Part 1) Excuses Begone!
I have never overly enjoyed exercise. In fact, I might even consider myself quite lazy. The most active I have ever been was during my senior year of high school when I ran for the cross country and track & field teams that required 6 days of training a week. Although this may seem like a decision made by a very un-lazy person, do not be fooled by this façade. It needs to be said that those daily training sessions were nearly always met with dread- not to mention ridiculous amounts of sweat due to the humidity and an unhealthy amount of bug spray (I lived in South Florida at the time). I had never envisioned myself as an ‘athlete’ or someone capable of above normal amounts of exercise, or at least not without lots of complaining.
It has been just over 2 years since I was in high school, but the internal struggle of maintaining an optimally healthy relationship with exercise remains. I am very aware of the importance and benefit of an active lifestyle and I am regularly surrounded by incredibly motivated people working in an environment like Run4It. I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy exercising, or at least the feeling afterward. Whether it be runs on trails with my dog or on roads around the city, a sweaty gym class and some weight training, or some yoga and pilates. The hardest part for me – and I’m sure I’m not alone – is getting out of the door, making the time, and maintaining a level of consistency.
The decision to sign up for a half marathon (Edinburgh on the May Bank Holiday weekend) came spontaneously at the beginning of the academic year, when optimism was high and workloads were low. Never having long surpassed a 10k distance, I knew that slow and steady training would be essential and, like most recreational runners, the commitment of signing up would give me the incentive I needed to stay on track. Although steady progress is being made, more often than not I am still clutching at excuses to put off my runs. In order to better explain my stream of consciousness in these moments of weakness I thought I would list some of the elements that get in the way and techniques I’m trying to combat them.
Lifelong excuses not to run and how to beat them…
If it isn’t the wind and rain (or the terrible combination of both) it is the icy temperatures that freeze your face and hands no matter how warm the rest of your body may be. Aside from the discomfort of the cold, the danger of slippy roads can be enough for anyone to think twice about going out. I opt for treadmill sessions these days, or even running on grass and switching to a road-to-trail shoe for extra grip. Breathable half-zip tops with thumb loops that keep your hands warm are perfect for these cold days too because you can zip them down a few miles in for more ventilation.
- Short days
During the winter months, it can seem like a race against time to complete a run in daylight. I am not a fan of running in the dark, even with the obvious head torch and reflective clothing options. I’m lucky enough with my schedule that I can usually find enough daylight hours in the week to get my miles in, and with the days only getting longer this is becoming a lot less stressful.
- Lack of energy
After a day at University or work, the mental and physical fatigue can sometimes make the prospect of a run totally undesirable. I have started doing short yoga sequences when I feel sluggish like this to energise my body and clear my head. Afterwards I feel way more inclined to go out when my body feels looser and warmed up.
- Strict training plans
Following an existing training plan can seem attractive to feel more confident and prepared leading up to race day. I have been trying to stick to three weekday runs with one long run on the weekend. This has shifted to fitting in the longer run whenever my schedule permits, with some speed work on a treadmill also taking the place of midweek outdoor sessions. Being more flexible with training at this early stage helps the whole process feel a little less strict and disciplinary, which I hope will make training more sustainable.
Another thing I am trying is participating in group training sessions. This may feel intimidating at first but it really does push you to work a lot harder and adds a social element into an otherwise quite lonely challenge. The Run4It Edinburgh team are running a Spring in your Step Training Series with training sessions being held every Monday at 6pm until 2 April 2018, for those looking to take part in a structured training in the build-up to the Kilomathon (8 April 2018), Edinburgh Marathon Festival (26 & 27 May 2018) or any other Spring challenge you’ve signed up for. Head to the Events section on the Run4It Edinburgh Lothian Rd Facebook page to find out more.
Getting into the habit of training, just like any habit, takes time. I am starting to learn that motivation comes in waves, and so relying on a sudden burst of it is not enough. The inevitable approach of the big day, however distant, does loom over and force me to get out on those particularly frosty and lethargic days and the progress, however small, does make it all seem very worthwhile.