"If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten."
- Anthony Robbins
At the end of each training cycle I think it's important to take a step back to look at what worked well for you and to think about and learn what was possibly missing from your approach so that you can do things differently and find ways to improve and to enhance your experience as well as your performance. Looking at your choices and execution is really helpful, and in my opinion essential for growth on a lot of levels. Don't just look for what went wrong or what was missing - try to see what was good as well as what could have been better or different. This will help you get stronger, it will challenge you and it will change you and aid you in becoming more focused and determined.
My last marathon training cycle was awesome. Last spring while training for Boston and my first 50 miler, I learned that my body, mind and spirit really LOVED high mileage running. I was not only able to handle it remaining injury-free but I was also feeling very balanced and happy while doing it and was improving my race times in all the distances I attempted and was running faster paces with equal or less effort on my training runs. This led me to experiment with some higher mileage in the fall when training for Richmond. I maintained my foam rolling, strength and core routines and stuck to running 6 days a week but increased my mileage and peaked at over 100 miles that cycle. This approach worked well for me and I felt very strong on race day, running a 7+ minute PR over my Boston time.
|nearing the finish of Richmond 2013|
When I started thinking closely about what I wanted to change this cycle as I crafted my training plan for Boston 2014, there were a few key themes I wanted to focus on:
1. QUALITY over quantity
2. Mental toughness and stamina
3. Take the running shoes off more
I am halfway through my 6th week of Boston training and so far, I can tell you without a silver of doubt that this is working for me and I am having one of my favorite training cycles ever even though it is freezing cold and icy outside all the time!
Here's a closer look at what I am talking about:
Quality over quantity. I am not running a single double day this entire cycle, which is a big change for me over the last year. My mileage will peak at right around 75-80 miles, which is 25% less than what I peaked at last cycle. As a result of running LESS, I am finding that I have MORE to give on the days when the purpose of my run is to push hard or practice my goal paces. My weeks are designed with either a hill workout or tempo run on Monday, a track workout or intervals on Wednesday and a long run on Saturday that sometimes includes pace work. With easy runs, recovery runs or rest in between those hard days, my legs are fresh and my spirit is determined. When I was running 80, 90 or 100 mile weeks last cycle I was only able to get one quality workout in the week in addition to my long run. Reducing my quantity is giving me the opportunity to get another key workout safely into my week. I am really, really loving this and I feel confident at this point that it will help me have a strong race in Boston.
|taking the hard work indoors with Maddie - do what you gotta do!|
Mental toughness and stamina. Also known as building courage and grit. I realized something kind of major about myself when I raced Richmond and that is that I have a tendency to settle for "good enough" at a certain point in the marathon, usually right around mile 20/22ish. When I start getting really uncomfortable I either put my gears in neutral and hang on, or I downshift to cruise into the finish because I want to cross the line feeling GOOD. Well, this is something I've decided I want to change. I want to know what it feels like to completely put it all out on the line. To risk falling flat on my face. To risk losing the good because I am going for the GREAT. To see what I am truly made of. This basically boils down to the need to FACE MY FEARS and see them for what they really are - "false evidence appearing real." To trust in the process and grow from the discomfort.
This cycle I am practicing acknowledging my fears and insecurities and getting stronger than them. I do this on my runs - especially on the tough runs - and when I am swimming or in yoga class. Which brings me to my next point...
Take the running shoes off more! This one was eating at me towards the end of my Richmond training. My training partner and good friend Maddie is a triathlete and last year she was injured for many months with a torn hip labrum. This meant no running for her for a while, but because of her swimming and biking she was able to stay fit and happy while she was not able to run (she is running again now and we are training for Boston together - she didn't miss a beat!). I thought about what I would do if I had been in her shoes and it worried me because I knew I would be in a bad spot. I do Pilates and am disciplined with my strength workouts, but they don't give me the endorphin release, the fitness or the meditative stillness that running does. If for any reason I had to stop running, I am sure I would become more sedentary and as a result of that, depressed. So after Richmond, I got myself in the swimming pool with the goal of swimming once a week. I found it to be really difficult but also a great workout and lots of fun. I haven't missed a weekly swim since then, and am now joining a Masters swim class at my gym every Tuesday morning. I signed up for my first triathlons in the second half of 2014 (both in my home town, one is a sprint and one is an Olympic distance) and this is motivating me to stick to my swim workouts, too.
|a new gear|
I am going to a spin class every now and then also and love it, but spinning fatigues my legs and the classes are harder to fit into my schedule while Boston is my priority. Another goal for me was to take at least one yoga class a week. I have stuck to this goal as well and can really feel a difference in my body. Yoga is building strength and flexibility and is also a great place for me to turn inward, to reflect, let things go and to grow. I am so thankful to have it back in my life on a regular basis.
These small changes and areas of new focus seem to be bringing big changes into my life and into my running. I'm taking it one day at a time and am enjoying it so much. Do you take a look at your training after each cycle and make changes? What kinds of things have you found work for you?