In this episode, I answer 3 listener questions from our RunBuzz community. The questions touch on common issues that many runners encounter, including: getting started and keeping up with a running plan, staying motivated while running in hot weather, and determining how many days per week you should run.
Question 1: One of our members, Desiree, is having trouble getting started with and staying on a running plan. She asks what can she do to get start started and stay on track with her running.
This is a very common problem and one where we need to take into account many aspects and dynamics in order to solve it.
1. What is your why?
Ask yourself, why are you starting a running program, and what specifically are you trying to get out of it? Coming up with an answer to this question will help you stay focused on your goals. However, your reasons for running may change over time.
To be honest, when I myself started running , I never set out to become “a runner”. I just wanted to lose weight and get into shape, and I felt running would get me there. I never intended to identify myself with those who call themselves “runners”. But, sometimes, things change – it’s OK to go with it.
2. At first, focus on building habits, not speed or distance.
I frequently see runners so focused on how fast or how far they run that they, eventually, become injured, frustrated, or quit. It is OK to have goals – heck, you should have goals – but, in your first several weeks, even months, your goals should be more about getting your runs in and establishing a sound running habit than anything else. You’ll have plenty of time, later on, to worry about things like pace and distance.
Check out Podcast 2, for more on establishing good running habits.
3. Focus on reducing stress and fatigue.
Often, we fail to stick to our running programs because we are tired, stressed out, or fatigued from trying to do so much in our lives. When our bodies and minds are worn out, we simply just don’t feel like running.
You can read more about running fatigue and lack of energy here .
4. Focus on injury prevention.
As runners, we often lack patience or, in some cases, just push ourselves to do too much, too soon, or too fast for our current level of fitness. When our body isn’t prepared to do what we’re asking of it, we get hurt. When we get hurt, we get frustrated and, as a result of taking time off to recover, we often fall out of our established running habits.
5. Focus on goals that are achievable and measurable.
Goals keep you focused and motivated – that is, as long as they’re attainable.
Even if you feel that your goals are achievable, always have a secondary goal in case you don’t reach the first one. Sometimes things may take an unexpected turn, and you don’t want to lose your running motivation!
For example, let’s say you’re training for a half marathon and get injured. After your recovery, you realize that you won’t have time to continue to train for the race. Instead of feeling disheartened or frustrated, choose another race that’s reasonable based on where you’re physically at now.
6. Find the right training plan.
Following a suitable training plan to reach your goals can help you stay motivated and stick to your running habit.
However, I’ve said it over and over again and I’ll say it once more – a plan is a guide, not a contract. Do what you can, when you can and to the best of your ability. If you fall off the bandwagon or can’t keep up, try not to be hard on yourself. Just start up again or repeat a week or two, if need be. If a plan is set at 20 weeks, allow a few extra weeks of buffer for vacations or in case you get injured or sick.
7. Find accountability wherever you can.
Ask your spouse or significant other to hold you to your running plans, or find yourself a training partner who needs as much accountability as you do.
If you have kids try this: tell them that you’ll give them $1 every time you get your run in. I guarantee they’ll bug you until you do! If you run 4 days per week, what do you really have to lose? 4 bucks a week?
There are lots of ways to hold yourself accountable, be creative!
8. Create a vision board.
Share you goals, create something visual, or put up some rewards for yourself. Studies show that those who have a a plan plus a vision and a direction are way more likely to reach their goals.
9. Set out your shoes, clothes, and running gear the night before your run.
Even if it means going to bed wearing running shoes, do whatever it takes to prepare yourself for your next run. That way, you’ll have one less excuse standing between you and your training.
10. Surround yourself with materials that promote a positive fitness mindset.
Listen to books, podcasts, or audiobooks that have positive messages. Surrounding yourself with positive content has been proven over and over again to help lift your mood and help train you to have a positive mindset – one you can then apply to accomplishing your running goals.
11. Challenge yourself in ways that are fun but challenging.
A few years back, I challenged myself to do 15 pull ups. What does that have to do with running? Nothing. But it wasn’t easy, and I believe it made my mind slightly tougher because it was a struggle for me.
Try doing a plank challenge or other fitness challenge yourself. If you don’t occasionally put yourself in uncomfortable situations, your mind and willpower will start to soften. We are creatures of comfort and will naturally try to migrate towards easy. Challenge yourself. It really works!
12. Enjoy the journey and celebrate the milestones.
Realize that a race is just the reward – it’s the journey that strengthens our resolve. It’s what we remember and what we’re most proud of that will continue to motivate us.
When I crossed the finish line of my first marathon, it was exhilarating. But, to be honest, I felt a little let down a few hours later. Looking back, I think it was the realization that the hundreds of miles and hundreds of hours I put in was over. On one hand, I was relieved to have completed my goal, but that still wasn’t enough to negate that slight depressed feeling. Remember to enjoy the journey, because the end result is only one fleeting part of your overall progress.
Question 2: Another of our members, Heather writes about how her number one problem is currently trying to stay motivated to run. While she doesn’t have a problem with motivation in cooler weather, she does struggle in the summer.
Let me start off by saying “me too!” I hate running in hot weather but love running in the cold.
But we can’t all avoid the heat forever, so here are some key tips to help get you through your hot-weather runs:
1. Wear proper clothing.
Look for moisture wicking clothing designed for running and choose light colors. Don’t wear dark clothing like black running tights or dark colored shirts, because they absorb light and heat from the sun.
2. Run in areas with shade.
Run in the shade as much as you possibly can. Wooded trail runs can be an awesome alternative to bike trails or neighborhood streets for this purpose. Also, avoid blacktop. The surface reflects heat and can turn an 85 degree day into what feel’s like a 110 degree day.
3. Run early. Very early.
Usually the early morning hours are the coolest. If you can, run early.
4. Slow Down
When it’s hot out, our body sweats more to help keep us cool. Sweat comes from water that’s in our blood and delivered to the cells of our skin. So, when your body gets hot and sweats, more of your blood is diverted to the skin to deliver the moisture your cells need to keep you cool.
But there lies the problem.
Blood carries oxygen and nutrients to your muscles. Oxygen helps the cells in your muscles convert fuel into energy. But, if that blood is diverted to the outer surfaces of your body via sweat, you end up tiring faster and your pace slows.
But with this bad comes some good.
Even though you may feel more tired at slower paces in hot weather than in cold, your body is still training. Your heart is beating, your muscles are working, and you are getting the same cardio benefit you would be if you were going faster, because your intensity has increased. It just feels like your having a bad day but, in reality, you’re still pushing yourself hard and making progress.
Later, when the weather turns cooler, that blood and oxygen that was previously diverted to your skin is no longer needed to cool your body down. That means it can start delivering that oxygen rich blood back to your muscles, and you’ll have an easier time running a faster pace.
That’s why, when the weather cools down, it’s not uncommon to see runners accomplish personal bests or even speed up by a minute or two in pace.
But, in the mean time, slowing down will help make hot weather running a little more bearable.
5. Try to acclimate to the weather.
This one is a little more difficult to accomplish, but it can provide some great benefits.
Your body can take about 2-3 weeks to acclimate to fluctuations in temperature. The more you’re exposed to heat (or cold), the quicker your body will adjust.
The problem is, most of us go indoors when it gets hot. Our offices and homes are often air conditioned, and many of us prefer to seek the comfort of the cool indoors than suffer in the heat outside. Now, I’m not suggesting that you give up air conditioning, but I will say this: prior to air conditioning, heat did not impact us humans nearly as much as it does now.
6. Be cautious
Heat illness and heat stroke are very real and probably some of the most dangerous things that can happen to us while running. So be very careful.
Heat exhaustion can sneak up on you fast. When it’s very hot, either take running inside to a treadmill or give yourself extra breaks to allow your body to cool down and your heart rate to lower. Also, run with a buddy who can monitor you and summon help if needed.
Question 3: Laura asks how often she should run per week? Should she run everyday?
A lot of factors come into play when it comes to determining how many days per week you should run. At a simplistic level, it boils down to what your training goals are and how efficiently your body recovers after your workouts.
Here are some general guidelines
1. Experience level
When you first start a running program, you want to give yourself time to adjust to the impacts of running.
Too much running + biomechanical inefficiency = injury.
If you are an experienced runner, you can run more often than a beginner because your body is, generally speaking, stronger and better adapted to taking on running stress. Beginners can make huge improvements with just a 3 day per week running schedule, taking a rest day or two in between each workout. As you get more experienced, your body will adapt and can handle more training days.
2. Identify you distance goals
Longer distances generally require more training than goals involving shorter distances. Typically, running 4-6 days per week is common with longer distance training because the volume of running needs to increase.
Follow these general recommendations to get you started:
Up to 5k (Beginners) – Run 3 days per week with at least one day of rest in between each run.
Up to 10k (Experienced) – Run 3-6 days per week.
10k – half marathon – 4-5 days per week
half marathon to marathon 4-6 days per week.
Why the range? Adjust based on other factors below:
3. More isn’t always better – Factor in rest and recovery
You’ll want to factor rest days into your training, especially for those of you who are just starting out, are older, or are distance runners.
In Podcast 7, I spend a lot of time discussing rest and recovery and why it’s so important to your training. Even if you’re running 5-6 times per week, I recommend never running more than 3 days in a row without a rest day. Again, for less experienced and new runners, an every other day cycle works as well.
One other factor to consider is age. Generally speaking, as you age, most people need more recovery time in their program. A 16 year old can generally recover much faster from a run than a 46 year old. Therefore, as you age, listen to your body and you’ll find an ideal range that works for you.
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