As I write this, its mid-Feb, and I’m guessing that many of you out there who may be reading this are at an inflection point with any New Year’s Resolutions you may have made. The enthusiasm and brave new world optimism of the first couple of weeks of whatever it is you vowed to do better, faster and with less fat, is now slowly being eroded and replaced by the realization that getting into a sustainable groove with the new and improved you is actually a bloody tough thing to do.
Those fine folks out there who read this blog last year will know I am no fan of the New Year’s Resolution (read my post on the topic here). But the truth is, whether you are struggling to maintain a new beginning, or simply looking to keep going with a long established program of activity, it is so, so easy to bounce out of a hard won groove, and find yourself in a deep rut, out of which it is very hard to plot a course. And I should know – I’m climbing out of a couple of holes right now myself.
Here is my story.
Let’s wind the clock back to around October 16th 2011. It’s a week after the Victoria Marathon, where I ran a 3:30, crushing my previous best by 23 minutes and only missing out on Boston qualifying time because somewhat inconveniently, the application deadline had passed two weeks earlier. I had completed my traditional first post marathon run around Greenlake, and was looking forward to cranking my training back up to have another assault on the tougher new BQ times at the Rock and Roll Marathon in Arizona in January. I was running quickly, I was loose and I was ready, and there was nothing gonna stop me now. If I felt any better in my running I would have been Kenyan. I was in the very grooviest of grooves.
So how come not ten weeks later, I was the Mayor of Rutsville, stepping on the scales having gained about 8 pounds, with all thoughts of Arizona, Boston and my new Kenyan running persona nothing but a fantasy?
First of all, there is a saying in running circles (and you’ll have to forgive me, as I cannot remember the source of this fine piece of wisdom – it wasn’t me) that you can’t start training for a new marathon until you have let the last one go. This, friends, was the genesis of many of my issues – I hadn’t let the last one go. Rather than putting it to bed, I was mentally resting on my laurels and not putting in a shift to take it to the next level.
Secondly, I was not helped by the fact that i picked up a niggling knee injury (that regrettably persists today). This gave me the perfect excuse not to train for a couple of weeks.
Third – I was busy at work. Of all my excuses, this is totally the biggest crock. I work so much better when I train. Fit, active and energetic – it’s why I believe runners make great employees, yet it is so easy to let a busy schedule get in the way of one of the key things you can do to make yourself a rock-star at work.
Fourth – the killer of many a good routine – the vacation! Double whammy on this one was that it was a Christmas trip back home to Blighty. Lots of family, beer, crap food and more beer and crap food, all leading to lengthy periods of inactivity, bundled up with the easy get of training card, that says ‘I’m on holiday’.
The worst thing of all, is that this mentality feeds on itself, and before you know it you haven’t trained for a week, and then the day you want to go out it’s snowing, or it’s a travel day, or you are too tired, or whatever. One week becomes two, and then guess what, that sleek, shiny, flawless groove you were in, starts to take on all the characteristics of a ploughed field.
So what to do…?
Here are a few ideas to get your groove back…
1. Don’t lose it in the first place. Recognize the warning signs and act accordingly. If you need a break, then make it an intentional one and plan your return accordingly. Make the break part of the groove maintenance.
2. Take it one step at a time… if you’ve had a break for several weeks, recognize you are unlikely to make it back straight away to a five day, 40+mile running schedule, and settle for 15 miles over 3 days, and build back from there.
3. Enlist the help of your partner, kids and/or friends. Tell them what is going on with you and have them help you get out the door and hitting the pavement. They are your biggest fans and they’ll be glad to help.
4. Treat yourself – if what it takes to liven yourself up is a new gadget, some new running gear or another special item, then go get it – nothing like a new pair of running shoes to make you want to hit the trail again.
5. Set a new goal. So Arizona was out for me – that’s OK. There is a new marathon course in Vancouver and in about 85 days from now, I will be on it.
6. Or just stop feeling sorry for yourself and get on with it.
So what about you? Anything you are stuck on? What are you doing to get your engine running again?
Song for the week? Has to be…