Seeing as how I learn something new every single day, it’s safe to say, not only are there countless items I deem as “rules of the road,” the list continues to grow.
Since my current marathon training is the most extensive training I’ve ever done, it seems only natural I’ve been reflecting (more than normal) on all the things I’ve learned through training for anything over the years. No matter what you are working to achieve, here are five training-related rules of the road that will hopefully help you on your journey.
1. Plan Ahead
Whether you are planning to run a 5K, or a marathon, closing your eyes and willing yourself to get to the finish line is not enough. Those miles will not run themselves, even if you wish they would. Going into something unprepared is just about the worst thing you can do, for both your mind and body. Being unprepared is pretty much like begging to hit a mental or physical wall. Although you can expect your mind to carry your body the extra mile or few when the going gets tough, you can’t expect it to do all the work.
2. Remember: No Plan is Foolproof
I use the word foolproof because it just so happens to be the title of the Runner’s World training plan I’ve been following. While I greatly value this plan and make notes on it daily, it’s important to acknowledge that no plan is foolproof. Your life is filled with many variables. This means there is no training plan out there that on paper has the power to match up with what is going on with your body and mind on any given day. No training plan is smart enough to be able to possibly predict your individual scenario and make adjustments for you. I’ve found adapting a training plan to meet your needs and using it as a guide rather than a religious script to be far more fruitful.
3. Be Serious, Not Psychopathic
Yes, it’s important to be serious about training. And since training can be an extensive time commitment, there will be many times you say “yes” to training and “no” to something else that sounds appealing. I went through years of my life giving in to late night invites that sounded enticing at the time, allowing them to derail any hopes I had of running the next day. This naturally slowed my progress and then left me feeling defeated. That said, being a raging psychopath about training holds the potential to a) take all the pleasure out of it b) intimidate or otherwise scare others away. Sure, following a stricter dietary regime during specific training periods and monitoring items such as heart rate, weight, caloric intake, etc., may certainly be vital to your performance; however, having a meltdown because you ate a couple of nachos, had a single beer, or ran a couple of miles less than you intended on a given day, only breeds misery.
4. Break Your Own Rules
This could just as easily read, “Don’t set rules you can’t keep.” Setting such rules only sets yourself up to break them and then feel bad about yourself, and then break them again while coping with feeling bad about yourself for breaking them. When it comes to rules, I’ve found they don’t always work even when they are well-intentioned. To me, life is about relationships rather than rules. And in the case of running, the relationships include one with your body, your mind, your training plan, and your day to day health, wellbeing and livelihood. It’s best to make all of these healthy relationships, rather than sets of rules that make you want to revolt and run the other direction.
5. Reroute When Needed
Even if you have your heart set on something, sometimes it just doesn’t happen. It just isn’t in the cards. There have been three half marathons I’ve signed up for that I wasn’t able to complete. Leading up to the first race (Nov. 2011) I was getting situated in a new job, fell behind in training, and realized my body wasn’t up for making the push. The second race (Nov. 2012), I was recovering from an injury, and facing unexpected personal life upheavals, resulting in a last minute trek across the country. And the third (Nov. 2013), I fell ill and decided to defer my registration. (In case you were wondering, yes, I have realized November probably isn’t the best month for me).
While I’m all about persevering through difficulties, I’ve come to understand that life happens, and just because you have a plan, doesn’t mean unexpected surprises won’t come your way, and at times, beat you down with a stick. That said, where there is a will there is a way, even if this way means rerouting your plan, or choosing a different race.
As I continue on with training for my first full marathon, I have come to find peace and understanding in realizing that while my mind is in the game, my body still holds the power to say “no” between now and the race. And although, yes, my heart is set on this race, my heart realizes this race isn’t everything, and remains even more set on being able to do something I love longterm without doing my body harm. And so, as I continue to train and increase my mileage, I will be keeping in mind what is perhaps the most important rule of the road.
“If you are wholeheartedly pushing yourself to be the best you can be, then you are doing all you can do.”