Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tips: How to Treat Yourself during Marathon Training

Today’s Workout: 5 miles, outside

Health Check: My muscles feel pretty good – but I need to make sure I continue to ice my knee over the next several days

I’ll get to my topic of the day in a moment. But first things first.

Yesterday I went to my amazing physical therapist, Dr. Ngo. After running 5 miles on the treadmill Tuesday morning, my knee was still a bit sore, and I was nervous. I had no clue whether to skip runs, how often to ice, all that jazz. Dr. Ngo always knows what to say.

We found out rather quickly that my left quad is crazy tight. She said because my hip flexors are tight, my quads are tight, and as a result, my quad muscle is pulling on my knee. So she did her thing while I winced in pain, and told me I could still do most of my runs this week. I still had a 5 miler, a 3 miler, and a 9 miler left. She said to skip the 3 miler, but make sure to take several walk breaks during the other two runs. I left feeling relieved.

I did 5 miles this morning, and it was pretty effortless. I warmed up a bit with two slow miles, and then sped up for the last three. After each mile, I walked for a minute, and I ran mostly around McCarren Park and the track for softer surfaces.

I am happy to skip my 3 miler tomorrow since I’ll be home (SUMMER FRIDAYS I LOVE YOU), so I fully plan on sleeping in and doing some light stretching. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my knee will be back to normal in a few days.

Now on to the topic of the day. Treat yo’ self.

I know what you’re thinking – treat myself? I’m running constantly, I’m always tired, and I’m doing all of this for one big day weeks or even months from now.

Training for a marathon is not for the faint of heart. And while I love it (you would be crazy to train for one if you didn’t love this ish), there are times when I don’t feel like devoting any more time to running. A warm bed or a beer with a friend sounds much more appealing than 2 hours on the road.

That being said, there are ways to getting around the mental and physical exhaustion of training. Here are some practical and personal tips that help me stay continually excited about lacing up my sneakers.

Tip #1: Sleep

Runners are separated into early birds and night owls. Last year, when I trained for the Cape Cod Marathon, I probably did 90% of my runs at night. I simply could not get into the habit of waking up before work to run. This year, I’m determined to add more morning runs to my schedule. I enjoy getting up early and “getting it out of the way,” and have found myself getting up before work 2-3 mornings a week for both running and cross-training.

The result? I sleep like a baby.

 When I do a morning run, I hit the pillow that night and fall asleep in an instant. I haven’t historically struggled with sleeping, but if I’m really stressed, I have a harder time sleeping all the way through the night. When I do morning runs, all of that worry and stress goes away the moment I tuck in.

Since sleep is so important during training, figure out what works for you, and follow it.

This tip also includes guilt-free napping. When I have to get up early on a Saturday morning for my long run, I tell myself that I can treat myself to a nap later, and I don’t feel guilty whatsoever for laying on my couch and watching a terrible movie as I fall asleep. You earned it, so take full advantage.

Tip #2 – Track your progress

When I first started running, I would write down on a calendar all the runs I completed. I was so proud of myself as I saw the numbers creep up each month to new heights. This still gives me an odd sense of accomplishment, so I write down my runs in a few places.

Running Calendar
Since January, I’ve kept an excel sheet of all the runs I’ve completed. So far this month, I’ve run 73.4 miles. So far this year, I’ve run 505.6 miles. How awesome is that?!? If that doesn’t get you excited, this might not be your sport.

Training Plan
I created my own training plan by combining Hal Higdon’s Intermediate Training Plan and a plan I found in Runner’s World. It has the perks of a tough training program (hello, speedwork! We are friends), but isn’t so crazy that I won’t be able to do it (not ready to commit to three, 20 mile runs. Ain’t happening). I had perhaps a little too much fun creating this plan, confirmed by the fact that it is color-coded.

Running Journal
I like to write. Did you know that? Now you know.

Last year, I followed a beginner’s training plan from a book, which had a section to write down comments about each run. It could include anything from the course I ran, to how hard it felt, or something interesting that happened along the way.

It was sometimes tedious, but I was really happy I did it. On days when I had a really tough run, I would look back at previous entries, and read when past Kate was really excited: “Completed my first 14 miler! Longest distance I have ever run! Go me.” And then my bad run wouldn’t seem so bad.

I’m keeping up the tradition this year, since it was a great mental technique for me.

A gift from Kelly! <3 my elephants.
Tip #3 – Add fun rituals to the boring parts of your routine

For most runners, the most boring part of running is stretching afterwards. The last thing I feel like doing after a long run is devoting time to cooling down and stretching. Bring on the hot shower and post-run egg sandwich already! But I find I get injured if I don’t, so I make myself do it.

After an evening run I will turn on my guilty pleasure “What Not to Wear” that I have on my DVR, and do my stretching in front of the TV. In the morning, I’ll turn on the Today Show, and secretly curse Savannah for taking over Ann Curry’s spot, but giggle at Al Roker for his ridiculous catch phrases.

It actually makes me want to stretch longer, and my muscles thank me for it. It seems simple, and most of you probably already do this, but it works for me.

Love you two - but please stop with the intro skits.
They are weird and not funny.
Tip #4 – Be easy

Aside from following your mileage plan, training for a marathon is not the time to be strict with yourself. It is really important to listen to your body.

Do you want that extra piece of chocolate cake? Go for it, you’ve earned it. Do you feel like skipping after-work drinks so you can get a good night’s rest? If your body wants it, do it. Would you rather stay in on a Sunday afternoon to watch Jurassic Park instead of enjoying your weekend outside? Microwave some popcorn and give your attention to T-Rex.

As much as I want to go out and be social (cue why every Sunday on my training plan has the word “rest” next to it), I realize that my body and mind will probably need more rest than usual over the next few months.

On that note, even if you’re not training for a marathon, Treat Yo’ Self. Go do something that makes you happy, and don’t feel guilty at all for doing it.  


  1. Such a funny one! I didn't know you liked writing. Or running. Now I do.

  2. Naps are soooooo underrated! As is Jurassic Park (much better than Dante's Peak)!