve at my job, my family or my friends. I love helping and doing things for other people, which is obviously a huge reason why I chose the social work path. But if I don’t take care of myself, there is no way I am going to be good at helping someone else. So my runs have become the ultimate me-time, where I can just be outside and not think about anything.

The gym and other forms of exercise have been nice lately too, but there is just something about being outside, breathing the cold air and actually going somewhere that feels so mentally freeing right now, from all of the “stuff” going on in my mind. Running is becoming more of a meditative state than it ever was before. With each step, it feels like I am releasing a little bit of the built up “stuff” and feeling mentally lighter.

At the same time, however, I’ve been mentally battling with myself over how slow I’ve been. Since the marathon, it’s been a bit of a struggle to feel any sort of belief that I am a good runner. I know that sounds dramatic, but having multiple disappointing marathons in a row is really starting to affect my mentality and confidence in regards to running.

While rebuilding my confidence wil probably be a long-term adventure, almost a month post-marathon, I can say that I am starting to accept the idea that this is not the right time in my life to want more from running than the mental release and joy that it brings me. If I am grasping after a PR that just isn’t happening, and creating this endless disappointment for myself, what’s the point?

If a solid marathon time is not in the cards for me right now, for whatever reason, I need to find a way to be okay with that, otherwise I am going to continue to not run as fast as I want to and have running become a source of frustration for me (when it should be the opposite).

So right now, I’m pretty slow. I spent a few weeks fighting it and getting mad, and now I am beginning to come to terms with it. Maybe not everything in my life needs to be about achieving something. In school I need to do a certain amount of work every week, achieve certain grades and acquire certain skills; in my job I need to perform a lot of different tasks very well. What if running doesn’t need to be something I achieve anything in right now? Maybe I can just do it without needing a specific result.

I know this is not a novel concept, but this is something that is not coming easy for me. I am used to laying off of running a bit between races, but I like to have periodic running “milestones” I work toward and gradually get faster – that’s part of the fun and excitement for me. But I think it’s safe to say that at this point, continuing to push for something and disapointment myself is unproductive. When my body feels faster again, maybe that will be the sign that I’m ready.

Something that has helped me with this is running home from my field placement (fancy words for “internship”) twice a week, with a backpack on my back. The backpack has shoes, clothes and some other things in it that obviously slow me down. But even when running 9 or 10 minute miles, on those days I always feel awesome to be commuting home via running. It feels good just to be out there, and it’s the best way to end my day and let everything go before I walk in the door of my apartment. It feels like all of the “stuff” was somehow left out there on the street, and I can go to bed without a million things on my mind.

So whether it’s community home or just going for a run on a cold morning, I am trying to make running more of a thing that I do, and less of an area in which I feel the need to achieve. It doesn’t work everyday, but it’s a process. The work/life/school/working out balance is not going to be perfect everyday, and physically not everything can get 100% of my effort everyday, but I’m trying to figure out what works for me.

Thanks for all of your support and comments — I haven’t had the time I’d like to respond to them, but they really are awesome to read.

Turning it around

 

Maybe it’s one of the effects of grad school, or maybe it’s the fact that I’m exhausted, but I am just going to get straight to the point here…

I am really struggling with my running relationship right now.

I took 4 days off from running after the marathon before going for a 7 mile run. At the time I didn’t really consider why just a short 2 or 3 mile run would have been insufficient. That probably would have been a good question to ask myself. I felt more tired than normal after just 7 miles, so I figured I might want to lay off a little longer.

“A little longer” only ended up being 1 day. Last Sunday I decided I should do a 9 mile tempo run. It was a little more tough than usual, but I thought it went fine.

The next day, when I tried to run again I noticed that the mysterious pain behind my knee (the one that left my pretty screwed at Boston this year) had returned. I thought I had maybe felt it slightly during the marathon I ran 2 weeks ago, but it never got bad like it did during Boston so I attributed it to psychological pain, not actual physical pain. I guess was wrong.

Apparently my body was not ready for all that running within a week of running a marathon (I know, how unreasonable…)

So I’m paying the price now. I took 3 days off, tried to run again, and the pain came back. So now I’m back to not running, for at least a few days.

I wish I wasn’t stuck in this cycle right now. I wish that I could have taken it slow after the marathon, and not rushed into things. But subconsciously I’m pretty sure I was telling myself that because I didn’t run very well in the marathon, I didn’t deserve to take a long time off, and I should just get right back into it. In a sense, I was punishing myself for not PRing.

Perhaps in a more rational state, I would not have found myself in this position. But at this point in the semester, grad school is making me go a little crazy. I’m taking care of myself in terms of making time for sleep and exercise, but my body is showing serious signs of stress. My eye keeps twitching, my heart races a lot, and my thoughts are  kind of scattered all over the place between school/job/internship. I’m also caring a lot less about what I eat and feeding my body more junk, which is obviously not helping the situation.

Before this post turns into a big pity party (too late?) I’m going to stop myself and come up with an action plan to turn this around. I don’t feel like I have the perfect answer for this situation, but I need to try something.

Take a few more days off from running, then start slowly. With 2-3 miles, slowly. (Not 7-8 mile tempo runs). 

Take time to eat mindfully. One of the habits I’ve fallen into lately is eating without thinking, some days when I can find 5 minutes to do so. Another problem has been snacking (on junk) when I’m tired or bored with what I’m doing. This needs to stop, because it never leaves me feeling good. I’m not asking myself for perfection in terms of getting in tons of fruit and veggies every single day, but I need to at least pay more attention to when I’m actually hungry.

(And I really need to stop eating in front of the computer…)

Go easy on myself. Easier said than done, but this is something I really need to work on because right now I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect awesome races from myself. If I happen to run a great race during grad school, it will just be a nice bonus.

Make time for little things to de-stress. There are really simple things that go a long way in terms of stress reduction, that I’ve been neglecting because I’m telling myself I don’t have time. Some days that is sort of true, but if I take the time to do 10 minutes of yoga, go for a walk between classes or clients, put the computer away while I eat, etc…I think I will end up feeling better and ultimately being more efficient. The “little things” should be the last things I cut out of my schedule, not the first.

I think one challenge of being in the helping profession can be forgetting to take care of yourself, when in reality, that’s probably the best thing you could do for yourself, your family, and the people you serve in your job.

Have you ever had to make a similar adjustment because you were stressed out? What was it?

Talking about Injury

It can be difficult to know how to talk about injuries with others – how to explain what happened, answer questions about you feel about it, and respond to comments.

Although I know my injury isn’t considered “serious” since it only lasted 3 weeks, when I was first told I need to wear this boot and before I got my x-ray, I really didn’t know how serious it was.

And during that time, as much as I wanted to stay in the moment, it was hard to not think beyond that day and wonder when my foot and leg would get better, and when I would be able to run again.

While I tried not to bring up the marathon and my injury with most people I encountered, it was difficult to be discrete and avoid questions with a huge boot on my foot.

People on the subway usually gave up their seat for me when it was crowded.

While I really appreciated it, and always made a point of saying a genuine “thank you”, part of me couldn’t stand the extra attention and the fact that I “looked” injured. Just being out in public made me a little nervous.

I got used to being asked “What happened?” at least 5 times per day. Colleagues and clients at work, employees in my favorite coffee shop, people at my gym. Everyone.

I got used to offering a quick explanation of what happened. I told the story in a concise way that didn’t trigger my emotions about the race, so I could avoid getting upset 5-10 times per day.

What was harder to get used to were the “other” comments:

Oh wow, you must not be made for running.

I guess you won’t be doing anymore marathons then, huh?

Don’t you think running is just bad for the body?

At first I would be frustrated by these types of comments. I found myself answering politely but being annoyed on the inside. Obviously getting hurt during a race doesn’t mean I’m not “made” for running, yes I will be running more marathons, and running actually has a lot of benefits for the body! Thankyouverymuch.

But quickly I learned that it was pretty pointless to get worked up over these comments. They were inevitable, and I needed to learn to shrug (or laugh) them off.

Here is what helped me know how to talk about my injury:

  • Remember that non-runners usually don’t get it.

With the exception of our very loyal spectators and loved ones, people who aren’t runners sometimes just don’t understand the sport. They don’t really understand the time and mental energy that goes into it, the ups and downs that are very much normal for the sport (what runner hasn’t had some type of injury in his/her career?), and how to really talk about it. Simply acknowledging that helped me realize that I couldn’t take their words at face value and get upset.

  • Keep in mind that the majority of these people have good intentions and care about you, even if it doesn’t always show.

Even if I was talking to a person I didn’t particularly love, I would always try to assume they had good intentions in whatever they said to me about my injury. Some people really don’t know how to express genuine concern or become very awkward when they don’t know what to say. That’s okay, I won’t hold it against them. I’ll just smile, say thanks, and go on my way.

  • Explain yourself (a little).

While I didn’t want to get into it with co-workers or random people, I found that I felt better if I responded to an off-putting or discouraging comment with something like “Well actually, it isn’t that uncommon for runners to experience minor injuries once in a while, and since I’ve run 5 marathons with very little injury, I definitely plan to continue trying to reach my goals.”

  • Bring up other topics.

In some respects, people want to feel out your level of distress and desire to talk about what happened. Initiating conversation about a movie you just saw, the book you’re reading, a funny story about your dog, the dinner you made last night, or anything else sends the message to the other person that it’s okay for them to be “normal” with you and talk about things besides your bum foot or your inability to run.

  • Focus on your own voice.

Everyone has their own experiences and opinions about injury and recovery. While it’s great to get others’ perspectives, it can be exhausting and defeating to try to listen to every piece of advice that you get. Listen to what people have to say, but always come back to you and remember that you know your body best (usually even better than your doctor!) and the voice in your own head and heart is what matters.

  • Don’t always jump right into the self-pity wagon.

I found many people initially reacted to my boot with a somewhat dramatic “Oh my gosh, that’s terrible, I’m so sorry!” which is a totally normal reaction. I found it best if I then sort of smiled and said “Yeah, it isn’t fun but I’m still staying as active as possible and am willing to be patient with it” or “It’s been hard but I’m hopeful that it will feel better soon” and trying to swing the mood of the conversation a bit…

…instead of jumping right into “Yeah, it really sucks. I’m pretty miserable.”

It’s not that I thought I wasn’t allowed to feel miserable, but I found that when talking to people I’m not particularly close to, it was better for my mood to keep a lighter conversation and be able to walk away with the person saying “Oh wow, you’re dealing with this really well” rather than a statement of pity.

  • Fake it till you make it.

Similar to the last point, sometimes it was better just to put on my big girl pants and pretend to be strong, even when I didn’t feel strong. Again, I’m definitely not saying to be fake or to invalidate your own emotions, but personally I found that (especially at work) it was easier for me to be professional and poised if I smiled and told people I felt optimistic and that I was doing well. Sometimes if I could keep it up long enough, I ended up feeling pretty darn good at the end of the day.

  • But lean on your closest friends and family.

That being said, I think it’s important to be okay with the raw emotions that come with injury, and let yourself be open and vulnerable with those closest to you in your life. They understand you, they will be there for you, they will listen to you cry and let you be angry.

What’s your best piece of advice for talking to people about injury, or anything that’s emotionally-triggering to discuss?

Sport Psychology Review: Visualization

This is part five of my Sport Psychology Series. I’ve been doing about one post per month and am always open to ideas that you might want to see!

Ever heard the saying seeing is believing? How about in the context of athletics?

Well I am a huge believer in the power of seeing yourself do something to make you believe it’s possible.

So I want to talk about visualization, which can also be called imagery, or mental rehearsal. Visualization/Imagery is basically recreating an experience in your mind using your senses.

Athletes might spend time a lot of time mentally replaying their worst performances over and over, trying to figure out what went wrong. While it is helpful to recognize and learn from one’s mistakes, ruminating over the bad races is not going to be productive for runners. I think we need to spend more time recreating out best experiences.

Have you ever told the story of your best race to someone, out loud? Did some of the feelings you had during that race come back? Did you get excited? That’s a small example of the power of visualization.

In my grad-level sport psych class, one of our assignments was to create an imagery script for our sport (most people in the class were athletes). Obviously I created mine about running. The script was supposed to be a story that we could read to ourselves before we competed or practiced that would help us to perform better. The goal was to use pieces of our best performances or practices (for me, races or runs) to create a mental script that would help set us up to feel the way we want to feel when we perform.

It is crucial to include emotion in imagery scripts. Otherwise, the individual will fall back into their usual emotional state when reading the script, and it won’t have the same effect. Knowing how you want to feel during the visualization is key, because that’s what will help the imagery have such a strong effect on performance. (And we already know how strongly emotion affects performance, right?)

The script should read like a story and be a combination of imagery and self-talk. In other words, it should be a combination of images and phrases that work for the individual. So for example, my imagery script contains images that I see during the Boston Marathon, my feet moving, the crowd, etc. as well as phrases that I want to be saying to myself throughout the race. Scripts are better if they are very focused and do not reinforce any thought that is not helpful to the person. The script can be read before competitions/races, or also daily before practice/training runs.

The script can be from an internal perspective (visualizing performing from one’s own vantage point), or an external perspective (visualizing oneself from an outsider’s perspective). Research has been inconclusive on which perspective is better, so I think it’s best to try both and see what works better.

When I completed this assignment, I included some phrases on overcoming obstacles such as, “When I feel pain, I will…” and “When I encounter negative thoughts I will…” but my professor said that by doing this, I was reinforcing and encouraging those negative processes. She suggested I remove them from the script. At first, I thought I needed to include those phrases because pain during a marathon is inevitable, so why not set myself up with how to deal with it? But after some thought, I agree with her. Ultimately, acknowledging the pain and the negative thoughts is validating them. My script needed to focus on how I DO want to feel and think, and not set myself up to expect negative thoughts and pain.

Want to create your own imagery script?

First decide what the script is for. Let’s say you’re doing it about running – you could write the script for a specific race, or a script that you can read before your everyday runs.

You might want to use your visualization/imagery script to help you to:

  • refine skills or correct mistakes (i.e. maintaining proper running form)
  • learn and practice performance strategies (i.e. starting out slow and gradually increasing speed)
  • prepare mental focus for a race
  • automate a certain performance routine (i.e. your pre-race warm up and stretching)
  • build and enhance mental skills (like self-talk)
  • enhance self-confidence (my script for Boston will definitely be geared toward putting me in a self-confident frame of mind)
  • manage energy (i.e. have the optimal arousal level for you – not too calm, not too antsy)
  • manage stressNext, ask yourself when you feel your best. You need to recreate the races or runs where you ran well and felt awesome and everything just “clicked”. Start from the moment you woke up, and try to remember as many details about it as you can. Ideally this process would involve all the senses, and emotions and thoughts should be included as well. As you begin to write your story, you want to pull in as many elements from previous positive experiences as possible.

Focus on both the images themselves as well as the thoughts you will be thinking or saying. Figure out where to start and where to end your story. My script takes me from race morning until I cross the finish line, because I need to visualize the entire race in order to feel a little more relaxed and ensure myself that I will finish the way I want to finish.

There is no formal way to do this. In fact, the best way to do it is in a way that works for you and resonates with you. If a story is really well-written but doesn’t get your emotions going and doesn’t trigger those key images in your mind, it’s not going to be helpful.

Once you’ve written something, if you’re struggling to fill in the details or it’s not as vivid as you would like it to be, I suggest letting someone else read it and ask you questions. They might be able to ask questions that will help you fill in more gaps, and really make the story come to life.

Of course you don’t need to create an imagery script to practice visualization, but I find the script making and reading to be a more effective method of visualizing than just saying “now I’m going to sit down and visualize myself crossing the finish line.” There’s nothing wrong with that, I have just personally found that a detailed script combining all of the elements discussed above is the best way to truly get the optimal images in your head and really make you believe it’s going to play out that way.

 

Here are some other things I learned about visualization in my class…

Factors Influencing Visualization Effectiveness:

  • The nature of the task or competition – a more controllable situation that’s easier to manipulate will make imagery more effective [I like to think of running as a relatively controllable situation, because we can adjust our pace and aren’t relying on team member performance; obviously there are always some unknowns]
  • Skills level of the athlete
  • Imagery ability – vividness and engaging all the senses are key
  • Combination with practice

Benefits of Visualization (research-driven – sorry I don’t have references!):

  • Improves concentration
  • Enhances motivation
  • Builds confidence (because you see yourself doing what you want to do)
  • Helps control emotional responses
  • Helps in building or acquiring skills or strategy
  • Prepares one for competition
  • Helps one cope with pain and adversity
  • Enhances problem-solving

What are your thoughts on visualization? Anyone willing to create a script?

 

The Art of Tapering

I’ve confessed before that I am bad at tapering. I get itchy to run more, let my anxiety build up, and don’t really appreciate the resting period.

Well, I am trying to change that! I’m really trying to embrace these principles while tapering for the Boston Marathon…

1.) Reduce miles.

Most marathon training plans should incorporate 2-3 weeks of tapering. Usually both mileage and intensity of workouts decreases significantly. According to Runner’s World, during the final week before the marathon, mileage should be reduced 60% from the peak training week.

Last week, (3 weeks prior to the race) the basic structure of my training was the same, i.e. I still had all the same types of workouts (tempo, hills, recovery runs, long runs, pace runs, etc), but my mileage dropped from 55 miles the week before to 39 miles.

This week, (2 weeks prior) also has the same structure of workouts, but even more of a mileage decrease, from 39 to 28.

Next week (1 week prior), the structure of workouts does change. Lots of easy running with strides instead of actual workouts, and my mileage drops to around just 14 (well, not including the 26.2 I will be running on 4/18!).

2.) Ease back on intensity.

Instead of burning yourself out with fast tempo runs and speed workouts that will tear at your muscles, keep the workouts less intense during the 3 week taper, and to maintain speed incorporate strides into the end of workouts.

Running Unlimited suggests doing 4-8 strides at a time, each one being a 10-30 second burst of speed with full recovery in between each one.

3.) Don’t do anything crazy or strenuous.

That might sound obvious, but I can’t tell you the number of stories I’ve heard of people deciding to do strenuous yard work, move heavy boxes, or try out a new yoga class during the final weeks of training and tweak something and be devastated. Now is not the time to do anything new or hard on the muscles.

It’s time to relax!

And probably not the best time to work on unusual yoga poses. (Don’t worry – this picture is from October).

4.) Eat the way that makes you feel your best.

Fueling your body with a good balance of all the nutrients you need (the combination of carbs, proteins, fats etc. that works best for your body) is so important leading up to the race. Go ahead and use the taper as an excuse to eat as many carbs as you want, but also get in the protein, fruit and veggies too!

I’ve read that extra carbs in the 3 days prior to the race (not just the night before) is optimal. That doesn’t mean eat pasta for every meal, but maybe a more carb-heavy diet than usual.

5.) Get plenty of sleep.

The body needs sleep to function well and perform. Don’t worry if you don’t sleep a ton the night before (hardly anyone does). More important are the weeks leading up to the race. Sleep is necessary for so many physical and mental functions, that you will really be doing yourself a favor by getting in those 8 hours a night during the taper period.

6.) Decide on your race plan.

Are you shooting for a specific time? Do you want to run negative splits?  I have found that it reduces race day anxiety a little bit to know I have a plan that I’m (hypothetically) capable of executing. Maybe you just want to finish, or feel good the entire time (probably won’t happen in a marathon – sorry!), so a less specific plan can be okay too.

My plan continues to remain a little “loose” because I want to start the marathon slow and gauge the rest of the race partially based on how I feel. I think no matter what you decide to do, if you’ve at least made that decision in a well thought out way, it makes it a tiny bit easier to calm the nerves.

You know what you’re setting out to do, you know you’ve trained your best to do it, and you’ll give it the best shot you have.

7.) Sufficiently break in sneakers (the right way).

If you plan to start using a new pair of sneakers before the race, make sure you have enough time to break them in. I found some conflicting information out there, but it seems the general consensus is that running sneakers are sufficiently broken in between 40 and 60 miles. However, the final 40-60 miles of your training should not all be used to break in a brand new pair of shoes. New shoes should be introduced slowly, at first just a couple of miles at a time, and gradually phased in.

8.) Embrace the sneaker look.

The two weeks before a marathon, I wear sneakers everywhere I need to be walking (but NOT my race sneakers, of course!) If I have to dress up for work, I bring comfortable, flat shoes with me. The last thing I want to do is strain my foot or trip right before the big day. It’s function over fashion at this point!

9.) Lean on your running support system.

I bet Lizzy, Becky and Lauren are so sick of me right now…but they’re helping me so much to keep things in perspective and remind me of all the things my anxiety and doubt are making me forget.

And obviously my mom is my running inspiration and basically my “coach” – so I have been constantly seeking her wonderful advice and support.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to those people who have supported and helped you throughout your training. Every runner can relate to the pre-race slew of emotions, and we’re here to help each other. (If you need someone to talk to, feel free to email me!).

10.) Find something positive to put mental energy into.

I can’t pretend that it’s easy for me to reduce my mileage so much when my excitement and nervousness are increasing. Some people are great at it, and I’m just not. But what I have found to be helpful during this time is to put more time into blogging and blog reading, make special breakfasts that I normally wouldn’t have time to make, take the time to write people letters and cards, or start a new book.

So instead of dreading my inability to run a lot, I’m trying to fill the time I usually spend running with other rewarding, positive things that will temporarily fill the void. I always run in the morning, so instead of getting up and running right away, I will get up and read blogs with a cup of coffee, work on a breakfast recipe, read a book in bed, or sleep in longer, and then go on a shorter run. That way I haven’t totally thrown off my morning routine, and I feel good having done something extra before my workday starts! (Maybe most normal people would just sleep in and I’m totally overanalyzing this :) , but I do my best when I wake up early and maintain my daily routine).

*     *     *

What do you do to stay sane during your taper? (Or while you’re injured – I think a lot of the same concepts apply!)

Bring on the sun

Thank you for your comments on my last post – you guys really helped ease my anxiety about the pains and I loved reading about what non-physical things running can do for you.

I think the aches are getting better, and resting today felt good. I am focusing on moving forward with my new (pink) sneakers.

Today it reached 60 degrees in Boston, and it reminded me of everything I’m looking forward to as the weather warms up.

Banner Day

How is there only 1 month until the Boston Marathon?!

Bill Rodgers hung the first banner here in the city today!! When these go up I get so excited. I remember I will be running through these streets and living this dream.

I am happy to report that my run this morning (6 miles averaging an 8:19 pace) felt great and pain free.

I went without music to really reconnect myself with running, and it set my day up to be a great one.

Immediately following was, of course, a tasty breakfast.

Usually my runners breakfast is a banana. I put bananas in my smoothies, oatmeal, and yogurt, use them to top my pancakes.

This morning, when a banana was not an option, I reverted to an apple, and I’m glad I did!

(I’ve pretty much stopped eating apples alone, because I always feel more hungry when I’m done eating one! But I’m fine to eat them paired with something else or cooked in baked goods).

It’s more of a fall than a spring-themed breakfast, but Apple Cinnamon Pancakes were perfect this morning.

The apple came in for the topping:

  • 1 medium apple, cubed
  • 1 Tbsp butter or substitute of choice (I used smart balance)
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

I simply browned the butter in a pan over medium heat, added the apple and cooked until soft, then stirred in the brown sugar and cinnamon.

I also drizzled sunflower seed butter all over them. Loved this flavor combination.

Crossing my fingers that I continue to feel good on my 12 miler tomorrow. Maybe I will run by those banners just to give myself the extra boost :)