motivation for the unmotivated + week 1 training

Let’s face it- winter training is hard: It’s colder, darker, and the urge to hibernate on your cozy couch is intense. I’m no stranger to feeling less than psyched about layering on every article of cold gear I own plus anything that lights up or reflects in order to sludge through miles in the dark, trying not to fall on my face or get hit by an oncoming car.

Motivation is a myth. There is no way any of us is going to have the fire burning inside of us each and every day to get out there and train our bodies to be more than they are today. Most of us aren’t professional athletes- we have shit to do! Jobs! Families! Obligations! Throw in a Spring race or two, and running just becomes something else that you have to do… except somehow, we think it’s optional.

And that’s where we go wrong.

Running is the one thing in my life that’s just mine. And without it, I am less present, less emotionally available, less capable of tackling the other things I have to do because I am more stressed, more irritable, and more apathetic towards my other obligations. Why on earth would I make the one thing in my life that centers me optional?

For me, as fun as Couch Me is for about five minutes, Runner Me has her shit together (…mostly). She eats better, she sleeps better, she is a better friend and a better partner.

If you are like me and your relationship with running runs just as deep, do yourself a favor. The next time you turn off your alarm and are tempted to roll over and go back to bed, or the next time you leave work and 2 blocks before the gym you are faced with the urge to drive right past it and make a date with your couch instead, take stock in just what you are giving up by caving to the instant gratification of an unplanned rest day. Who do you like better? Runner You? Or couch You?

There are days Couch You is going to win, and that’s OK. But the more Runner You shows up, the better you know you are going to feel about all the other Yous that make up You, so when your motivation is seriously waning, hold onto that. Hold it tight. And get out the door!

In other news… sickness and injury all behind me, I am officially half marathon training! Woo!

Here’s what this week looks like. I am slowly ramping up mileage since I got off to such a rocky start but I am finally ready to play with pace.

  • Monday: 30 min Strength + 30 Mins Cardio Cross-train
  • Tuesday: 3.5 Miles (1 up, 1 Moderate, 1 Moderate / 4×100, 0.5 down
  • Wednesday: 30 Mins Strength + 1.5 Miles EZ
  • Thursday: Rest/ Stretch/ Roll
  • Friday: 4.5 Miles Tempo
  • Saturday: 30 min Strength + 30 Mins Cardio Cross-train
  • Sunday: 6 Miles EZ

Totals: 15.5 Miles/ 60 Mins Cardio X-train/ 90 Mins Strength

netflix and chills

My fickle immune system has been at it again. I had started feeling really great physically (finally!) and began dipping my toe into ramping things up to a moderate level- playing with pace, longer runs, more frequent workouts. I ended my “base” training cycle with 6 easy miles last Saturday, excited and mentally ready for the more challenging grind of half marathon training, as I have several races lined up this Spring/ early Summer.

Then Sunday something felt really off. Did I forget to take my meds? I have been on antidepressants for years and missing a dose or two can seriously knock me sideways. I couldn’t tell but I took my pills for the day and headed to the gym for a strength workout and some easy cross training.

When I got home, I was hit with a tidal wave of tired.

Like, so, so tired.

I laid down on the couch for a few hours before moving to the bedroom for another several hours. Aside from meal prepping, I don’t think I was vertical again for the rest of the day. I felt like I had the flu- but without all the other symptoms except for some body aches and extreme exhaustion.

Monday was more of the same, and it was freaking me out. I decided to skip my workout later that night and fought back tears because I didn’t feel right and I just didn’t know why.

Around 6 that night, it all became clear: congestion, ear pressure, swollen throat, sneezing all ascended upon me so fast I barely had time to process what was happening before I was miserably lying in bed, in complete disbelief that not only was I sick again, but this was going to be ANOTHER bad one. Why, cruel universe, why?

For the next couple of days, I was sentenced to my bed, unable to move. I couldn’t have worked from home if I tried. Life was all tissues and snot and You on Netflix. (Which was good! I think. I did have a fever.)

Once I was upright again, half-functioning, and back to work, I experienced a lot of training envy. I saw all my Instagram friends crushing workouts and I wanted to be crushing it too.

“I could run.” I would assert myself

“No, Sam, you can’t. You had a 103 fever yesterday. Shut the fuck up.”

This heated argument went on inside my head Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I lost a full week of training, but I have to keep telling myself that losing a week’s worth of fitness is better than winding up with walking pneumonia for the better part of a month. I’m so stupidly jealous of people who get these mild colds and sniffles and can hammer through a workout in spite of feeling run down. I have never, ever been able to do this with success.

Which brings me to an important point- it is so important to listen to your own body. Yes, people say this all the time and despite this conventional wisdom, very few of us actually do it. We are overcome with training anxiety, fear of losing the fruits of our labor, of losing strength, losing our athletic mojo. I see you out there- back at it minutes after your fever just broke. Maybe you are a genetic powerhouse. Maybe you can do it and not relapse. The more power to you! But it is hard to watch you out there, still crushing it when the rest of us are soaking our beds with sweat as our fevers spike, break, and spike all over again forever and ever for days.

Anyway, things are on the mend- I did my first workout last night. A tempo run was planned but my energy dipped hard late in the day so I did the ol’ switch-a-roo with the training schedule and did my strength workout followed by some easy cardio. Tonight will be attempt #2 at Tempo. Wish me luck!

how to survive a crappy pre- season

Have you been extra sick this season? Perhaps you got an over-use injury on the outside of your foot because you ran a half marathon you barely trained for. How about a hip injury from gaining so much weight the last three years that your joints just can’t handle it?

All three? Oh wait. That’s me.

Even if you’ve only been hit with a cold, mild injury, or just about anything that has sidelined you temporarily, you are bound to lose some fitness and the climb back to where you were before the pile of crap that is your life happened might not be easy.

I’ve had hard comebacks before, but this season has tested not only my mental toughness but made me question if my body was even capable of mild athleticism anymore. There were tantrums. It tortured me and really broke my spirit. Who would I be if I weren’t an athlete? I’ve lost that part of myself for brief stretches of time before but forever?

And then, after nearly 8 weeks of trudging through miles barely faster than a slow walk and taking more rest days than I was comfortable with because everything hurt and I wanted to cry, I started having small break-thrus.

A sub 12-minute mile.

A run over 3 miles that didn’t have me wincing in pain the entire time.

A sub 11-minute mile. And then a sub 10. Hooray!

I’m nowhere near being “back” but for the first time in what seems like too long I feel like I am making progress, and that feels amazing.

Having the will to keep showing up to your workouts despite everything going wrong is not easy, and If you are having a lousy time like me, here’s some advice from the trenches:

  1. Keep a workout journal and write everything down- Even if your workout was complete shit and you hate your life. Sometimes you don’t even know you are making progress. Journaling forces you to be mindful- which I need, because my brain environment is all anxiety and chaos.
  2. Pay attention to your heart rate if you have a fitness watch. (I have a Garmin Vivoactive 3). Not all miles are created equal, and even though your body isn’t cooperating, your lungs could be making strides. More small changes to pay attention to.
  3. Make a running/ fitness Instagram account and DO NOT LINK IT TO YOUR NORMAL INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT. Your non-running friends really don’t want to hear about your training (sorry) and that’s not very motivating. Use it to make friends with other runners. You’ll be surprised to learn you are not alone and many are on very similar (sometimes crappy) journeys. The running community is supportive and inclusive.
  4. Retail therapy! I shouldn’t be promoting my poor spending habits, but having really awesome gear, including compression stuff and foam rollers for recovery really helps. And cute running clothes OBVIOUSLY. Wanna wear that new outfit? Gotta go run first, lady (or dude). I love it all- Oiselle, Lululemon, UnderArmour, Brooks, New Balance, Lole, Athleta, Tracksmith, Just Strong.
  5. Cross train when you can’t run Don’t completely abandon ship and dive into that pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey if you have a bad day. Spin, strength train, whatever. (And then, ice cream. Life is about balance.)

I know it sucks. It sucks hard. Losing fitness is frustrating and when you are at the ripe old age of 36 like me your metabolism looks at any time off you are taking as a one-way ticket to fat pants. Then try one of your old workouts with a 10lb weight on each hip… doesn’t really work so well.

But whether you have big PR goals or running just keeps you sane, don’t let it get the best of you. Sometimes the sweetest days are simply the ones you worked the hardest for.