Motivation

Around The Bay Training Blog #1: Waiting For Lightning

The Around The Bay race in Hamilton is coming up fast. Thirty days from now, I’ll be pinning on a number for my first-ever entry into this legendary race, older than the Boston Marathon and riddled with hills my calves are already screaming about.

I ain’t ready. I don’t feel ready anyway.

People on social media are crushing elevation for dinner and running 18-milers to prepare. Meanwhile, I’ve been struggling to fit in solid runs with all of the snow and ice we’ve been getting, and my general lack of mental energy.

I had a sturdy training plan all mapped out for ATB, and this winter’s terrible weather has forced me to tactically “wing it”, while my mental health has made believing in myself into a challenge all on its own.

Now, I’ve hit the “I am so very very sick of training” wall at the same time I’ve hit the “I am so very very scared of failing at this race” wall. We’re 4 weeks away from race day.

Cue: freaking out.

This is not how I imagined this training season going.

On the other hand, that’s the cliché “running is a metaphor for life” kicking in right? Things won’t always go according to plan and you just have to show up and do your best. You have to keep reminding yourself that you chose to do this, and you love it. It helps to remember that the worst thing that could happen is survivable. It also helps to imagine hot cups of coffee and tight hugs and tears at the finish line.

More than anything, it helps to remember that I haven’t been lying around doing NOTHING, even if I haven’t been sticking to my ambitious plan.

I’m still running 4x a week, with my long runs building in distance. I’ve been trying to incorporate hill work—last week I unplugged my headphones and ran repeats for about an hour, just me and the road. (This week, I had plans to push it even further and run MORE hills—and then we got 20 cm of snow dropped on us. I did as much as I could. I ran until I REALLY didn’t want to.)

I’ve got four weeks to mentally and physically prepare.

Cue: re-strategizing.

In the meantime, I’m still waiting to be excited. I’m still waiting for lightning.

Four Reasons To Workout Outdoors This Winter

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It’s the middle of November and, if you live in the North of the Northern Hemisphere, that means the weather’s already cold or things are about to take a very dramatic turn.

Unlike October, it’s not frosty in the morning and blazing by noon. Unlike December, there’s still some mildness to spare before we’re all plunged into a deep freeze for the next four to six months.

With snowstorms looming and early sunsets on the horizon, we would all be justified in planning hibernation instead of packing our schedules with physical activity—winter fitness? It’s kind of awesome.

No, really—and I have a highly-scannable list of reasons to prove it.

CUE. THE. MUSIC.

1. Kicking SAD’s Butt

Seasonal Affective Disorder (AKA SAD) can leave you drained of energy, moody, and feeling like a stock photo of a forlorn guy looking out a window pane.

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Now don’t get me wrong: working out is not a cure for depression, BUT it does produce a feel-good boost of endorphins in your brain that keeps some of the SAD at bay. And sure, you can work out in a gym and get some of the same effects—but a crisp powerwalk outside gives you a chance for fresh air and Vitamin D.

The alternative? Spending time in a cramped gym, building up a slow-churning rage while someone hogs the squat rack. Sad.

2. Staying Cool On YouR Own Terms

Summer workouts can mean sweating in places you didn’t know you could sweat—and probably some you shouldn’t be. Winter workouts actually can give you more control over your body temperature than warm weather ones.

During the winter, the simple trick is to add more layers. You should be comfortable—not hot, not freezing—when you step out into the elements. If you’re chilly, head back inside and add another layer on. And, if you’re TOO warm once you get moving—you can tug off that toque or roll up your sleeves. Custom control, people!

winter running outfit

3. Adding Resistance With Snow

Think about any training montage in any movie and there’s probably a clip of the hero running on the beach because they’re a badass, and adding resistance with sand is badass. Well, you get the same badass effect from running in snow. Increased resistance means increased badass effort and badass muscle development, you badass.

Really though, one of my favourite runs of any given year is the one that comes after the snow melts and clears off the sidewalks. After hustling in the snow all winter you feel like an Olympian on clear sidewalks. You feel like you could fly.

(Note: I recommend traction aids for running in snow AND ice. We’ll talk about this in another post.)

4. Winter Sports Are Fun Eh?

If you told me to run up a hill, I would do it, but I’d hold a grudge. BUT if you told me to run up a hill and jump on a toboggan, I’d want to run up that hill about nine more times.

This could be my tragically Canadian sensibilities, BUT winter offers up all sorts of cool activities we don’t have readily available all year, and lots of them are fun and cool (and would look great on your Instagram). Snowshoeing, ice skating on outdoor rinks, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowball fights—all wicked wintery ways to get your heart pounding and your sweat on.

Do you keep moving outdoors in the winter or hit the gym until spring? What’s your favourite-ever training montage?

Hit me up in the comments, on Instagram
@rilesrunswild, or Facebook and let me know!

A Post-Marathon Crisis & Some New Goals

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My wildest running dream came true when I made myself a marathoner last month.

When I say “wildest” I mean that literally. Less than two years ago I was struggling to run three kilometres without stopping, let alone 42.2…

And then I freaking DID it.

Achieving the dream was better than I ever imagined. I knew myself better on that course than I had on any other day of my life. I cried and celebrated with friends and family. I brought my medal into the office for my curious coworkers. And yet, after the week of resting my legs came to an end, I realized finishing the marathon left me with a new, weird emptiness.

Existential dread for runners

Suddenly I didn’t have any goal to push for—not a race, not an untouchable distance. When you aim for the highest, most impossible peak you can think of and actually exceed your own expectations… what then?

So now, I’m suddenly having a mini existential running crisis. (Who am I if I’m not getting up before dawn to drag my ass over a couple dozen kilometres?)

The knee-jerk instinct of the fresh marathoner might be to leap into the next race, setting eager sights on getting a faster time, or even aiming for a further distance. I don’t have that driving urge. I know it will come back, but for the mean time I’m trying to sort out now. I’m asking other questions.

Can I ask any more of myself?
What do I want out of my sport?
How can I give back?

And here’s what I’ve come up with—some new #rungoals.

Get Involved In The Running Community

After receiving so much Instagram support during my marathon I realized I’m officially in the running community… Maybe that was obvious to everyone BUT me. The only problem is, unless you’re about to reinvent the livestream, I can’t go running with all the amazing people I know on Insta.

And, since my friends and family are immune to my attempts to get them into running so that I don’t have to y’know… meet people, it’s officially time to get some new ones. (Sorry mom!)

This means fighting my instinct to avoid running with other people. It definitely means volunteering at races and getting my ass out there. I’m putting this here to hold myself accountable. The time for being a hermit is over!

Become A More Well-Rounded Athlete

Why is it so hard to find time for an hour of yoga, but easy to find one for a 10K?

A runner is a runner is an injured runner. (Maybe they’re also a runner with weak t-rex arms like me.) Basically, I’d like to work on building a better overall fitness base by incorporating more cross training and other sports/workouts into my weekly routine.

I’m also counting on the fact that changing things up will make the days that I DO get to run more just that much better… and that this will make me a better runner over all.

SIGN UP FOR More Races

Right before the marathon, I was freaked out. Ask anyone who was within a 10 metre physical-or-digital radius of me.

I got lost in grocery stores. I terrified Running Room employees. I sewed.

My pre-race jitters probably would have happened anyway, but I’m convinced they would have been considerably less intense if I had run more races this year. Races have their own energy, and I need to get used to being in that energy. (Plus, who doesn’t love a good finish line photo or some bling?)

Run Another Marathon (But Take Better Care Of Myself)

While working myself up to arguably the best shape I’ve ever been in for the marathon I wasn’t necessarily at my healthiest. I spent most weeks getting less sleep than I needed and struggled to eat enough.

In fact (warning, TMI ahoy) somewhere in the middle of training I actually missed a period. I’m pretty sure upping the weekly mileage without having an adequate meal prep game/sleep schedule had something to do with it.

Hopefully embracing these other goals will give me the physical strength and mental fortitude to tackle another marathon some day. And, when that day comes, I want to commit to a more wholesome training routine. The name of the game will be actually forcing myself to be regimented, replenished, and rested.

So that’s it. The new set of goals. New heights. New challenges to carry me into 2019. Has anyone else started thinking of running resolutions (WAY) in advance of the New Year?

The 3/4 Rule: When Reaching Your Goals Starts to Suck

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Next Sunday, I'm running the Scotiabank Montreal Half Marathon.

I'm starting to get excited now, but a week or two ago I was ready to lay on the ground and admit total indifference.

I blame the 3/4 Rule. 

The idea that 75% of the way through something—a training schedule, an actual race, a Tom Cruise movie—is when the going gets tough. Really tough. Like maybe-this-was-a-bad-idea-is-it-too-late-to-quit?

It happened during my last half marathon, around the 16th kilometre. Legs losing steam, sun blazing above, I started questioning why had I willingly paid money to put myself through this? But by the time I crossed the finish line, my doubt had totally dissolved. Faith in my own legs was restored. I loved running again. But... 

This isn't an isolated phenomenon.

Another example: I ran the Hypothermic Half 10 km race in March and got the most intense side stitch I've ever felt—3/4 of the way through. Then, weeks 7-9 of this training for this upcoming half marathon felt like a senseless, exhausting struggle. I'm not the only one it happens to either. My friend and fellow runner Melissa Gonzalez, (who I wrote about last week), hit the 3/4 wall during her first marathon a few weeks ago. It's REAL.

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Basically, 75% is No Man's Land.

At the beginning of something, you have the exciting boost of the start. At 50%, you can channel your inner Bon Jovi—being half way there is a much-needed lift. Then you straggle into the 3/4 desert. You're close but you're not quite at the finishing stretch. It starts to hurt.

The good news is that once you manage to muscle your way through this point, you get end-game adrenaline. 

Maybe find yourself nodding along with agreement to this. Maybe you think I'm crazier than Tom Cruise leaping onto Oprah's couch. Either way, you didn't come 3/4 of the way through this blog to leave without a satisfying conclusion.

So how do we push through the 3/4 wall?

Personally, I believe that the trick is making what's old new again. I'll use training as my example.

• Change it up. Tweak the routine. Instead of using my usual routes, I mapped some new ones with Runkeeper—same distance, different view! (Even running the same route in the opposite direction is helpful!) I downloaded new podcasts. I found some new parks to run in.

• Reward yourself. Often if I'm having trouble getting motivated for a run, I'll promise to cook myself something I've been craving for dinner that night, or allow myself an extra episode or two of whatever I'm watching at the time. Bartering works!

• Slack, please! It's key to recognize that you have already come SO far. I could quit if I wanted to, but I've put in more than 50% of the effort. Might as well knuckle down and finish... right?

Get recruiting. Find someone else who has a SIMILAR goal and team up with them for awhile. Or just recruit someone to join you along for an attempt! 

So next time you find yourself lagging in goals, try using these tips to help you take on your next goal, destroy the 3/4 wall, and cross that finish line! Whether it's a race or the credits to Mission Impossible 15.

Do you think the 3/4 Rule exists? How do you stay motivated when struggling to achieve your goals?

Let me know on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or in the comments below!