Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lessons learned: Go with the flow

Over the course of my half-marathon training I plan on sharing little tidbits on lessons learned and things I hope to do differently during my training for the April half-marathon. The first one, and probably the one I will have to work the hardest at doing this time around, is to go with the flow.

In general, I'm a pretty go-with-the-flow kind of gal. I don't really make lists (except at work, but I need to stay organized somehow!), I like to take things as they come and handle them as best I can, and I think others would say I'm an easygoing person. When it came to my training for the first half-marathon, however, I was...how shall I put this?...a nutcase. I pretty much let it rule my life, and that is really NOT the way to go.

I actually saw something in the "Ask Miles" section of February's Runner's World that reminded me of how I was when I was training:
Uhh...NOT the one about chomping energy bars. The other one. I swear.

I'm definitely on the same page as Miles: I'm sure my Exact Mileage Syndrome had to do with the fact that I was new to running and was channeling my nervous energy into something I could control. But when it comes to training, look at it as a guideline, not a rule. Except for the long runs. Those you have to do - even Hal Higdon says so!

Like my training program for the April half-marathon, I used SmartCoach from Runner's World and determined that I would have to follow the program to a T in order to finish the race successfully. No matter what, I would run the number of miles it told me to, on the days it told me to, at the pace it told me to, and no one could stop me. I pretty much pushed all the social aspects of my life aside and focused solely on training.

Here's how it would go most weekends:
Hey Margaret, do you want to come to a happy hour this evening?
No, no I do not because I am TRAINING for a HALF-MARATHON, thankyouverymuch.
What about dinner in the Lower East Side?
Oh I don't think so, I need to have a very particular ratio of carbohydrates to protein in my meals and that restaurant just won't do.
Can you come to your best friend's birthday party?
OK, I'll come, but I won't drink and I won't stay out very late because I have a VERY LONG RUN to accomplish in the morning.

Man, I must have been a BLAST to be around! Sorry friends! I promise I'll be more fun this time around!

Anyway, as you can see, I basically let it rule my life, I missed out on a ton of fun summer activities, and I allowed it become a stress in my life instead of something to look forward to.

So here's my advice: Chill out. Go with the flow. Have fun. If you miss a workout, don't beat yourself up over it. Use the pace suggestions as a guide, but if you want to go a little faster or slower, that's OK. Don't let training be the reason for not doing something. (Unless, of course, you need an excuse to get out of something. Then it's totally acceptable.) Even if you're a person with the most Type-A personality in the world, don't stress out over your training guide. Yes, the point is to finish the race, but with the long runs on the weekend and a couple of runs during the week, you'll be able to do that, and you'll be able to have fun while you're training.

That's one thing that I've really noticed since my race in September. While I've been running without training for anything specific, I've come to the realization that running is really fun! When you don't put any pressure on yourself, you'll be surprised at how fun it can be. I've gone out on runs saying, "If you have to walk, that's OK", but I end up having so much fun running that I don't even think about walking. It's a really great feeling!

So that's one of my goals during this round of training: Have fun.

Hopefully I can do that for the full marathon training, too!


  1. margaret, i love you and i think this is so great. i also used to think 'i can't run' and then found out that actually i could. i've been a bit of a slacker though lately and am feeling my post-christmas belly bulge growing ever larger as it is now february and i haven't gone on a run in months. this is encouraging and i am determined to make it to this gym this week. can't wait to hear how you do and how things develop! good luck! xx jen

  2. Great posting! Very witty, and all too true... Not that I'd ever be guilty of all that...