Re-committing

Another week, another round of deep thinking about my running.

I have been “base building” for a total of 8 weeks now. That’s almost two months. And while I’m noticing those ever-so-slow signs of tiny gains that come once the body becomes more practiced, I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere. I don’t mean that in a “oh boo hoo I’m not getting faster yet” way, I’m just starting to get that come-to-Jesus feeling of okay, what exactly are we doing here? Are we training or not training? Do we care, do we not care? What’s going on? I’ve been taking things slow, like I should, but I’ve also been aimless and uncommitted and putzing around, and now I’m at that point of “sh*t or get off the pot already”.

My base building period is intended to prepare me for Chicago Marathon training. It’s 6 months, which is a long time, and perhaps I wasn’t totally prepared for how drawn-out this will be.

But I’ve also been thinking about this blog and how much it’s changed since I used to blog about training every week. It’s not a big secret that my blog content has steadily declined since Pittsburgh Marathon training ended last spring. It’s okay, we can all admit it. I sometimes try to look at my blog from the perspective of what an objective outside reader would think, and in doing so I can see that I was much more interesting and engaging when I was actively working toward a goal and my blog had more direction.

There are a few people who used to be avid readers of my blog, but haven’t read or commented here in months. I can’t say that I blame them, honestly. They came here to read about a runner who knew what she wanted and was working really hard each week to get it. Off-seasons and slumps come with the territory, but mine has been really long, and there are only so many times my readers can listen to the “I’m so motivated to make changes! I’m going to do this this and this and get really in shape!” spiel before they get bored and move on. I get it. Because honestly, I’m getting bored with it too. I don’t even miss the training or the fitness as much as I miss the feeling of knowing what the hell I want out of running and working toward something.

I’m not sure I should have opened with this, because it makes it sound like the only reason I miss training is that I need good blog content, but that’s not entirely true. More and more often lately I miss the feeling of being in great shape and progressing toward a goal. I’ve had several conversations recently with people I meet who happen to be runners. We will inevitably chat about marathon training and various races and it makes me long for the days of being mid-training cycle and having that “yeah I’m crushing it out there!” feeling. It’s not even just the race training or being a faster runner that I miss – it’s having fitness actually be a priority in my life. Building back fitness after a layoff takes time, I get that. But what frustrates me lately isn’t the fact that I’m out of shape, it’s that I’m not even really trying. I feel like I’m using the “base building takes time” as an excuse to half-ass it all. I skip runs, I bail on strength training, I do the bare minimum in everything. I’m just getting frustrated with myself. Just because I’m not actively training for a race doesn’t mean I can’t make my fitness a priority.

This is going to sound really silly, but another thing that’s been influencing these feelings the last couple days is the weather. Yes, you read that right. The weather. You may have heard that we are having a bit of a heat wave here in the Midwest. Yesterday we set a record high temperature for February 18th. Temperatures have been in the high 50s and low 60s here and it’s supposed to continue through this week. It wasn’t until I breathed the fresh spring air and gallivanted about with no coat on (in February!) that I realized how much these dark, dreary, frigid cold days of winter are affecting my motivation to exercise. All of a sudden I went from feeling pretty “meh” about running, to wishing it were June so I could start marathon training!

So, after 750 words of introduction I finally arrive at the point of this post: I want to recommit to my fitness. I really do. I miss training. I miss working toward a goal. I miss the pride of not just being in great shape but knowing I’m in great shape because of all the hard work I put in. I miss tempo runs. I miss my leaner body. Hell, I even “miss” things I never regularly did before: hot yoga and cycling and strength training workouts.

So, what does this mean? I’m not exactly sure. I’m not going to suddenly #beastmode my training or try to PR in the half marathon this spring or anything like that. Nothing about my running plan for the year has changed: Chicago is still my one and only priority, and I’m still adamant that I don’t jeopardize that by getting overeager this spring and burning out/injuring myself/peaking too early. I’m still base-building until then. I just need to start trying a little harder. Fitness isn’t simply going to wait until enough time has passed and then show up on my doorstep: I have to work for it. Yes, I have to take base-building slowly, but I also need to push a little harder, stop babying myself, and most importantly, stop giving in to excuses all the time. I can do better than this.

I’ve spent enough time warming up; it’s time to start the workout.

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24 thoughts on “Re-committing

  1. I’m doing Chicago too and am also not really sure what the goal is for the next few months now that I’m not running a spring marathon. I think I’m going to try to focus on strength training since I’ve always neglected that. But I can’t wait for summer and the “official” start of marathon training!

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    1. Hello fellow soon-to-be Chicago Marathoner! It’s so fun to meet other people that will be running. I agree with you. I had a reeeeeally long “off season”, so I’m itching to get back in the game, but I also am not feeling ready to train for anything yet, so that leaves me in a weird space of not knowing what to do with myself fitness-wise. I too am going to focus more on strength training and cross training this spring. As much as I’d like to get my mileage base up, I know that once I start marathon training I won’t have as much time for other fitness, so I want to get it in now while I can!

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    1. It seems that’s the case with a lot of run bloggers. Many people I know aren’t really training much or have fallen off blogging altogether. I think it’s good to have other priorities for a while. I’m definitely trying to focus more on cross and strength instead of just running miles.

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  2. Base building definitely isn’t glamorous or fun, but I think it’ll really help you reach your goals. Maybe having a spring race to look forward to (even if it’s not a PR attempt) will help your motivation or make it seem like you’re making progress? Either way, I’m glad you’re also enjoying the warm weather and it’s also helping my motivation a ton!

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  3. Oh the weather…don’t get me started. It hit 50* here yesterday! We threw a barbeque for some friends, which involved digging out the firepit from 3 feet of snow, burgers, watermelon, smores…it was a fun celebration. My motivation depletes as winter drags on…

    Bring on the workouts!!!!

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    1. Yeah, it’s been crazy. Yesterday we went to brunch with friends and the restaurant had their outdoor seating out. In FEBRUARY! And it’s not done yet, the high here on Weds is supposed to be 63! I’m sure we’ll have another freeze coming but this mild winter makes me nervous about summer.

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  4. I know what you mean. I’ve been feeling like this a lot lately since Frank and I decided to put a very concerted effort in moving to Utah. I’ve been having trouble even going out the door because I didn’t know where I would be. Now that things have settled down and I know what my future looks like, I really want to get back to hard training. It’s not easy though. I might sign up for a local trail race in hopes that it jazzes me up for some tougher stuff.

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    1. I hear ya. Moving is hard, and it can be tough to get back into the mindset of taking running seriously after a big life change that shakes up your priorities for a while. Hang in there!

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  5. Winter is a motivation suck. It really is and none of us should pretend it isn’t. I’ve been so not into my training even though I’ve been rolling out of bed and getting out there for my scheduled runs. I think, for me, not having a race day goal has allowed me to slack off and just run all of my runs easy. I know ultimately that will make for a great base for marathon training, but I too feel envious when I see people posting about their crushed speed work and I’m just dillydallying along every morning. I’m ready for this spring-like weather to be here to stay and, I know I’ll complain about the heat and humidity, but summer training truly is so much better.

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    1. Hey, at least you’re getting out there. I truly admire the discipline of people who keep getting the miles in when they know they don’t really have to (e.g. aren’t training for a time goal or a marathon). I truly, truly suck at that. I mean, I’m not doing nothing each week, but I could be doing a lot more. I agree that I think I’ll enjoy summer training more. I liked it when I did my first marathon, but then again, we had a pretty mild summer that year. I think the extra daylight, not having to bundle up, and the social aspect (more people in training mode to commiserate with) will help me a lot.

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  6. Over the last few days I’ve been having the opposite feelings. I’m only focused on one fall race this year as well, but my coach already has me doing race specific workouts. I’ve been like WHY SO EARLY but I think it’s because I set pretty lofty goals with her. I mean I’ll be happy just to PR in the half, but I’ll be much happier if I crush my old PR. I guess that means I’ve got a lot of long (HOT) months ahead of me (it’s already in the mid 80s here). I’m excited but also weary of burn out.

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    1. Yeah, I can definitely understand the concern about doing workouts so early: I’d be super paranoid about peaking too early and burning out, but, that’s only because that has happened to me before. Doing speed workouts even when you’re not training is still a great way to boost your overall fitness, though. And I think you’re right about your huge goals. I think a lot of us tend to underestimate the sheer amount of work it takes to PR a long distance by a big amount. You really have to go that extra mile, so to speak, and having a good base of fitness is so important. I have a semi-big goal in mind for Chicago, and that’s why I’m spending this whole year in build-up mode: I need to start my training cycle with a great base of fitness if I want to be able to make the gains necessary to improve my time.

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  7. Are you taking cutback weeks in your base building? Those may help a ton with not burning out and keeping yourself feeling motivated (especially if you can plan a cutback week when the weather is just bleh and gross). They’re worthwhile even in the base phase – too much monotony of the same thing week in, week out is hard to commit to for any runner, even if the weather is gorgeous.
    Good for you for recommitting to your fitness! Hopefully the weather continues to be pleasant…or as pleasant as winter weather can be!

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  8. I can relate to so much about this post. I feel like I have just been going in circles with my progress lately, and that ends up being what I blog about, and I can see how it could get boring to readers. I try to write about other stuff Im doing besides just running since we cant always be training hard and sometimes running just isn’t going well. And the weather also motivates me to want to get back to training!

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  9. I completely disagree that your blog content has gone downhill! I can see that runners in the heart of training mainly want to read from others in the same boat, but there are many (all?) runners who go through what you’ve been going through–a slump, wondering what’s next, setting new goals, changing priorities. Those are all things I definitely related to. Besides, I love reading your posts, whether you’re training or not!

    Second, a friend and I were just talking about how the weather is likely playing a role in my own slump and how it’s so much easier to get motivated in nice weather. Running in heat and humidity isn’t easier, but it’s easier to get out and give it a good shot.

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  10. Well 6 months is definitely a long time to be base building so I can certainly understand why you’re feeling the way you are. While you don’t need a goal race before Chicago, maybe it would be helpful to add one day a week of speed work, whether it be track work, tempos, or progression runs? Maybe you are already doing this, but I can see how if you’re not the same easy running could feel monotonous or like you’re not improving. It doesn’t have to be anything pressure based or specific, just something for a change of pace.
    I’m still in a place of lacking commitment towards running, but I still do a speed workout and tempo run each week. The paces/distances are all contingent on how I’m feeling that day – I’m not following any specific plan or goal pace. But it helps me break up the monotony of my runs and even though they are shorter and slower than what I had been doing, they are good for my brain to feel like I am working hard.

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    1. Thanks Katrina! I actually did start adding in speedwork in this past month, but I appreciate the suggestion. It has helped me to break up the monotony and feel like I’m actually boosting fitness again, like you said. But to be honest, it’s really not helping with the general run boredom and lack of motivation. I think a lot of it is the time of the year, and it just is what it is. I’m trying to be more graceful with myself, and accept that it’s okay to not feel like getting out there some days/weeks. I’m only human. Perhaps getting out and doing a race in a few weeks will help refresh my motivation.

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      1. Honestly, as long as you are being gentle with yourself I think that’s the most important thing. Motivation comes and goes in my experience. Reading your posts reminds me a lot of how I felt after I had my second baby. I REALLY wanted to be motivated and yet I still couldn’t get myself to! You would think it would be easier, right? I also was in a similar space as you of not feeling like I was in the same shape I had been and it felt so, just blah, to go out and run a shorter distance at a slower pace and not even have it be easy. What’s exciting about that? Incidentally, training for Chicago is what really got me back. I started my training after having not run regularly in over a year and was averaging maybe 5 miles per week. You will get there and you will find it. Don’t pressure yourself into it at this point. You’re doing the right things building your base and not burning yourself out before Chicago.
        Also, I know we’ve talked about the comparison trap, but I have found that for me finding other runners either running the same race as me or with similar goals or similar backgrounds really motivating. That’s one of the reasons I started following you when I was training for Chicago! Do you follow Runladylike? I really love her blog. She’s just now starting back to running after having a baby, so not quite the same as you, but you might identify with her position of starting back at it after taking some time off.

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    2. Thanks! I do remember you coming back post-baby and training for Chicago – I think that’s right when I started following your blog! I’ve often thought about how much progress you made between Chicago and Baystate and it reminds me to not give up! I think training for a summer race will help me, too. As one of my friends pointed out, it’s not easy running in the heat/humidity but it is easier to get out the door with the extra daylight and not having to layer up. Also, and more importantly, I will have more company. More people train in the summer AND there is never a shortage of people in the blog/social media world who are running Chicago. I think you’re right that I just have to hang in there and wait it out. The other night I was thinking about my current running and how in some ways it’s actually good for me to be running fewer times/mpw right now – if I were already forcing myself to follow a schedule and run 5 times per week, then I’d risk being burned out by the time Chicago training comes up. It takes practice but I just have to keep looking at the bigger picture of this year and reminding myself that quick short-term fitness gains aren’t worth sacrificing my bigger fall goals. Thanks for all your guidance!!!

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