One of my new marathon run training participants asked me this week for some help getting through the initial start-up stage of a marathon training plan. She was feeling over-whelmed with the adjustment to a scheduled exercise routine as well as the increasing distance on the long runs over the course of the plan. Here is a bit of her question:
“I think one of the hurdles that’s keeping me back is consistency, and if I just keep running three days a week I will probably make big gains quickly. but I also have been following [your] coaching message and understand that the weekend longs are really important. at the moment they’re just overwhelming to me, but I’m not giving up. I don’t want this to get so far ahead of me that I can’t catch up…”
First, I agree that consistency is the key. Just work on trying to find a way to get something in each day. Let’s say you only have 20 minutes. Put the gear on and do something for 20 minutes. It may not feel like much, but over time you will establish a pattern and as you get in shape you will go longer. Even someone like me that would like to exercise for four hours a day has days where I can only find a few minutes. I will still do a short workout to make sure that I have at least gone through the motions for the day.
Second, set a shorter term goal for yourself. How about setting a goal of doing 75% of the scheduled workouts over the next two weeks. Or doing your best to follow the schedule for one month? There are two things going on here. On the one hand, having a short-term goal is less overwhelming than looking out further at the marathon season or months ahead. And on the other hand, research suggests that, if we can do something consistently for about 28 days (a month) a pattern will take hold. Once a new pattern is established it is easier to keep it going.
With regard to the long runs, they are important to keep up. They are important primarily because the distance marches on, so to speak. If you get too far behind, it starts to feel overwhelming to catch up. (Just as you describe.) But this doesn’t mean that you can’t break them down and take them in pieces like you suggest. Finding a strategy to get through them may be the key to you. Running the whole thing may not be an option, but that’s OK too.
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