10 Training Tips You Need If Youre A Beginner Marathoner Training For Your Marathon – How to Get Your Mind Around Your Marathon Goal

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Training For Your Marathon – How to Get Your Mind Around Your Marathon Goal

I was asked the other day by an aspiring marathoner what the most important thing a new marathoner should know. I didn’t have to think even for a second.

“The most important thing for anyone preparing for their first marathon to know is that the marathon is 90 percent mental,” I said.

I know this sounds cliché, but it’s true. Successfully running a marathon requires not getting bored, paying attention to what your body is telling you, dealing with the aches and pains that will inevitably occur, and keeping a good mental attitude.

The physical side is easy: You just have to get off the couch and run. It’s the mental part that is hardest.

In this article, I provide some tips for how you can keep you head in the game and train your mind as you train your body.

Don’t get bored:

An experienced runner once told me he knew he was on his way to becoming a marathoner when his mind started wearing out before his body did. It didn’t make much sense to me at the time, but as I got in better shape and my mileage went up, I started understanding.

You see, at a certain point, as your mileage increases, there is a tendency, especially for new marathon runner, to get bored as they run and, in some cases, feel a little lonely on their longer runs. In this way, a twenty-mile run requires a lot of physical training as well as a lot of mental preparation.

I’ll admit when I ran my first marathon I hated the long runs. I hated them not because they were physically grueling – they weren’t really. I hated them because I got bored.

But over the years I changed the way that I prepared for my long runs, and now I love them. The key to not getting bored is to stay focused on something. Here is what I do. In the week prior to my long runs, I prepare for my runs by making a list of things I need to figure out during the week that I can give some serious thought to when I run.

These can be mundane things, like should I get the black suit or the navy suit, to the more serious, such as should I take the promotion or start my own business.

One of the terrific byproducts of my running a marathon is that I often make good choices because I can seriously consider the options. In this way, the time you set aside for running can also be your most productive time.

I also use my running time to relax. During the week, I make a deal with myself not to worry about things. Instead, I allow myself to worry about whatever is bothering me during my run. For example, when I run I’ll worry about whether it is going to rain at an upcoming outdoor party I am hosting.

Beyond prompting action, worrying for the sake of worrying isn’t productive or beneficial, so I deal with it when I run. Specifically, I might allow myself to think about the presentation, but only for a mile or two. After that, I mentally try to leave it behind me as I run ahead. Try it. It works!

In addition to thinking, planning and worrying, I spend a lot of time praying when I run. It’s weird for me to write this because I am not the most spiritual person in the world. But there is something about the calming nature of running and the rhythmic sounds of steps that allows me to think deeply about things that normally I don’t or can’t think much about.

So, after hating the time spent on longer runs, I learned to really love that time and look forward to it.

It will hurt, sometimes:

While I believe following the advice in this book will get you to the finish line, there is nothing I can do to help you with the fact that running a marathon can be a little painful. It is, best I can tell based on my experiences, part of the process.

For example, on my longer runs, I an generally predict the time my legs will begin to ache a little around mile seventeen. It’s always minor and the pain is more annoying than anything. But here again, it is important to recognize these pains but not let them side track you.

Be smart about the pain you are feeling. If you have very sharp pain or pain that either doesn’t go away or leaves you with the feeling something just isn’t right, go see your health care professional.

Don’t mess around. If your pain is less serious, don’t let it side track you. Here’s a tip. The way I deal with inevitable aches and pain while I am running is to welcome it. That’s right. I force myself to think of the upcoming pain like I am meeting up with an old friend who will run with me for a while. When I feel the aches coming on, I say to myself, “there you are old friend, how are you?” Then I literally imagine myself running next to an old friend.

In writing this, I know it seems strange. I felt that way when I heard this advice. But it works.

Do systems checks:

If you get really good about thinking and praying when running, it is often easy to forget about making sure your body has what it needs to continue. With that in mind, I force myself to do a quick systems check at every mile-marker to see if I am hungry or need water or have an unusual pain.

If you don’t have a lot of experience running long distances this may seem unnecessary, but it isn’t. Believe me when I say this is very easy to lose track of what your body needs when you are lost in your thoughts during a long run.

Stay sharp:

You’ve probably heard of the “runner’s high” before. It’s the feeling of euphoria that comes from long, strenuous activity, such as running. While I don’t know that I’ve felt high as a result of my running, I certainly feel better mentally, and often physically, after a nice long run. That is part of the reason I keep running!

But what you probably have not heard of is what I describe as a “runner’s fog.” The fog I describe is the mental state of being where you are not actually thinking about running, yet you continue to run. It’s similar to day dreaming.

Have you ever had to drive a long way over a period of a few days, and you lose yourself in your own thoughts? Then all of a sudden you realize that you’ve traveled a long way without even really remembering it? It’s similar with the runner’s fog.

I tend to get “foggy” when I run the same course over and over again. Something about the familiarity of the course causes me to start daydreaming. Some people I have talked to love the runner’s fog because it helps them relax. While this is true, there is a downside to falling victim to the fog.

When I am less alert in my running I often forget to do the things that are important – including taking in water and food. I also make dumb choices, like crossing streets without looking or tripping over things in the sidewalk.

In 2005, I was half-way through a long run and tripped on a small branch that had fallen on the side walk. I “came to” when I was sprawled across someone’s yard, covered with mud and with a nasty scrape on my hand.

The lesson here is to try to stay sharp. Keep your mind active. Stay relaxed but keep you head in the game.

Think about staying motivated: My guess is that if you talked with one hundred people who have run marathons you would get one hundred different tips on staying motivated. I could give you lots of specific tips, but part of finding what works for you is coming up with your own motivation.

I will say this, however. I have young kids, and I get them involved in my training. If you haven’t already noticed, I’m big into goal-setting. A few years ago, when we were on a family trip my daughter, then five, asked how long 26 miles was.

To show her, I reset the tripometer. As ten, then fifteen, then twenty miles went by she kept remarking, “Wow, that is a long way to run!” This led to a longer conversation about running. Her questions ran the gambit: “Do you ever get tired?” “Do you sweat?” “What do you think about when you run?” The questions went on an on. It was priceless.

Then she asked a questions that got me thinking. “Dad,” she said. “What do the bottoms of your shoes look like after you run that far?”

I decided that for my next run, she and I would use a black permanent pen to draw a design on the bottoms of my shoes to see if there was any sign of the mark when I returned. Before my next long run, I turned over a shoe and asked her to make a design. She did. I gave have her a kiss before skipping out the door for my run.

Late in my run I was smiling as I thought about the conversation and the design we drew. Thinking back, I recalled that her design looked like diamonds on the bottoms of my shoes. Instantly, an old Paul Simon song popped in my head. “People think I’m crazy, I’ve got diamonds on the soles of my shoes.”

To this day, we draw diamonds on the soles of my shoes before my big runs. My kids get such a kick out of it; it’s very motivating for me while I am running. It’s almost like they are running with me.

The bottom line here is that when it comes to motivation, no one can tell you what will work. You have to find your own motivation.

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