One of the easiest ways to get faster at running is training with people who are faster than you.
If you want to get quicker, you need to have someone ahead of you to pull you along. Think about the pacers you see at large half marathons and full marathons. Why do you think race directors enlist pacers for even their elite athletes? Because pacers are typically used to help athletes set new world records and/or personal records. If you are not in the league of setting a world record, a pacer still can help you maintain your speed throughout your race to reach a personal best.
So where can you get the chance to train with people of all pace ranges? Find a local team to train with! Many communities have free clubs, paid group training programs, and gyms that host runs.
Still nervous about taking the step to run with people who may be ahead of you? Lets go over the benefits of training within a group with various paces:
1. When you run within a group you are likely to find training partners for your daily runs and your speed sessions.
Running with someone who can keep your pace without pushing you too much, but still provides you that endorphin boost of running alongside a friend is a great partner to hold onto and very beneficial when it comes to base runs and long runs. Matching a daily base pace with someone adds to the enjoyment of running by adding in a great conversation. Even if the person is a slightly faster than you, it is nice to have them to run with a few times to keep you moving a little bit out of your slog.
When it comes to finding your speed training "partner", it takes a group. You should not be looking for someone who is going to keep your comfortable. A key component in helping someone become a better runner is simply having them be around runners who are faster than them. There is a enormous upside in being able to train with faster people. They can help pull you along in a consistent way. Following the path of faster runners, despite varying effort levels, you can always (1) follow or (2) have the advantage of being dragged along.
2. If you see others achieve their goals, you believe you can achieve your goals too.
Often the belief in one’s own abilities to achieve a goal is strengthened when you see others complete a goal. Seeing others reach their goals helps you believe that you can achieve your goals as well. Pacers and training partners alike are reminders that, "You can do this too. YOU GOT THIS". Training partners have a dual psychological purpose. Having a partner with you can actually reduce the stressors you have going on mentally. It will allow you to have clear focus to maintain pace without distraction. More pointedly said, "You stay more in the moment instead of trapped in your own head".
3. Deep Connections
Another aspect of group training is creating a connection between your training partners/group, the collective energy and team dynamic helps to uplift everyone. When you are seeing a training partner who is working just as hard as you, a few meters ahead of you putting the work in, it makes you do the same. This causes a chain reaction throughout the entire group.
"An Oxford University in 2009 studied of a rowing crew showed that pain tolerance doubled after a group session compared to a solo session (cited: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/abs/10.1098/rsbl.2009.0670). The research is paraphrased below:
Researchers indirectly measure the levels of endorphins (‘feel good’ hormones) released in the oarsmen when they completed tough training sessions together in a group, compared to doing the exact same sessions in isolation. An immediate measurement of pain tolerance after sessions found ample evidence that athletes' pain threshold was basically doubled after a group session when compared with a solo one.
This finding will be unsurprising for anyone who has done any amount of competitive group workouts; training with others almost always makes it easier to push yourself really hard. But it's interesting to see this ‘common sense’ backed up by more scientific evidence. The researchers who conducted the study speculated that their findings had something to do with the fact that humans are inherently social animals and that group bonding, especially during physically taxing activities, triggers a greater release of endorphins than doing tasks alone, which in turn allows for greater actual output with a reduced perception of effort."
I’ve certainly found this to be true on many occasions when I’ve ended up pushing out far better times in group sessions than I would've done alone (with less of a sense of effort). It's definitely an advantage worth harnessing at times when you really want to max out your efforts, push through some perceived barriers, or combat low levels of motivation.
In summary, do not shy away from groups with people whom are faster than you. Harness their efforts for your own progression in running and get faster by working alongside of them.
Spring is just around the corner and that means that racing season is approaching quickly. As the snow begins to melt and the days become longer, it’s easy to feel a sense of rejuvenation that comes with the season. BUT NOT SO FAST! Don’t get too confident with your winter aerobic fitness and strength gains. Remember to take into consideration all that goes into racing. Below is a list of pointers that you can use to ensure that you are the best prepared (as you can be!) on race day.
Know your course and practice for it
Understand the course profile, and know that the little lines moving up and down don’t account for everything (a small looking bump at mile 25 in your marathon may feel like climbing Mt. Everest)! Look at the number of turns (switchbacks if on the trail) which can throw off your momentum, get an idea on the terrain, look at past results or ask a friend who has done the course to get an idea of what your finishing time may be. Is your course all (or mostly downhill)? Practicing downhills will help prepare you for the muscular fatigue that you will see on race day. What is the typical weather (and even worst case) to know if you need to start to acclimatize your body and mentally prepare for the heat, cold, dry, or humidity.
Practice in your race day kit
Even though a lot of shoes today have minimal break in periods, it’s still best to have run in them before race day. I typically like putting in at least 50-100miles on them before race day. I remember one time when I wore new shoes out of the box. The insoles were too fresh and I ended up getting a large blister from the friction between my sock and the insole. It was a very painful lesson learned that I will never do again.
Will there be any required gear either at the start due to weather (cold mornings) or mandated by the race? Do you need a drop bag or change of clothes? Know this and make sure you have it all prepared ahead of time so you are not rushing race week or day.
Race day Nom Noms
Dial in your race day nutrition. Be knowledgeable with how many aid stations and what they provide on course, the distance between stations, and what that means for how much you need to have on you in terms of cal/hr will be key in execution. Nutrition can become complicated especially when race day conditions can vary from training conditions. Having a general plan and being flexible with where your energy comes and your water and electrolyte intake can be important to race day success
Race day hype and environment
It is good to know the atmosphere you are entering for race weekend and where you get your energy from. If you signed up for a large marathon, know that there will be a lot of people, large crowds, and carve yourself time for re-energizing, if you are someone who needs it. It can be easy to get caught up in the race day excitement no matter who you are and you will have extra energy from tapering, but don’t waste it in the day(s) before.
There are many ways to prepare yourself for success. Knowing and understanding what could happen on race day will help you be ready for success no matter if things don’t go to plan. Going through the physical and mental preparation beforehand makes smaller decisions or adjustments on race day that much easier.
Do you find yourself Google searching for you next race? Maybe you are on the fence about where you want the race to be located? Well, here are six reasons that your next race should be local:
1. You probably know the course!
Having a sense of direction during race day can be advantageous during a race. Specifically, you know how much further you have left and what the terrain entails. Sure, GPS watches let you know where you are; but, sometimes having a clear picture of the course from start to finish can put your race day jitters at ease.
2. You know the people
Odds are that you are going to see familiar, friendly faces at the start line and volunteering out on the course. Maybe they are your friends, a local run club member, that one group from the track, or a colleague that you can wave to, cheer on, and share some miles with. Seeing a friendly face always is uplifting during a race.
Let's not forget that it’s a great opportunity to encourage your non-running friends or family to come and cheer for you on the course. This is something they might not do if you were racing out of town.
3. You know the race
Local racing does not always mean "small" in terms of quality swag and awards. Most races that are smaller try to make up for the lower attendance with great swag and fun ideas. It also means knowing that each year you can rely on the race to put on a quality event.
4. A smaller field means better placement. Toe the line knowing you could actually WIN this race or place in an age group! These categories are much more attainable when it’s a small community race.
5. You are supporting local
We know the benefits of supporting local businesses. The same can be said for local races. Spending money locally subsequently benefits the local economy. Often local races rely entirely on local businesses through participating sponsorships; however, local races also bring in additional money to local businesses through food, lodging (if out of town people register), course needs, and more!
Also, these local races are put on by local small businesses themselves. You would be supporting directors that are just trying to break even while fulfilling their dream of putting on an event that provides community, exercise, and showcases their hometown. It is every race directors' dream to have their race become a yearly "must do" race. Help them out by registering and sharing with a friend or club.
6. You get to sleep in your own bed
Getting a sound night sleep in your own bed has been know to lead to race day success. When you race out of town not every hotel you find is as nice as the ones you know locally. You don't know what you are getting until you are sleeping on top of the comforter inside your hoodie and sweats.
Secondly, sleeping at home can also eliminate the “oh no, I forgot…” situation the night before or the morning of your race.
In summary, racing local invests in your community both socially and economically. You will gain stronger connections with your local businesses and neighbors.
Runner's love to post, talk, and breathe running. So, seeing an Instagram photo of a runner's Coros is not unusual. However, we are increasingly seeing posts showing daily runs entitled "beat last week's time" or "beat yesterday's time". While the post may get lots of likes and comments, from a coach's viewpoint, this is not a feat one should marvel at. Having a runner try to run faster each day is a recipe for disaster and it is not something we ask our athletes to do. There is a difference between running fast all year by incorporating in strides at the end of your run or a weekly speed session and running fast every day. When coaching, we like to have our athlete's base pace be slow and at a low effort level and have their workouts/long run days be longer and often more challenging.
Another thing coaches consider when training runners, is the age level of your athlete. Unless you are coaching high school/collegiate aged runners; adults have no foundation to build from when they start running; and, more often than not, they often begin with the goal of going straight into a marathon without working on essential aspects like technique and form (this is why drills are important!).
Let's get into some more depth about why running fast every day is not beneficial to your overall progress as a runner.
Why running fast everyday should be avoided:
Range of motion is very important with running, it ensures complete mobility throughout your run. Limited range of motion inhibits your body's ability to complete the full running gait cycle, consequently displacing forces and causing imbalances. Improving your range of motion allows for your muscles to work at longer lengths and allowing you to build better strength.
As we get older, our range of motion becomes limited, so working on technique is a crucial element to your overall success as a runner. Focusing some of your time on learning drills such as A-skips, B-skips, high-knees, two legged/single legged bounds, and other exaggerated running forms will improve your running efficiency, reduce overstriding, and help to prevent the onset of injuries.
Increase in risk of injuries
You’re more likely to get injured when every run is fast paced. A fatigued body is suspectable to injuries much more than a recovered body. Running is a very demanding sport, it puts a lot of stress on your body. When you are constantly fatigued you compromise your immune system (easier to catch a cold), increase the risk of overuse injuries, and risk overtraining syndrome. All of these risks will derail you from running goals.
When your base run pace starts creeping into your speed session paces, or worse, into your race paces, it is a telltale sign that you are running too fast daily. The majority of your weekly running should be done at base pace (easy, conversational pace levels), if not, you do not have any pace differentiation between base pace and race pace.
Fatigue from running too fast is setting in and you are not adapting to the aerobic benefits of your training. Learning your paces is very important in running. You should know when you are running an easy effort. Take into consideration your breathing, how hard are you breathing? Is this pace sustainable to maintain for your base run - for how long? Get in tune with your body. When you are running easy 5-6 days out of 7, your 1 day speed session will go much better. You will begin to see the different range of paces you can hit.
Variation in your weekly runs are important. Every week should include base runs, 1 long run, and 1 high-intensity speed session.
Recovering from training is nearly impossible if you are running too fast daily. The only time your body adapts and gets stronger (and ultimately faster) is when you run easy paces and allow time for your body to recover. If you are not running easy most of the time, you are not allowing the training that you are doing to take effect and adapt.
In summary, to get fast, you have to run slower most of the time. That's not to say that your base pace wont increase in speed as you become stronger and more fit. As a new runner you may start out at a 10 min per mile pace and soon feel 9:50 a mile is easy. What is easy to you will change as your body adapts!
Fuel Before you are Hungry
Fall race season is over and many of you may be taking time to reflect on your race and what you could do better next time. Did you bonk? Did you start to experience cramping? Did the run feel effortless or did it feel exhausting from start to finish?
Whether your next goal is a spring marathon or maybe you are waiting until the next fall season; racing a half, full, or ultra-marathon you will have many progressive long runs integrated into the training plan weekly to help you improve in your endurance for your goal race. In order to achieve these distances, you must fuel correctly.
When it comes to fueling for a race, you don't have to be be new to running to have questions. It takes many of us quite a few tries to understand what works best during a long run or race and, at times, learning how to fuel your long runs can feel overwhelming.
How Long Before I Start Fueling?
In general, runners need to add in 30 grams to 60 grams of carbohydrate each hour that they are running when they are running longer than 90 minutes. The timing of your fueling will need to start earlier than 90 minutes into a run. If you waited until 90 minutes to being your fuel, by that time your tank will be empty. Once your tank hits empty it is very hard to recover - if you can recover at all. You should plan to eat 30 grams - 60 grams (depending on your specific body weight/needs) every 45 minutes when you are running longer than 90 minutes. Any long runs greater than 2.5 hours, male or female, consumption of 90 grams of carbohydrate per hour is recommended.
If you are starting from scratch with fueling for your long runs, starting with much smaller quantities of carbohydrates every 45 minutes during your runs may be beneficial to avoid gastrointestinal distress. Start small and work your way up.
But WHY is the timing so important? Our bodies have been continuously working for an extended amount of time and when working for that amount of time we start to run low in glycogen (stored carbohydrate) and get closer to “bonking” or feel the need to stop running at the same intensity. If we fuel ourselves before we start to feel tired and while we are still feeling strong, we can keep our glycogen levels and, in turn, our intensity levels consistent.
It's also important to note that the longer you are moving at a certain effort level, cardiovascular drift occurs. This means that for a constant effort level, the longer you go, there is a gradual increase in heart rate . So by fueling earlier in your run, you are able to absorb carbs better because the need to pump blood (and oxygen) to working muscles is less and the blood flow needed to promote proper carbohydrate digestion is higher.
Remember to start practicing your fueling early into your training. The earlier the better, this way you can try various products and train your gut to take on fuel. Just like you train your legs and your lungs to be strong enough to carry you through a workout, you must train your body to take in calories. If you neglect gut training until race day, you may experience gastrointestinal distress, cramps, or bonking.
What Should I Fuel With?
When you run long distances, your body relies initially on glycogen as its primary fuel. Glycogen is derived from eating carbohydrates and stored in the muscles and liver for easily accessible, efficient energy.
Running fuel should consist of easily digestible carbohydrates that contain minimal protein, fat, and fiber. While fat is an essential energy source for your body, it takes a while for your body to convert fat into fuel. Protein should be a huge part of your daily diet and post exercise recover; however, it is not a primary energy source and, therefore, not a typically essential component of mid-run fueling.
Fueling also consists of hydration. It is important that you take into consideration your hydration strategy for long runs. Chews, gels, sports nutrition beverages, and whole foods may be used to fuel your long runs as these contain those quick digesting carbohydrates. Some athletes use bananas/gummy bears/home-made energy bites as their fuel.
You should also aim for 300-500mg of sodium per hour with 16-24 ounces of fluid.
How to Practice Fueling
Here are some tips on how to start practicing your fueling. Remember it will look different for each runner.
It is often times celebrated when one completely goes above and beyond and gives "110% of themselves 120% of the time". More often than not, in running, the very opposite is necessary for performance gains and growth. This is because adaptations can occur over a range of a certain stimulus and within that range, the benefits your receive from hitting on the high range of your target are the same (or basically the same) as as hitting your low range of your target.
When a workout is given by a coach, they are aiming to get the athlete to hit a certain percentage of effort for a duration of time/distance in order to elicit a specific adaptation. If that range isn't hit, then the intended adaptation won't occur as effectively as it would if it did.
What athletes sometimes forget is that hitting the low (read slower) end of the range will satisfy the adaption just as effectively as the upper (read faster) end of the range. Athletes even more so forget that hitting out of range (read much faster) than the target effort will yield either the same benefit or in some cases have negative impact on adaptation. This can lead to slower recovery times, over training, etc. When an athlete goes harder than prescribed they are stressing the body too much either mechanically or chemically that leads to faster or more breakdown in the short and long term.
For example: Running easy runs too hard. A lot of times, runners will run too hard on their easy days., whether it be from meeting a friend who is a little faster or naturally on their own. Many of us believe that a run is not complete unless a feeling of complete exhaustion comes upon us . We feel that we did not put in enough "work". This, however, can be further from the truth. The main goal of an easy run is to run...easy. This helps to support recovery and build an aerobic base which is essential for endurance running. Running at a higher intensity more often than not can lead to unnecessary stress and fatigue which can ultimately lead to lack of motivation and even injury.
So, how do you know how often and what effort level you should be running? It depends. What are your goals? What distance/time peaks your interest? What do you want to get out of running? How much time (daily and throughout the year) do you have available to give to running? With these questions answered there are many groups/coaches/forums that can help you guide your way so that when you set out to go for a run or workout, you know what the intent is, and how to manage your effort through out. You will also know where the workout fits in the grand scheme of your training.
Ultimately, whether you decide to join a group, have a personalized coach, or self coach remembering to aim lower will help set you up better for growth and consistency for a long career. Everyone is always looking for easy and efficient hacks and this can be considered one of them.
If you have more interest in personalized running coaching and getting the most out of yourself please take a look at our running services at https://www.milesandmacros.net/coaching-services.html
Track Workouts: Basics & benefits
The 4 Benefits Of Running On A Track
1. Safety. Unlike running on the streets, where you must remain alert to avoid collisions with other people, dogs, cyclists, or cars, a track is a safe and traffic free wonderland.
Also, unlike trail running, there are no mud, rocks, roots, or animals to cause problems.
For obvious reasons running a road or trail route may be more engaging and free; however, the track allows you safety and a mindless running opportunity.
2. Flat and Springy. A track, of course, is pancake flat, so you may enjoy a level surface as well as a nice springy pep in your step allowing a bit faster of a pace. The synthetic rubber of a track is easy on the joints and is less likely to aggregate or cause injury
3. Measured. As tracks are precisely measured, they provide a good opportunity to test your abilities and complete distance specific workouts.
Yes, it is possible to do speed workouts on the roads using your GPS watch, but it can be challenging to figure out exact distances with or without variables such as traffic.
4. Motivation(s). Often there are other athletes on the track or turf that are working on their craft and while in their company you can draw motivation. Sometimes you can get more out of yourself with the energy you feel from another athlete. You are all working there for the propose of achieving goals.
Another motivation that overcomes you is the act of going to a track. You know that when you step foot on the track you are in the mindset of performing at higher level an that THIS is your weekly QUALITY session you have planned for the day/week.
(adapted from the marathonhandbook.com)
Macros vs. calories
Changing the composition of your body is not an easy process and it is entirely different for everyone. Everyone’s body is unique and it takes a bit of experimentation and a great deal of knowledge to find out what will get you to your goals.
You might be at a cross-roads with your nutrition wondering - do I count macros or do I count calories? It is a great question and it all depends on what you are trying to achieve. With calorie counting, you have a set number of calories to eat each day based on your height, weight, age, activity level, and goals. With macro counting, you dive deeper by having those calories divided between three main macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
Ok, first. What is a calorie?
A calorie is simply a unit of measurement for energy. When you eat food, it contains calories. Fruits, vegetables, and meats all contain calories. Eating these calories provides your body with energy to put to use somewhere.
Factors such as your height, weight, age, gender, activity level, determine what amount of calories your body needs to carry out its daily processes. Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the bare minimum number of calories that your body needs to function on a day to day basis. This means that even if you spent the entire day reading in bed you’ll still be burning calories just to live – and that number will be your BMR.
For most of us, we often do a bit more than just lay in bed and read. In that case, we’ll need to know our Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). One formula that is very easy to use is the Harris Benedict Formula. This formula will calculate your TDEE. By factoring in how active of a person you are, you simply multiple the Harris Benedict Formula to your BMR number. This will give you your TDEE.
Even though you have determined your TDEE; the number will vary from person to person depending on overall health, body composition (how much fat your body is holding), and what your fitness goals are - calories will need to be subtract or added to/from your TDEE.
One historic rule of thumb that people come back to is that to lose weight you simply just need to eat less calories than what you are burning. This "rule" is not always that simple. Yes, if you want to lose weight you need to burn more calories than what you are consuming AND if you want to build muscle or gain weight you need to eat more calories than you are burning. HOWEVER, one main aspect that most overlook is that calories can’t just come from anywhere. You’re not going to get the same results eating an all chicken wing diet while counting calories as you would while eating a well-balanced diet and paying attention to your macros.
What are macros?
There are three different macronutrients – carbs, protein, and fat. Your body uses each macronutrient differently.
Carbs are the body’s preferred source of energy. When you eat carbs, your body breaks them down into glucose. Glucose (blood sugar) is the main source of energy for your body's tissues, cells, and organs. Glucose can either be used immediately or stored in the liver and muscles for later use.
For every gram of carbs you eat it is 4 calories. Because your body loves to use carbs for energy, excess carbs are stored as body fat in case your body needs more energy later. Since it is safe to say that most of us do not want to store fat, if we eat just the right amount of carbs in order for our bodies to burn it as fuel - we wont store any excess.
Every cell in the human body contains protein. The basic structure of protein is a chain of amino acids.. Protein is needed in your diet to repair cells and to create new ones. When you eat protein, your body breaks it down into a variety of amino acids that can be used for anything from the function, repair, structure, and regulation of your body.
As with carbs, for every gram of protein you eat it is 4 calories. The body can’t store protein for later use like it can store carbs. The important thing to know about protein is that it is the only essential macronutrient. While you can get energy for you body from carbs, protein, or fat for energy, your body specifically needs protein to form amino acids and all the cells within your body. It is crucial to get enough protein in your diet than any other macro.
I know, fat...the "bad guy" of the group. Wrong! Consuming fat will not make you fat. When you ingest fats your body puts it to work in a multitude of ways.
Did you know fat can be used as energy if you’re lacking in carbs? Fats form cholesterol and fatty acids which serve as helpers within your body to ensure that the proteins are doing their job.
For every gram of fat you eat it is 9 calories – making fat the most calorie-dense macro. Eating healthy fats like avocado, extra virgin olive oil, and animal products can also help you feel satiated longer. So adding the correct amount of fats to your diet can help keep you on track towards your goals.
So, which is it calories or macros?
It is a fact that our bodies need precise amounts of each type of macronutrient in order to fuel our workouts, repair muscle damage, grow stronger, and shed fat. While you could get all your daily calories from any one of these macronutrients, it's important that you maintain a balance of carbs, protein, and fat to make sure your body is fully equipped to make the transformation you want it to.
Instead of focusing on how many total calories you’re eating, it’s best to look at the content/quality of what you’re eating. This will help to build a better you.
7 TIPS FOR WINTER RUNNING
1. Warm up:
More often than not, runners are guilty of skipping their warmup. No matter the excuse you have, you will pay the price in winter if you can’t muster up the time to get your heart rate up before hitting the roads/trails. It may be easier to warm up inside and that is a great way to start.
Performing butt kicks, A-Skip, B-Skip drills, and leg swings for about 5-10 minutes prior to your run is a great warm up for your muscles/body, reducing your risk of injury, and getting your engine running.
2. Dress properly:
3. Run with a friend or group:
Well, they say misery loves company, haha. When the nights get dark so soon and the cold weather hits, you will find plenty of nights or early mornings where running is the last thing you want to do. To help combat your warm and comfy bed consider running with a friend, training partner, or running group for motivation and accountability.
4. Hit the 'mill:
Sometimes it’s just too cold and too rainy. Under these poor weather circumstances, it’s best to opt for the treadmill. As mind-numbing as it may be, the treadmill is a great option for faster running or getting in those base miles.
Don't let it get boring! Mix it up! Running interval sessions, tempo runs, long runs (come on, you can do it!) will make the time go by faster and can even improve your running by keeping a steady pace and not naturally slowing down.
5. Find your foot wear:
Once the snow starts to fall, it is time to rethink your foot wear. Why? Because beneath that powder is ice, roots, potholes, and more uneven terrain. Trail shoes are an excellent choice to put into your running shoes arsenal. Trail shoes often have water-resistant uppers that will protect your feet from getting wet and their more aggressive lugs improve your grip on slippery terrains.
Are you not willing to splurge on a new pair of shoes? There are grip-enhancing devices that slip over the soles of your existing shoes, like YakTrax.
6. Adjust your form:
Grippy shoes are a good start, but you’ll also need to modify your running technique if you want to stay on your feet. Be intentional with each step. Each stride should be more of a shuffle, both feet closer to the ground, shorten your stride when making a turn, and you should run at a slower pace. Look for plowed streets and well traveled paths to run on - often packed snow provides better traction. All of these tips can prevent you from taking a pretty nasty spill.
7. Enjoy the seasons:
Each season brings a certain element to running. Summer - needing to adapt to heat and humidity. Fall - a break in humidity allowing for fast times and the beauty of the changing color of the leaves. Winter - Tough terrain, cold temperatures, and the need for mental toughness and determination. Spring - breaking into warmer temperatures but still surprising weather changes of rain, snow, sun...a new awaking.
In summary, running all year round is extremely do-able and often magical. Snow covered streets and trees, beautiful fall foliage, the warmth of the summer, and the new beginnings in spring. Don't miss out on what nature has in store for you, each season's run will bring you closer to nature and stronger in your runs.
This summer we had a guest speaker come to visit the group and he opened the floor up to questions. One athlete had a really good question: "How do you find that motivation to get out the door to run instead of going to the couch or the fridge after a long day at work?"
This question reminded us that not everyone signing up for a half/full marathon running group necessarily has a strong will for a PR or a goal race in mind; but, maybe, they are here for comradery and generally building a healthier lifestyle. They were not looking for the day in and day out exercise goals. When coming into a group training setting some often wonder what they signed up for, haha. Why, where, how do some of these athletes get the motivation to get out the door on a daily basis while dodging life's curveballs? There are two types of motivation that play a huge role in training, intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Let's explain what these are.
Intrinsic Motivation and Extrinsic Motivation
There are two kinds of motivation that you have during training: Intrinsic and Extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation refers to a behavior that is driven by internal rewards. Intrinsic motivation engages in behaviors coming from within because it is naturally satisfying or pleasing to you. Intrinsic motivation occurs when we act without any obvious external rewards - money, praise, medals. We simply enjoy an activity or see it as an opportunity to explore, learn, and increase our potential. In contrast to this motivation, is extrinsic motivation which involves engaging in a behavior in order to earn external rewards, receiving praise, and approval.
Running a speed session on your own for the inherent satisfaction of the challenge or joy of the work you are putting into it; rather than for some separate consequence is an example of intrinsic motivation.
Having a great time with friends at a group run is an example of extrinsic motivation. You may enjoy spending your day doing something other than running, but you're motivated to go run because you get time to see your friends and chat. In this example, you're extrinsically motivated by the ability to spend time with friends.
How do you find intrinsic motivation during a busy lifestyle?
Ok, you want to run more or run better but how do you find the time? Now that we know the two types of motivation and it may be a little clearer to you as to which motivation you possess less of. So, what can you do to help yourself get into the routine of training and try to prioritize it while living a busy day to day life? Let's face it, not everyone can wrap their heads around 5 a.m. runs every morning before work, working all day, and then coming home to take care of their families. What can you do to make training seem more attainable? It is about training blocks.
What is a training block? Training blocks are sectioned times of training/specific training. Most training blocks are 12-16 weeks of work put towards a half/full marathon goal. During those 12-16 weeks of your year (depending if you are doing one race or two - Fall/Spring or Fall AND Spring) you sacrifice for your running goal. You are going into those 12-16 weeks with the knowledge that you are getting up early to run or running directly after work, you have a long run on the weekends, you are cross training/mobility/core, getting enough sleep, and fueling your body appropriately. You put aside every excuse and get the work done. This is all intrinsic motivation - you are doing something for yourself, for the challenge, for bringing out your potential.
Even within our own half/full marathon training groups I see some athletes that have decided to dedicate their season to a goal race and are strictly executing their plans to reach their goals. I also see other athletes attending the group to maintain their consistency, find enjoyment in the run with friends, and stay generally fit. This is extrinsic motivation. These athletes are still maintaining their fitness; however, it is more about the continued bonds they have with other athletes and continuing their running to have fun, reward themselves with group time and teammates to share exercise with.
What should a training block look like? Using my own training blocks as an example: Winter I focus on maintaining my running and adding some strength into my routine. When spring comes, I add in short/fast workouts to get a half marathon completed well. Summer hits and things slow down, mileage increases, and I focus on a longer race goal for the fall. Then all fall I like to get in anything I can after my goal race and before I am "dormant" again. My real training blocks are usually early spring and late summer.
With everything mentioned above, you will notice one thing holds true throughout the year. I am always maintaining, I do not have a goal race and then stop running for weeks. Maintaining my base always allows me to jump into a training block without having to lay the foundation work down all over again. I can get a few weeks of solid training in and run a half marathon well. That is why I see some of the athletes attending group training without any races on their plates, their extrinsic motivation to attend to be with friends, exercise, and maintain keeps their bases up.
In summary, some athletes will always have strong self discipline in running (intrinsic motivation) and some athletes have outside factors that bring them into running (extrinsic motivation). Depending on the season, it can differ for all of us and that is ok. You should not be training hard all year round. Implementing training blocks allows for your body to build up to it's peak fitness level and execute a well planned race. Having downtime and maintenance time allows for recovery, finding enjoyment in running, and bonding with your friends. The best way to handle a busy lifestyle while being an athlete is about breaking things down into smaller sections, blocks you can handle.