Everyone who is planning on running the full 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon is well into their training plans. However, those of us who are running the half marathon, 10K, or the 5K probably aren’t starting our “official” training plans until late February. I’m running the half marathon, and the first run of my training plan doesn’t take place until February 25th. I know that my muscles will appreciate the rest that they’re getting now when September 2014 rolls around and I’m completing the longest runs of my training plan for the Towpath Marathon. Last year, I had many low-mileage weeks during January and early February and my muscles held up relatively well through my marathon training.
However, I can’t deny that my workouts have felt a bit aimless in recent weeks as I have been working without a formal training plan.
What’s a bored runner to do in the meantime?
I did some thinking and came up with five small steps that all of us can take during late January and early February in order to set us up for success in May!
1) Lose Some Weight
Getting to the starting line, let alone the finish line, is tough enough on its own…why carry those excess pounds across the miles? I started off the year at 200 and I’m down to 194.5. I mentioned earlier in the year that I plan to get down to 180 by the end of the year, and I’m thrilled that I’ve had a successful first month of weight loss.
In addition to improving your overall health and wellness, losing weight can also lessen the strain imposed on your knee and ankle joints during running.
Why try to lose weight now rather than later? Veteran runners know that one’s metabolism kicks up when their mileage increases. I’m sure that many of us can attest to the stomach pain that results when one’s metabolism goes from 0 to 100 completely out of nowhere and eating everything in sight seems like the only viable solution. Those of you who will be completing an organized training plan for the first time will inevitably get to enjoy the unique experience of eating what you think is an adequate postrun meal only to find out shortly thereafter that your metabolism has increased to the point that this meal is merely an appetizer!
Needless to say, losing weight becomes more of a challenge when you’re tempted to eat more. Why not try to lose a few pounds now before your metabolism increases? I highly recommend My Fitness Pal as a free tool that can help you lose weight and develop healthy eating habits. My Fitness Pal has helped me lose over 30 pounds! More importantly, My Fitness Pal has helped me learn how to develop lifelong sustainable eating habits that will stick with me far into the future.
2) Find A New Cross-Training Activity!
Many training plans build in a few days of cross-training each week. Last year, I never really engaged in any other cross-training activities besides yoga and walking, and my enthusiasm for cross-training days waned pretty significantly as a result. Talking Butters on walks around Tremont during the cold weather wasn’t fun for either of us, and far too many days that were intended for cross-training turned into rest days.
I’m not going to let that happen this year. Thanks to the recommendation of fellow Official Blogger Jessica, I checked out my local recreation center in Cleveland after we moved to our new neighborhood. A list of all of the recreation centers in Cleveland can be found here. I was thrilled to learn that Gunning Recreation Center has an indoor track and a full weight room. Better yet, it’s free for all Cleveland residents!
The sub-zero temperatures have forced my workouts inside this week. I haven’t lifted weights regularly in almost 10 years and I realized that I missed it more than I thought! Fortunately, I haven’t lost (much) of the strength that I had when I used to lift three times per week. Although my days of trying to get huge like the guys on Jersey Shore are over, I plan to incorporate weight training into my training plan on my cross-training days. I think this will help combat against the muscle fatigue that plagued me during the last 6.2 miles of the Northern Ohio Marathon. Additionally, I used an elliptical for the first time today. Once I got the hang of how to use the thing, I loved it!
Instead of watching the constant prognostications of gloom and doom on The Weather Channel about snow and low temperatures, why not investigate a few activities that will spice up your cross-training days? Some cable providers offer a good selection of exercise and yoga videos in the On Demand section as well. If you live in a city with a recreation center, check it out! Many gyms are also offering free week trial passes. Why not try out a machine that you’ve never used before? Your local public library will probably have a good selection of exercise and yoga DVDs too. My personal favorite is Bethenny Frankel’s yoga DVD. I realize that it may not be traditional yoga, but I like it because I can actually figure out the moves. Sheila and I have done some yoga routines that I just couldn’t follow, and Bethenny’s DVD is nice because she’s rather humorous and because the moves are easy to remember.
3) Clear Your Schedule
I realize that this isn’t a directly fitness-related activity. However, I’m sure that many of us have pages of to-do lists filled with all sorts of household and home repair projects that need to be addressed. We moved into a house that is far from a fixer-upper, but there are plenty of big and small tasks that need to be addressed that could easily fill several weekends.
For those of you with goals and projects that can be completed indoors, why not get a start on them now? It’s a lot easier to paint that guest bedroom now than it will be to paint it in April after your legs are wiped out from your weekly long run.
4) Make Your Training Plan!
I know some folks–even some first-time folks–arrive at the starting line without having followed a formal training plan. I have no idea how they do it, but they do. I’m not a professional runner, but I would highly recommend against preparing for a race without some sort of organized plan. In my own personal opinion, training without a training plan–especially if you’ve new to the sport of running–is a recipe for either overtraining or undertraining.
Why not take some time and make a training plan? Some people find much satisfaction in checking off the day’s workout after it is completed. You can use a training plan that is already created without any modifications, or you an adapt an existing plan to meet your needs. My training plan from the 2013 Rite Aid Cleveland Half Marathon can be found here. Don’t forget to account for vacations, special events, holidays, and anything else that’s important in your life. By doing this now, you’ll be able to organize your schedule and figure out how you’ll be able to get in your training runs ahead of time instead of scrambling around to accommodate special events.
My personal favorite are Hal Higdon’s plans; they’ve gotten me to the starting line of multiple half marathons and a full marathon in great shape and helped me cross the finish line with a smile on my face. For those of you with a smartphone, you can download the TrainingPeaks app and load his plans directly into the training calendar within the app. One additional benefit of doing this is that you’ll receive an email every night with information about what you need to do on the following day, as well as a bit of wisdom from good old Hal. The Runner’s World training plans are popular as well. Some folks use Jeff Galloway’s Run-Walk-Run method, and while some folks may wrongfully look down on those who use that method, someone who used that method beat me at the Northern Ohio Marathon. Coach Jenny Hadfield has posted a number of training plans on the 2014 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon website, and she even does Q&As on the Cleveland Marathon’s Facebook page on Tuesdays!
5) Rethink The Purpose Of Your Workouts!
Essentially, my last suggestion deals with the way in which you approach your workouts. Reframing your mental approach to your workouts over the next few weeks can help increase your motivation and focus and ensure that you head into your official training plan on a positive note.
Although you may not have a formal training plan right now, your workouts are extremely valuable for your emotional, mental, and physical health. Developing a regular workout regimen can help ensure that you build time for yourself into your daily schedule. Aside from the inevitable post-marathon depression that plagues many who have run a marathon, I was particularly disturbed by the fact that other commitments almost immediately filled up all of the time that I used to spend training after the marathon ended. I noticed that my emotional and mental states of mind suffered dramatically when I didn’t force myself to engage in life-giving activities for at least a few hours every week. I had always wondered if the time spent training had other benefits besides increasing my distance, and learning that my exercise made me a better person in non-physical ways was very helpful!
Lastly, running regularly a few times per week before your official training plan begins will also help you maintain your base. Unfortunately, holiday parties and multiple polar vortexes have probably kept many of us off the sidewalks and on our couches far more frequently than we’d like. Nevertheless, maintaining our base is vital if we want to start off our training plans on a good note. For those of us who are doing the half marathon, many training plans start us off at 3 miles. If you’ve never done a half marathon before, you don’t want that first 3 mile run to be rough. If it is, you may be tempted to think, “Man, that was awful; how am I going to do 10.1 more miles?” Once planted, seeds of doubt can be very hard to kill. Needless to say, you want to nail that first run and end it by thinking that you can’t wait for the next one! Making sure that you run 3 miles at least once or twice a week is a good way to ensure that you will head into your formal training plan on a positive note.
For those of you whose training plans don’t start until later in the year, what are you doing to stay active?