Awesome Tip #3: Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
Now you may have read this far thinking that I’m just jumping up and down all day like Gene Simmons talking about running. Well I don’t. For one, I don’t own that many headbands. And I’m Swedish…our hair just doesn’t defy gravity like that.
I’m not ashamed to say that there are days when I just don’t feel like going out and running. Maybe I had a bad day at work. Maybe I’m not feeling well that day. Maybe it’s so cold outside that my eyelids froze shut, and I’m afraid to go back out there (I live in Minnesota, it could happen).
Sometimes I gut it out and run anyway. Maybe I’ll have a positive experience, and I’m glad that I did it. Maybe I don’t. Either way, I don’t think that’s a recipe for long-term success. If you gut it out enough times, you’re bound to have a few negative experiences. And that sort of thing can build on itself. Eventually, the negative experiences cloud out the positives and you’ll never feel like running again.
With all my talk about schedules and goals and plans, I want to let you know that at the same time it’s okay to take time off. Not only is it okay, it’s something that you should do. Rest does so many good things for your body and your mind. You’ll come back feeling stronger, and maybe even more eager to get back out there.
I’m not just talking about taking a rest day once or twice a week. You also need to think about resting for longer periods throughout the year. Whole months, or even seasons. When I look at some of my friend’s race schedule, one thing I notice that is lacking is time off, where you’re not running at all. I assume they’re worried about losing their current mileage.
I say that’s fine…if mileage is more important to you than your overall health and sanity. But think about it this way. Every professional sport has an offseason, where the athletes heal and grow stronger for the next season. Then when opening day comes around, they are pumped to the bejesus to get back out there and play. If they competed year round, they’d get worn down, beat up, and probably injured. What makes you different from them? Well you are. You’re actually slower, weaker, and poorer than them…not to mention that you will never date anyone that looks remotely like their supermodel spouse. But when it comes to training, you’re not.
Personally, I rest when the seasons change. More specifically, I rest when winter starts sucking. In Minnesota we have terrible winters. Think igloos and penguins. When the snow starts flying, all I can think about is, “Can’t wait for that global warming everyone’s been talking about!” The last thing on my mind is going out and running. I do, just because I love the sport. But I usually do other things more, like strength training, and indoor biking. Then when the snow melts, I’m chomping at the bit to hit the trails. I’m feeling fresh, lean, and mean. I’m Gene Simmons all over again. Winter is my off-season. You should get one too.
Awesome Tip #4: Make Sure Running Comes at the Expense of Something You Can Live Without
I mentioned earlier that I trained for a marathon while my daughter was still a newborn. Again, I’m not saying that to brag. Actually, I wished I would have done it a different way. Training for a marathon requires hours upon hours of time away from your family; putting in the miles. That can be okay, even a good thing some times. My wife would tell you that my running habit is the best thing that ever happened to her sanity. One less hour with all my weirdness. But looking back, my training didn’t just come at the expense of time with my wife. I also missed out on some of my daughter’s first year of existence. That didn’t sit well with me. I was determined never to miss out on my daughter growing up again.
But running is still a big priority in my life. It will be regardless of anything else I’m doing. And if you’re busy like I am, you know that you can only have so many priorities. If you make the choice to run regularly, it comes at the cost of one of your other priorities. Especially if you’re following Awesome Tip #2, and scheduling your runs like a good little Maple Grove Barefoot Guy student.
The key to keeping your life in balance is to make sure the thing you lose is something you can live without. That doesn’t mean that this thing doesn’t matter to you. It means that you can sacrifice it a little because running is more important to you. If running isn’t more important to you than the thing you’re giving up, you’re going to wake up one day and realize you’re not living your life the way you want it. That’s how people wind up having mid-life crises, buying sports cars, become a Scientologist, and dating Kate Holmes. For you, it’s probably going to mean that you fall off the running wagon.
Now don’t think of this concept just in terms of spending too much time away from your family. Running can come at the expense of other things too. If you run in the mornings to spend time with your family at night, then what you’re giving up is sleep. That can be just as dangerous, as it effects thinks like your job performance, and even your health.
So you need to juggle a lot of different priorities to maintain a successful running regiment. And it’s not hard to lose focus on your other priorities when you’re in the middle of something big, like training for a race. How do you do it? To keep things in perspective, I use a simple but underutilized tool: a training log.
You can go old-fashioned, and write some notes on paper somewhere. Or you can use one of the many online programs available nowadays. My favorite is Dailymile. Not only does it has a lot of cool features, but it also is a social network like facebook. My friends on the site help me every day with motivation and inspiration. And they keep me on the straight and narrow with my training. Other sites have cool features like GPS to let you map out your runs, and keep track of your favorite routes. The internet is just plain awesome…
These training logs shouldn’t just keep a record of the distance you ran. You should be putting in notes about what happened during your run, like how you are feeling and why. Note whether you’re tired, or happy, or frustrated, or sad. And maybe add some notes about why that might be happening. Look back on your log every week or so for trends. Are you writing down that you’re tired every day? You might not be getting enough sleep. Are you slipping in comments like, “Didn’t see my wife all day”? It might be time to re-prioritize.
Awesome Tip #5: Involve Your Family in Your Running Goals
Staying motivated isn’t just about maintaining your own balance. You also need to balance your training with the needs of your family and friends. I don’t care how much you schedule runs to avoid family conflicts. If you’re family or friends aren’t on board with what you’re doing, they’re going to let you know real quickly. Continuing to train in the face of family opposition is the fastest way I know to land you in the dog house.
The best way I know to keep calm on the home-front is to involve your family in your running. If your family is an active bunch, maybe it’s as easy as taking them on your run with you. If they’re not into running, have them ride a bike along with you. If they’re not active at all, meet them somewhere for a meal, or an activity. Make them part of the activity, instead of leaving them out while you go MIA for an hour or so.
Now you don’t have to take your family with every day. If they wanted to be involved in every aspect of your training, they would be training right beside you. For those times when they don’t want to tag along, you still need a plan. At the very least, make them feel like they’re a part of what you’re doing. Talk to them about your training. Find ways to get them excited about it too. Maybe they can be in charge of updating a chart that tracks your progress. One of my friends lets his kids write his mileage down on his training log online. It’s one of their favorite parts of the day.
Another way to keep your family involved is to make sure there is something in it for them. I do this with my wife in the form of very open bribery. The last marathon I ran was in Honolulu. To get my wife excited about it, I told her if she let me run it, I would book a hotel for a week afterward, and we’d make a little vacation out of it. For my ultra this September, I booked a suite and treated her to a spa package.
Involving your family doesn’t have to mean pulling huge stunts and throwing cash around. It can be little things too. One thing I do is to run errands on my runs. I’ll use a jogging stroller and pick something up from Walmart. I’ll take a backpack and grab some dessert to bring home.
Get out there and run!
I hope that you’ve enjoyed your glimpse into my awesomeness. I hope that it helps you stick to your running goals. There’s nothing more satisfying than those accomplishments. Nothing…except maybe following Maple Grove Barefoot Guy and his many adventures on the interwebs! My blog is located at maplegrovebarefootguy.blogspot.com. Follow my adventures in running, family, work, and life in general.
Good night citizens…and good luck…