Marathon Training: Staying Positive Amidst Anxiety

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Worry, worry, worry – what would I do without it? Between my mini-meltdown during Grandma’s Marathon taper and agonizing over the stops and starts in my delayed build-up for my upcoming marathon, I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t worry.

I’m in the midst of the three “challenge” weeks of my training cycle, when I will have to skimp on mileage and/or miss long runs because of racing, race tapering, and vacation. And I just read Taylor‘s post about how life got in the way of her own marathon training, and I was all, ohhh yes the struggle is real. It’s something that’s caused me a good deal of anxiety lately, especially as I watch others seamlessly continue their mileage build-up while I’m stuck in what feels like the marathon training equivalent of a doctor’s office waiting room – I had the appointment, I showed up on time, so why can’t I get this over with already??

But I was sitting on the bus yesterday thinking it all through and I had one of those “a-ha!” moments. In an incredibly rare circumstance, I had told myself that Tuesday could be a day off but then I changed my mind and WANTED to run that evening. I mean, that never happens. Usually if you give me a rest day you’re going to have to pry it out of my cold dead hands. That feeling of actually wanting to run is such a refreshing change and it stopped me in my tracks with the thought: there are so many good things about my situation right now. Why can’t I just focus on those?

What if I took everything I think is “negative” about my situation and turn it into a positive, and roll with that?

Instead of viewing a race, like the one this weekend, as a “missed long run”, why not focus on how the experience is contributing to my training instead of taking away from it? I get to practice racing, which is invaluable for a marathon. I’m getting a built-in fitness test at a critical stage in my training when I’m wondering how much I’ve recovered from my last marathon and what I can expect going forward. I get to build speed. And more importantly – I get to do what I love and have fun! Isn’t that what this is supposed to be all about?

Instead of being anxious that I’m not getting in the mileage I want right now, why not appreciate the fact that these low mileage weeks are an opportunity for me to work on my speed? I’ve been able to do a lot of fast running lately that I don’t get to do in the thick of marathon build-up. And I’m so focused on the fact that it’s ONLY x amount of miles that I forget that building speed is valuable, too. It enhances my fitness and while it may not impact my marathon performance like high mileage can, it’s still helping me improve in my training. Plus, let’s be honest – it’s a lot more fun! I should remember to enjoy it while it lasts – once my mileage goes sky-high again, gone will be the days when I get to check my splits after a run and regularly see 7:XX miles.

And instead of stressing over the fact that I’m going to miss one long run and probably a bunch of mid-week miles on vacation, why not re-frame this as a crucial chance to let my body recharge and recover? One of the things that all of us runners always forget is that rest and recovery are a part of the cycle, too. We’re so focused on the build-up and workout parts of training that we forget that recovery is training. It’s just as crucial as long runs and high mileage for getting to the starting line ready to race. My build-up and long runs really start to amp up after I get back from the cruise, so won’t it be nice to go into those weeks feeling rested and refreshed instead of exhausted after cramming a bunch of miles into my early weeks when I didn’t need to?

I’ve been obsessing over what I consider a missed opportunity to skip the early parts of build up, take advantage of the base I already have built up from Grandma’s, and jump right back into 45-50 mile weeks. But honestly…why? What’s the point of doing 16-20 mile runs already if I don’t need to yet? Yeah, so, maybe I have to take some steps back and don’t get to spend my entire training cycle in beast mode. So what? Would that really going to contribute to my fitness…or just wear me out and put me in danger of injury and burn-out? Why not savor these last precious few weeks to have more of a life outside of running?

It’s scary how often I forget that my body is not a machine. The idea of more mileage more often sounds great on paper, but all that running takes a serious toll on my body. I will have PLENTY of time after the cruise to get in some killer mileage – I have 2 16-milers, 3 18-milers, and 2 20-milers on the schedule IN ADDITION to two races! I will be FINE. So, taking advantage of some “slow time” now isn’t good just for the reasons I’ve listed above – it’s also a smart, safe thing to do for my health. The strict, finger wagging parent in my head says “you can take a break now when you have the choice, or you can be forced by injury and burn out to take an even longer one later on.


 

So, in sum: here’s how I’m going to look at the first few weeks of my training cycle going forward. No ifs, ands, or buts, this is how it is and I will not let anything salt these mellows:

  1. Racing is a great opportunity for me to see where my fitness is at, set a new PR, build some speed, and HAVE FUN! I love racing!
  2. These recent lower-mileage weeks are allowing me to have more of a life outside running and do more hard, fast workouts that improve my sheer speed and let’s be honest – I’m loving it!
  3. I get to go on vacation, which is just awesome in itself, but I’m also so excited for the chance for some R&R in my personal AND my running life. I’m totally high-fiving myself over the fact that after vacation I get to go into my peak training weeks feeling rested, relaxed, refreshed, and recharged and will NAIL those big long runs with all my extra energy!

 

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What’s one training worry you have right now – and how could you turn it into a positive?

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31 thoughts on “Marathon Training: Staying Positive Amidst Anxiety

  1. I can totally relate to this – I’ll agonize over what I’m not doing instead of focusing on the contributions I am making. You absolutely deserve, and likely need, a break, and it’ll probably help your body out in the long term. Plus, you don’t have a strict goal time in mind for Milwaukee, so you could probably loosen the reigns a little bit and still do incredibly well.

    1. I DO need a break. Like seriously, haha. Everything you said is right, honestly, I think I’ll feel better once I’m actually doing the race, and ON the cruise, having fun and not missing boring long runs one bit πŸ™‚

  2. Such a great post, exactly what I needed. I am already going crazy over the marathon, and I haven’t even started yet lol.

    Little tightness here and there, and I’m melting down. How the Heck am I going to get through these next 16 weeks lol.

    1. The tightness is totally normal. Believe me! It takes a while for your body to adjust to the changes but it will go away soon. And sometimes it’s all mental. There have been race weeks where I’ve felt sore or tight all week and I would freak out about it, only to wake up race morning and magically feel completely fine. Our bodies are so weird!

  3. Great post! You also have the added benefit of coming off of marathon training. Your fitness and base is already really well built! A week off to relax and enjoy yourself will not affect your fitness level negatively! Enjoy it! You have LOTS of time to run hard, fast and long! Right now I’m trying to enjoy every minute of just running and viewing my fall races as just fun runs and let myself relax about them until marathon training begins in November! It’s hard mentally to remember that not all races have to be goal races–I can just run them for fun and the experience. It’s a strange feeling for me πŸ˜‰

    1. Thank you Nona! That’s so funny, it’s the opposite for me: once November hits I will be in the off season for a couple months taking it EASY after essentially training for marathons all year long. Then I can help you relax, LOL.

  4. So excited for you! I’m loving the positivity and I think we all need a reminder now and again that running is not the end all be all of our lives.

  5. Aw, Hanna – no need to stress! I’m so glad you’re learning to relax more and give yourself a break – you deserve it so much!! You are a beast in training but here’s the thing – you definitely don’t need to give it your all every single week to get better. On the contrary, those breaks can be so good for your body and even more so for your mind. Have a great race and vacation coming up!! Sometimes I worry that I’m not training hard enough, but then I remind myself that I’d rather have fun and be patient than beat myself up over every little thing I do “wrong”. I’ll be in Santiago, Chile for a whole 8-9 days coming up too and I figure I’ll run when I feel like it and just enjoy my time however it unfolds πŸ˜€

    1. Thank you Charissa! Such true words πŸ™‚ Part of me if, after all this worrying, I’m going to finally learn to relax and not run nearly as much as I would have hoped only to accidentally get a huge PR at this marathon. LOL a girl can dream! As usual we seem to be on the same page. I do hope you run at least once in Chile so you can say you ran in a foreign country!!

      1. LOL it could happen – you never know! And I definitely will run there! I’m just not going to try so hard to keep up with training πŸ˜‰

  6. I love that outlook! I hope you have an wonderful vacation. You have plenty of miles upcoming, enjoy the break.
    A-ha moments are great and I experience too few myself lol but at least you had once when it counts.
    Go kick butt at the race and have fun doing it. Shoot, maybe it’ll feel easy compared to Grandma’s πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you Karen!! πŸ™‚ And yes, it will – ANY race will feel easy compared to a marathon, or at least compared to the one I just ran! πŸ™‚

  7. You have a SOLID base built up, and have plenty of time to get in those long runs–enjoy! Don’t forget, there is the added benefit of getting on the starting line more frequently too–It works out the pre-race plan, settles nerves, builds confidence…and builds speed.
    I am a worrier too…sometimes I have to stop myself from trying to remember what I was worried about!!! I often have life get in the way of training plans, but that is how it goes!

    1. LOL I do the same thing about trying to remember what I’m worrying about! I agree that racing more is beneficial for all the reasons you list. It’s just become harder for me not to stress out about mileage now that I’ve seen that I’m so successful when I run lots of miles. I think it will be better once I’m actually IN the race, and ON the cruise, having fun and seeing how much I don’t miss long boring runs!

  8. Nice post. You are right about having a strong base already. This past weekend I started to worry about missing my 10 miler…then I reminded myself I am already conditioned to run that distance and I’ll be okay for my 12 miler the next weekend (I adjusted my plans a little bit so it would be 12 vs. 14 …not jumping 4 miles).

    1. Thank you!!! I think we all freak out about long runs the most because it’s been drilled into our heads that they’re so important and that they’re the one workout we can’t skip, and stuff like that. But our bodies have an astounding memory and it would take much more than a few missed weeks to forget how to run long! Good luck, it’s smart of you to adjust to avoid a severe jump. I do the same thing πŸ™‚

  9. You and I are so alike. I stress out and have anxiety about much of the same things: missed miles (including long run miles due to races – I am having this debate right now over a potential half marathon that I’m delaying signing up for exactly this reason) and my upcoming vacation. Who stresses about vacation?!?! Me, apparently. LOL! I’m trying to just enjoy life and not say no to as many opportunities as possible, both in my personal and running life. If life gets in the way, I need to remind myself it’s okay – it’s not like I’m winning Olympic medals here. It’s supposed to be FUN!

    1. First of all, you need to do that half just because I’m excited to see what insanely good PR you will nail. And yes, we are alike, I also stress about vacation which makes me feel like such a running brat, lol. I so agree about the Olympic medals thing. Sometimes I have to step back and say to myself “Hanna, you’re not getting paid to do this. Just chill.”

      1. OMG the elevation profile of that half is nuts. I think IF I ran a PR there, it would be by mere seconds. I’m targeting a half in September that I’m already registered for! If I do this half, it will be for training purposes!

  10. Holy cow you do have a lot of mileage left!! You have nothing to worry about, but I know exactly how you are feeling. I have never stressed out and cried as much as I did during marathon training. I think the cruise will be the perfect time to let your body rest and you will come back feeling strong and ready to conquer the rest of your training!

    1. Ugh I wish I didn’t love the marathon so much because I agree, my stress levels go way up during training (we won’t even mention my exhaustion levels…). I think I need to embrace this as an opportunity to let go of pressure and let the race be what it’s supposed to be: FUN!

  11. I’m glad you are urging yourself to relax! It sounds like you have some serious mileage coming up, so you are totally right, no need to worry or stress right now. Right now I am working on not stressing that I am not where I want to be fitness wise but EXCITED that I get to do the work that will get me there!

  12. I love this post because I am amidst a training cycle too and there are definitely those days of doubt! My biggest worry right now is actual race day, and whether my dreaded IT band will flare up like it has during my last 3 races. To change it I can just focus on everything my doctor tells me, take it a day at a time, and do the best I can!

    1. Yikes! That sucks when you have “wild cards” like that. But hopefully you are learning from it and you’re getting good advice from a doctor which should help. Taking it one day at a time is so important, because at the end of the day, what else can we really do? Fingers crossed that your ITB behaves this time πŸ™‚

  13. I have been dealing with this too, especially as I’m sitting here at a basketball tournament for my fiancee, thinking about how I had to miss my long run this week. I tried to do it on a weekday, but 15 miles after work is HARD. I got in 10 and battled with myself for a while. Then I decided this, I have other weeks I am going to have to miss long runs, for good reasons. I’ve tried to alter training these weeks to train myself to run on tired legs. And just use the weeks for what they are. And like you said, letting my body recharge. Hopefully it works. Keep on going!!!

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