Today is the end of Daylight Savings Time, a sure sign that our five seconds of spring is around the corner, and then summer heat. But if you’re like most of us, there’s a good chance you are struggling with your running resolutions of ten weeks ago, when winter and a burst of New Year’s optimism had you in their thrall. Maybe you’re not getting out as often as you’d hoped. Maybe you’re feeling in a rut with your routine. Maybe you’re just not enjoying it as much as you’d hoped, and are dreading more each day stepping out the door. Don’t worry, you are in the same boat with a lot of folks. How do we know?
Well, one reason is that this is the time of year the media is rife with posts and articles on techniques to save your resolutions from going down the tubes. We’ve surveyed a lot of them, selecting some of the more helpful ones. And we have our own advice for you.
First off, blame the weather
It’s been a weird winter here in the NYC. Inconsistent and anything but intense. Rainy and mild one day, icy and arctic the next. And don’t even get us started on the last seven days, which swung from those dire blizzard predictions last weekend that turned into a slushy bust before you could even get your shovels out to that bizarre record-setting balmy 78-degrees on Wednesday. The weather’s all over the map and there hasn’t been near enough cold and ice and misery to bring on a good case of cabin fever, forcing us to strap on our shoes and hit the road or the gym for a cure before we do harm to ourselves or our housemates.
Become more mindful on your workouts
This article urges you to fight back against the workout boredom that is leeching away your enthusiasm by becoming more mentally aware in the midst of a workout. The author includes a ten-step guide of how to mentally scan yourself as you run in a mindful way. There’s something to the idea of training your brain just as you’re training your legs. However, this advice begs the question how you’re supposed to remember this checklist out there on Mile 3 when lethargy is setting in. Maybe you carry it in your pocket on a little laminated card, to be used in the case of emergency? Kind of helpful, kind of not.
Develop small cheating techniques
On the other hand, these folks want you to become a bit of a cheater to give yourself a better chance at success with your resolutions. Our resolutions, they say, are mainly built on overly idealistic expectations. They advise working “cheat days” into your weekly schedule, where you allow yourself NOT to do what you planned to do. There may be something to this advice, even if there is also a definite slippery slope to this approach where you could “cheat” your way completely out of the exercise picture. Bottom line, don’t be such a hard-ass with yourself, instead be flexible and give yourself a freaking break on the day-to-day stuff while you keep the big picture of your goals. This is advice we all could use.
Break up your routine
Earlier this month, a reader wrote to us asking how she could get out of her running rut and have more variety to the distances she runs.
Our advice is to divvy things up differently: Let’s say you are running 3 miles or roughly 40 minutes 3x a week, or 120 minutes total. First off, forget about distance for the time being and focus on breaking up that time in a different way. On running days 1 and 2, run for 30 minutes. Then, on day three, run for 20 minutes, WALK for 20 minutes, and run the final 20 minutes. This way, you can start to think of one of your run days as a LONG DAY, and make your goal eventually to run that whole hour, but build up to it gradually with a run/walk approach for a couple weeks. Training yourself to get used to being on the move for longer than you usually go is all the challenge you need, and the run/walk approach is an easy way to pace yourself up to that goal.
Explore new worlds
Also, it’s crucial to change up the setting and routes for your workouts. If you’re treadmilling it every workout, try to get outside for at least one run a week instead. Likewise, dipping into the gym for a treadmill (or low-impact elliptical) is a nice change of pace. Running on the street, in the gym, on a trail, on a high-school running track are all extremely different experiences, much more so than you might expect. Try them all on for size!
And take a look at your usual running route. Maybe it’s a convenient 5K loop you’ve figured out. It’s great to have a route that is an “old friend,” a loop that feels like second nature. But familiarity, before it brings contempt, will get tedious. One easy trick is to simply run your usual route backward—you’ll be surprised how different it feels. And use running as a chance to explore new streets and neighborhoods. In the city, begin your route by taking the subway a few stops beyond your usual and run home. Use the Google maps pedometer on our Runner Resources page to plot out a different route.
Change of pace
Once you’ve worked more variety into your workout length and routes, you’re ready to build in more variety to the pace you run. Make one run a week a truly slo-o-o-w recovery workout. Likewise, make another run each week into a “fast” day. Spice up a regular workout with some fartleks or kick up your cadence for longer stretches for a comfortably hard tempo routine. Wind down right before your cool down with some sprinterly strides. You’ll be surprised how flexing and freeing this feels. And it’s a nice reminder to us grownups about how our young selves went about running on the playground, chasing around for no reason but the fun of it.
Commit to a spring race
Make it a challenge. There’s nothing like the potential for you to make a gasping fool of yourself out there on your first 10K or half marathon to motivate yourself to work out a training plan and keep it up. Our advice: Pick out a spring race and sign up sooner rather than later. Committing a little hard-earned cash to the entry fee will help you take the challenge seriously.
Get with the plan
In our www-wanderings we have stumbled on a great resource for beginning and intermediate runners at the Irish Times. They have a multi-level program with fun little videos led by a smiling Irishwoman whose coaching comes with the added benefit of a great accent. You can join up for e-mail encouragement and advice. Honestly, check it out. It will put a spring in your step, we promise. Here’s a link to level one of the program.
Join the club
Closer to home, please reach out to us here at RunDaddio or the good people at your local running store with your questions, worries, and requests. It’s why we’re here. While we may lack an appealing lilt to our voices, we’re your biggest fans and want to help you get where you wanna go.
Lastly, don’t forget to smile. It can actually help you improve your workout. Researchers have discovered that forcing a smile when fatigue and frustration sets in can give you a boost by relaxing your body’s systems. It’s a little trick Kipchoge and other pros rely on (as you’ll find in a passing tidbit amid this super Wired profile of the Nike 2-hour marathon attempt last year).