Goals can be too comfortable.
There. I said it.
To be clear, just because a goal is comfortable doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, a comfortable goal may still be very challenging. For example, for a long time, qualifying for (and actually running) the Boston Marathon was a goal of mine. (I’ll spare you all rehashing the Boston saga, but you can read more about it here.) Is qualifying for the Boston Marathon “easy”? No. (At least, not for us mere mortals). Was it a comfortable goal for me? Absolutely.
Focusing nearly exclusively on qualifying (and re-qualifying) for the Boston Marathon was an “easy” goal for me because it was a known entity. Was the act of actually running a qualifying time easy? Heck no. But the goal itself was something I was comfortable with. I knew how to train for a marathon. I knew how to run a marathon. I knew that I had already previously qualified for the Boston Marathon. I knew exactly what I needed to do and I was completely in my comfort zone.
In some cases, exclusive focus on a single goal is necessary and commendable. Perseverance and persistence are qualities that I believe are imperative to accomplishing anything worthwhile. However, at some point it is important to ask yourself why you are focusing on what you are. Is your goal your goal because it’s truly a desire? Or is it simply a goal because it’s what you think you should be doing (or because it’s what everyone else is doing)?
My own longtime focus on running the Boston Marathon has held me back from growing in so many other ways (both athletically and personally). Focusing exclusively on running Boston meant I was constantly training to someone else’s standards (and not to my own potential). For every long run that I spent on the road, I was leaving other aspects of running unexplored (for example, trail running or ultra running). For every morning I spent adding “junk miles” to my total weekly mileage for the sheer sake of “keeping up with the Joneses” on Strava , I was failing to actually challenge myself to learn a new skill (for example, through weightlifting or CrossFit). It is easy to show up on the path to run with my friends. It is not so easy to show up somewhere where you have no idea what you are doing and silently praying that you don’t look too clueless.
Don’t get me wrong. I love running. It has been (and continues to be) a fundamental part of who I am. But I have come to realize how by maintaining such a myopic perspective has held me back. I have essentially held the same running goal year after year for no reason other than it was comfortable and it was something that I knew I could accomplish (heck, I already had). Something that I thought was a mark of my drive and perseverance was actually no more than an excuse to stick with what I knew and what was comfortable.
There is something liberating in just trying to learn new things. To start at the beginning and to establish a whole new set of goals. Pending getting my body back on board, my goals for 2018 will be completely different than years past. Some may seem small (actually be able to do a strict pull-up) and others may seem big (run an ultra marathon(?)), but I can assure you that they will all be outside of my comfort zone.
What goals have held your back? What are your new goals for 2018?
Another long hiatus from writing, but this time for a good reason – baby is here! She arrived two weeks early (and just one day later than I predicted). As any new mama can appreciate, life has been a whirlwind of diapers, spit-up, and baby snuggles. I completely underestimated how hard (yet completely worth it) these first few weeks post-baby would be. To add another wrinkle to everything, she has been having some pretty bad tummy troubles so we have been trying to narrow down the cause (immature baby digestive system vs. allergy/sensitivity vs. structural issues). I planned on starting to try to reintroduce gluten again post-pregnancy but I am now going to hold off. I have also eliminated dairy per my doctor’s recommendations to see if that makes a difference. In an effort to try to further alleviate some of these GI issues I am planning on doing a Whole 30 in hopes that will bring some relief.
As for running – I truly thought that I would be able to jump right back into things because I stayed so active throughout my pregnancy (even running 6 miles the day before giving birth) and having a short labor/delivery. The doctors at the hospital gave me conflicting information as far as a “return to run plan” with one telling me I could resume running as soon as I felt ready and the other telling me to wait the full 6 weeks. I decided to split the difference and at 4 weeks tried a walk/run for about 10 minutes. I could immediately tell that it didn’t feel “right,” but attributed it to normal postpartum healing. I tried again a few days later and felt the same, with lots of pressure in the area below my bellybutton and above my waistline. I took a week off and tried again and the feeling continued. At my 6 week appointment the doctor told me she wanted me to hold off another 2 weeks to allow things to continue to heal.
I was incredibly frustrated following the appointment, but I begrudgingly complied. I have been through injury before and have learned that taking the extra time off upfront is worth staving off severe injury later. After I waited the additional two weeks I tried again. The pressure continued. While I wouldn’t describe it as pain, it definitely doesn’t feel right and continues to ache throughout the day after the run is finished. After crowdsourcing some running mom groups I was convinced that I needed to take care of this issue now. I called my OBGYN and asked for a referral to a Women’s PT that specializes in pelvic floor rehabilitation so that I could get a full evaluation of the status of my body so that I could confidently get myself back on track for a strong 2017 racing season.
My first appointment was yesterday morning. Because there are so few PT practices that specialize in women’s issues, I had to drive to a clinic that was about 30 minutes away. The initial examination included a bunch of screening questions and an evaluation of my core and range of motion. I was diagnosed with minor case of diastase recti, which is the separation of the abdominal muscles. (This is the same issue that elite Stephanie Bruce has struggled with – read more about it here). This afternoon I go back for further examination and to start my treatment plan and will continue going for treatment 3x a week for the next 3 weeks. I have also been seeing my chiropractor again to get my body back in gear.
Staying motivated can be tough. It’s easy to be excited when everything is going according to plan, but that feeling often fades quickly as soon as the novelty of training wears off or injuries start creeping up.
Personally, I know that my motivation levels also seem to correspond with the hours of daylight. During spring and early summer I pop out of bed as soon as the sun starts peaking through my windows and I (usually) have no problem getting myself out the door in the morning. As it starts getting lighter later and darker earlier, my willingness to get out of bed (or maintain productivity later in the day) becomes much more short lived. The weather also plays a major factor for me. In the spring and early summer the warm days are a welcome break from the never ending winter that we experience here in Chicago. However, by late August my ability to tolerate the constant 95% humidity levels has also started to wane.
I think that this year has been a *little* easier to stay motivated because of the Olympics (because seriously, how can someone not be inspired by Meb’s finish line push ups). But now that the Olympics are over and fall racing season is upon us, it’s time to start thinking about other ways to keep the motivation levels up.
- Change Up Your Routine – This is one of the easiest ways to stay motivated but often times is the hardest to execute. Are you running the same routes (at the same time) every day? Are you running the same mileage and workouts week after week? Most of us are, so it’s no wonder that running is going to get boring (there are only so many loops that one can do around their neighborhood). Stop making excuses and change it up (and don’t overthink it)! If your schedule isn’t flexible enough to change the time of day you run and you don’t have time to run anywhere but your neighborhood – run your route in the opposite direction. Run randomly down different streets. Instead of running the same distance every day, split up runs or break up the mileage differently across the week. Little changes will go a long way to breaking up the monotony.
- Join a Running Club – I’ve said this many times, but joining a running club is one of the best ways to keep motivated. Not only does meeting with other runners provide great conversation (all normal societal standards are off when it comes to conversations during runs) but also helps you to share in the goals and accomplishments of like-minded people. Find a running club near you by checking out the RRCA Website.
- Experiment With New Gear – I am addicted to running gear. I own more running clothing than I do regular clothing (and still seem to always be needing more). While I don’t advocate buying a whole new running wardrobe every time you don’t feel like going for a run, sometimes a new top or pair of headphones is enough to make you want to get out the door.
- Read Inspirational Books or Watch Motivating Videos. You don’t have time? (Dare I ask how much time have you spent on Facebook today?!?) Personally, the book Born to Run always gives me a spark of renewed energy whenever I start feeling like I am in a rut. Don’t want to read a book? Check out Runner’s World’s 101 Kicks in the Butt or Arnold’s Six Secrets to Success.
- Set a New Goal. If you aren’t training for a race, think about adding one to your schedule. If you’re burned out from racing (or constantly training) challenge yourself to try something different. If you’re always running marathons – think about doing a relay or an obstacle course run (or think about working with someone else to help them meet their goals!)
What do you do to stay motivated?
I am a little late with this post (which seems to be the theme here lately), but I wanted to post a recap of my experience taking the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) Level 1 Running Coach Seminar in Ann Arbor a few weeks ago.
Becoming a certified running coach has been on my to-do list for quite some time. A few years ago, I served as an assistant running coach/volunteer for the girls’ cross county and track teams back at the high school that I had previously attended. It was during that time that I realized my passion for helping others meet their goals. Now that I have gained more experience in long distance running (with a number of marathons under my belt) and having developed a passion for learning more about and experimenting with different training philosophies – I decided to take the plunge and move forward with obtaining my “official” certification.
The RRCA classes are fairly well sought after and there are only a limited number of openings per year. Unfortunaly, I missed the course that was held in Chicago this spring and the only remaining course in the region on the 2016 schedule was located in Ann Arbor. Luckily, my younger sister is a University of Michigan alum so I was able to convince her to make the trek with me. (At this stage in my pregnancy, I don’t know if it would have been possible without her company/keeping me awake on the drive there and back)! The course was two days long and was held from 8:0
-5:00 (eastern time) each day (meaning that it really felt like being there at 7:00 for my central timezone adjusted body.
I’ll have to admit – I wasn’t sure what to expect and I was pleasantly surprised with how much I ended up enjoying the course. Our instructor was Randy Accetta who is the RRCA’s Director of Coaching Education (and a 2:19 marathoner). He was an extremely engaging speaker and did a great job of covering the material and incorporating personal antecdotes. On the first day of the course we reviewed different training philosophies and learned how to program schedules for different types of runners. On the second day, we learned more about coaching as a business, injury prevention, form, nutrition, and sports psychology. Even though I went into the class confident in my own knowledge and abilities I felt like I gained a lot of new information (and a new perspective on many of the topics). The people in the class were awesome as well. Because everyone came from different backgrounds, it was really interesting to hear other people’s take on things (and to see how much your own background and experiences shapes your coaching philosophies).
Following the class, all coaching candidates have to take a 100-question exam and obtain their first aid and CPR certifications. I took (and passed) the test within the first few days after (once I caught up on my sleep from being gone all weekend) and took both certification classes at a local hospital. Now I am just waiting on final confirmation back from RRCA that they have received all of my documents and to be added to the online system!
In my mind, fall is inextricably linked with marathon training. This is usually the time of year where all of the summer miles start paying dividends and my body starts feeling more prepared for the challenge ahead. This year is different (but somewhat the same in a strange way). Obviously, there will be no fall marathon this year (especially given the fact that my originally-planned fall marathon is the same week as my due date)! As summer comes to a close I am getting slower, not faster. However, throughout this pregnancy I have realized that many of my marathon training habits have now been converted into preparing for baby habits.
This time last year I was frantically searching online for the perfect marathon outfit (because isn’t preemptively rewarding yourself with new clothes the best part of making it through a training cycle?!?) For me, this means online shopping, over ordering, receiving an embarrassing number of packages, returning things that don’t fit, finding something I like better, and ordering again. I now have fallen into the same pattern looking for a dress to wear to my baby shower (I have already ordered four and have another four pending in my cart).
Instead of making a list of what I need to pack in my pre-race bag, I am making a list of all of the things I need to make sure to have in my hospital bag.
Instead of joining my running club for a long training run tomorrow, I will be attending the hospital’s 9-hour training-for-baby marathon session.
Pfitzinger’s Advanced Marathon Training has been replaced by What to Expect When Your Expecting. I still find myself reading along and wondering if I am ever going to be prepared enough.
My body has changed since “training” has started. I am hungry all the time because of this. It also starts doing weir
d stuff (enough said). Things that used to seem so gross no longer are.
My countdown is no longer to race day, but to my due date. Like training for a marathon, my body has been asked to go into overdrive to prepare itself for the big event.
Similarly, both events will also culminate by pushing through pain and coming out of it having achieved something that previously seemed unimaginable.