I think I was in a running rut from about April 2013 until the beginning of March 2015. It began just after the London Marathon after not getting the time I was hoping for.
Instead of just patting myself on the back for even finishing my first marathon, I instead chose to dwell on what I saw as a defeat. In between April 2013 and March 2015, of course I still ran, did the usual run commute and stuck to a vague training plan. I even started a blog that covered running related content. But, running and I, although holding up a good front, had actually fallen out in a big way. I wanted to look running in the eye and say – “you let me down at London man” – and for running to say “sorry mate”. However, I am now out of the rut and I am pleased to share with you the ways running and I became friends again. Hopefully those currently in a stand-off with running will find some of these helpful.
I got a digital coach
I can’t speak more highly of getting a tailored training plan to suit your fitness and running style. To dig myself out of the hole I enlisted the help of Jason from Performance Coaching to help get me ready for the Ironman 70.3 I am doing in June. I am on the simplest package with an interactive coaching schedule that is uploaded every week with specially designed sessions to get me to where I need to be. My Garmin watch speaks directly to the app so Jason can see exactly how I am getting on and what my heart rate is doing. I am also free to email Jason with any concerns and he offers that guiding hand that I really lacked in the marathon when loosely following a generic plan I downloaded from the internet. I would really recommend getting at least a plan that has been tailored for you and works on the areas that have caused you to plateau in your fitness
I entered more events
The build-up and subsequent anti-climax of the marathon put a ban on me signing up to run in events for two whole years. It was like I had cancelled Christmas for myself. Instead of getting back on the horse – I went two years with no event ahead to give me a kick up the arse. Instead, training blurred into one long, purposeless exercise and I hit a fitness plateau which is basically like running purgatory. Now that I have lifted the ban, I’ve gone the other way. In March alone I ran in the Silverstone Half Marathon, the Richmond 10k and the Energy Takeover 10k from adidas. All these events reminded me that running is meant to be fun, sometimes with friends, sometimes alone, an occasion to work towards and something to learn from. I was the 16th female in the Richmond 10k which for me as big as winning the general election. The dog days were over!
I changed my routine
Going freelance as a sports-writer and editor has had a really positive effect on my running. I now no longer cram in exhausted sessions after work or at 6am. I know running at 6am is meant to be glorious but all I remember of those sessions is orange lamp-lit obscurity and getting tracked by urban foxes. I only ever had time to do a 5km which isn’t my distance of choice. These days I can take a break from my desk in the middle of the day, run for an hour (in daylight!!!) and then get back to whatever masterpiece I am working on. I’ve also learnt that the world won’t explode if I don’t check my emails every 30 seconds and that I could be using my time more effectively. This option is obviously not available to everyone but work out what times of the day you can run and use that time wisely.
I got stronger
One area I struggled in was building additional strength in the rest of my body to support what I was doing in my runs. I now mix in a 30 minute yoga or pilates session a week, normally via Youtube at home. Pilates in particular has done such good things for my core and I just feel stronger and as though there is a invisible force holding me in the right place when I am running. There is a lot of hip strength work in pilates that has also translated to my improved performance on the bike. In my role as editor at sportstylist.com I was able to train with Yoga expert, Tara Stiles the other day, the morning after a half marathon. I was unbelievably stiff but it really loosened me up.
I got over it!
At the end of the day, if you bring too much stress and expectation to your runs as I was doing for so long, you will only be disappointed. Stop comparing yourselves to other people and set your own goals. I was putting pressure on myself to get times that I had never got before, just because that’s how fast I thought I should go. Now I have a bit more realism, I am running because I enjoy it and I am getting quicker for all the reasons above and also because I am just more relaxed and every session, good or bad, is still a small step in the right direction!
I now need to get to this place with my swimming and cycling for the half Ironman!
Photos by: Christopher Parsons.