In a perfect world, we would live in a runner’s utopia during the days and weeks leading up to a goal marathon. I’ve travelled a bit, but I’ve yet to discover such a place. Realistically life doesn’t stop the moment we click “register” and circle a date on the calendar.
Over time we learn how to handle the combined load of life and training. We adapt to the stresses, get comfortable working hard and then comes the proverbial wrench. Maybe your workload changes, a relationship gets rocky, you move to a new home or start a new job, or there’s an illness or death in your family. It doesn’t matter if it is personal and emotional stress or stress from the impact of a hard workout. One may leave your legs a little more beat up, but both put strain on your body and mind.
Here are a few simple tips to help get you through those inevitable rough patches when training and life collide.
At the beginning of each week, I like to sit down, look at my schedule and make a plan. I also spend a little time getting things ready, clean up my living space a bit and make sure anything I need for the week is readily available. Starting the week feeling in control and prepared helps me to keep my head on straight no matter how crazy things get.
Having a training plan to follow is really helpful, but it should be looked at as more of a guide. Moving a run, switching a workout or swapping out for cross-training are all tactics to help keep you on track when something comes up. The last thing you need is to beat yourself up when you miss a workout or have to make a change. Learn to embrace the flexibility of a training plan. Occasionally changing things around may also help to rejuvenate your plan if the routine is feeling stale.
Take a Rest Day (or Two)
Sometimes it’s a good idea to take a day off, catch up on life, and spend time focusing on other priorities. Running is a fun hobby, but it will never replace the priority of family, friends and your own personal well being. Resting and catching up on life outside of training can give you more time and energy for when you get back up and running (literally!).
Ask for Help
Like most runners, I can make valid arguments on running being a form of therapy for me when the going gets tough. But, as someone who has faced emotional struggles (and watched others face the same), I know running cannot be the only thing I use to get through hard times. Life is demanding and can bring you down if you let it. Do not be afraid to reach out to a friend, family member or a professional in a time of need. You do NOT have to face everything alone. We all need a little help sometimes!
Sometimes the best thing you can do is re-evaluate your goals before a race. In 2014, after a tough few months with life and training struggles, I chose to run my first Boston Marathon for experience and fun rather than as a “goal” race and it was one of the best decisions I made. Make sure to look at your training AND your personal well being when heading into a race. If all is going as planned, then reach for your top goal. But, if life is a bit sideways, be encouraged by the fact that your “B” or “C” effort is still a huge accomplishment.