I have learned a ton over the last 10 years and have chronicled about half of that in this blog. I decided to try to summarize some of the top lessons in this post in countdown fashion.
Lesson 10. Know your weaknesses.
Acknowledge them, but don't beat yourself up about them. These may be cravings that keep you from making your goal weight for your big race or mental weaknesses that crop up every time you do a tempo workout. I have found that it helps to face these things and figure out ways to deal with them. One thing I like to do is remind myself of the bigger goal. Say I am craving that bag of
Lesson 9. Chunk it up.
I decided early on in my marathoning career (at the age of 38!) that I wanted to try to qualify for the
|CIM '04. Walking thru |
the aid stations!
Lesson 8. Run with people (and dogs) that you like.
|My running crew|
Lesson 7. Be a good sport.
|US wins gold in World Mil. Marathon Championships! |
Lesson 6. It's okay to be slightly undertrained but don't overtrain.
If you want to accomplish big things in your running, you need to push your physical and mental limits. I had the good fortune of being able to train and race hard for 6 years straight without a running injury. I had wonderful coaching during those first 6 years to attribute some of that to, but I also think I was lucky. When I had my first brush with injury, I was pushing my limits. I was clearly overtrained and needed to back off. My coach was sending me messages in bold type with exclamation points telling me to stop!!!!!! I remember telling her that I wanted to know my limits. I felt like I wouldn't know how far I could push myself until I had gone too far. Luckily, that injury only took me out of action for a month or so and I was able to cross train like a maniac to stay fit. I ran my OT qualifier 6 months later. While injury was an important thing for me to experience as a runner and as a coach, it has continued to be a partner in my running since that first injury.
One of my coaches used to tell me that it is better to go into a marathon slightly undertrained than overtrained, and I don't think I really understood that until I overcooked myself a few times. Recovery from overtraining takes FOREVER! Even if you have a good race, if you trained really, really hard and went into the race slightly overtrained, you can take 6 months or more to recover from the damage of that training cycle. This is okay I think when you're trying to do something big like qualify for an important race or run a big PR. However, you need to understand the sacrifice you're making when you cross that line. I do everything I can to try to keep the athletes I coach from overtraining. I know from experience now that you are much better off being able to train consistently over a longer period of time than throwing everything you have into one training cycle and going for broke. Overtraining doesn't just occur as a result of too much running, either. It is affected by so many other aspects of our lives including life stress, lack of sleep and even excessive strength and cross training. You only have one body and all of these things add stress to it. The key to becoming a stronger and faster runner is to cycle stress and recovery in a way that is anabolic rather than catabolic over time. You can easily become overtrained off of a relatively low volume of running if the other stresses in your life are too great and your body cannot recover.
Lesson 5. Know your body.
One of the first important lessons I learned about my running body was that I needed more iron than the average bear. I ran for 3 years, slowly depleting my iron stores until one day, my body just
|I heart iron|
Lesson 4. Build a team of body workers.
|Doc Ball's handy work.|
Lesson 3. Believe in yourself.
So much of our running success is mental rather than physical. We are learning more every single day about the complexities of mind and body and how to maximize our training to benefit both. In some ways, it was so much simpler back when I was new to running. I was constantly improving and learning new things to apply to my training. It seemed like everything I did helped me PR in the next race. I PR'd for years in every distance, well, until I didn't. I not only became injured, chronically, but I found both my physical and mental limits. While injury is a physical manifestation of overtraining, I think the mental aspect is the hardest part to take. You're this runner person who thrives on thrashing your body with these ridiculously hard workouts and are used to watching it bounce back, ready for more. Then one day, your body says no. Not gonna let you do that again. I'm gonna hurt. I'm gonna
hurt for a few weeks. In fact, if you try to do that again, I 'm gonna hurt a lot worse, maybe not even let you walk. The emotional roller coaster ride is obnoxious as hell and you start to lose faith in your ability to run fast ever again. I have watched runners succumb to this and never recover. But there are also many great examples of runners who continued to believe in their ability to come back and end up running even faster and stronger. It is that fundamental belief in yourself that keeps you going when you face the worst. I have experienced the worst health issues of my life in the last year and have begun to train for and had to stop training for 4 marathons in that time because of it. Giving up is always such an easy answer, and I really wanted to at the worst of times. But, I have this megaphone in my ear telling me that I can run faster than I ever have if everything comes together and I believe that. I think back to that 3:20 marathoner who wanted to run in the Olympic Trials. I made that happen. I worked hard and I believed. I can do the same now and so can you.
Lesson 2. Get a coach.
I have been fortunate to have some wonderful coaches over the years. I tried the self coaching thing for a very short time and realized that I am prone to running myself into the ground without the guidance of a neutral third party to point out how silly some of my ideas are. I like having a plan to follow and someone to bounce ideas off of. I do believe I have learned enough at this point to know that I need to first and foremost listen to my body and take a conservative approach to my training. However, I will always have that drive to want to do more and a good coach tempers that. I am currently coached by Jack Daniels through the Run S.M.A.R.T Project and feel very lucky to have his guidance. I have not been injured in over a year though I have had some serious health issues, as I mentioned in Lesson 3 and have written about profusely for about a year. Despite those health issues, I have been able to keep training and am so excited to finally get to finish a marathon training plan and race in March at the Napa Valley Marathon! To be honest, at this point, I don't much care what the time outcome of that race is. For me, getting in a quality block of marathon training and running a strong race are my goals. That doesn't mean I'm not going to go for it and try to qualify for the Olympic Trials if I feel as though my training justifies that, but for now, I feel grateful to be training consistently and feeling good.
Lesson 1. Don't give up on your dreams.
If you made it to this final lesson, I hope you can see that they all tie back to this one. Sometimes the pathway to my dreams seems to be paved with excuses and the faces of a few ugly people who want me to fail. However, when I can see my dream and really believe in myself, those things are simply small pebbles in the path and I can easily step over them (or crush their faces under my feet!). The foundation of the path includes the hard training that I have put in over the years and everything I have learned about myself. It includes the hardships I have faced and overcome as well as the stories of others who have accomplished amazing things in their lives. It includes my huge support system--those people (and animals) that help me on a daily basis to keep moving forward, one chunk at a time. If I choose to focus on the larger goals and the positive, then the dream remains alive.
Keep the dream alive people!!!