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Maintaining motivation

September 5, 2009

It’s only just September, but winter’s coming. You can feel it in the morning chill, the cold edge of the wind, the darkening evenings and the gradually accumulating piles of leaves on the pavement. The cold and dark months of the year will be the test of whether I can stick with running. These are my challenges and my techniques – only time will tell how successful they prove.

Challenge 1: The warmth indoors versus the cold, wet, dark evenings

The obvious barrier to running is the natural desire to stick to fair-weather running. Winter round here can be very cold and very uninviting, which is probably why I spend much of last year’s season firmly inside. Sticking with running is going to mean that I need to overcome this obstacle and keep up with my regime.

So, with this in mind, my plan is as follows:

  • Join a local running club. I’m trying out the Abgingdon Amblers on Tuesday, and if it suits me, joining up will be an easy way to motivate me to get out and running on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It will also help to meet some other people who run now that I’ve got to a point where I feel my times aren’t shameful.
  • Get some proper kit. The barriers to starting running in the summer are low – you just need a pair of shoes, shorts and a t-shirt and you’re away. In winter, you need something that’s going to keep you warm while wicking away the sweat and not restricting your range of movement. I’m feeling a bit of a spree at Sweatshop and Wiggle coming on…

Challenge 2: Maintaining focus

I’ve started to notice that there are fewer events in the coming months, which will possibly affect my current motivation strategy of having at least one run a month to target. So, while in the immediate future I’ve got the Headington 10km, Blenheim Cancer Research 10km and Frieth Hilly 10k to look forward to over September and October, November onwards is looking quite barren.

A few simple techniques should help me improve through the race-free months and build a decent taper training schedule:

  • Set challenging goals. This is where my personal development plan comes into play. Come December, I’ll review my goals for the next year – of course making sure that they’re achievable but challenging, and specific, measurable and time-related. I’ve met my targets for this year, and already have some idea of the aims I’ll be setting.
  • Look to the medium-term. To give a tapered training schedule a focus, I’ll need a big race suitably early in the year to build a sense of urgency and something to look forward to. I’m finding myself tempted to run my first marathon, and the Paris Marathon or the Edinburgh Marathon are looking like special enough events to make for a memorable first.  In addition to this, I’ll need to book in some early half marathons and 10kms, which should be easier to find through a running club.

Challenge 3: Illness and injury

I’m not often ill (although I’m writing this with a slight snuffle), and am not that susceptible to injury (despite my recent knee issue) – and touch wood that this continues to be the case – but if it’s going to happen, it’ll happen in the winter. As the office cold gets stuck in the air conditioning system, as it inevitably will, I’ll need to try to avoid letting it impact on my training. I’ll also need to make sure I don’t injure myself through running unprepared for the harsher conditions.

Less easy to prepare for than the other challenges, my rather less-well-formulated strategies are:

  • Concentrate on warm-ups. I’m terrible at not warming up sufficiently for training – often the first mile of my training runs will be hampered by the need to stretch out my legs. This needs to change to keep my muscles in good condition through the colder months, so I’ll need to build in more time for warming up and drills. And be disciplined in keeping with them.
  • Recognise the need for lighter training sessions. Like many people, I suspect, I struggle with motivation when losing momentum. One of the big dangers of the winter is that I will need to take some time out to recover, and then find the effort to get back into the swing of things more difficult than expected. To help with this, I’ll need to make sure I get back into training early after any enforced break, but take the returning sessions easy.

So, that’s my winter strategy. We’ll see how it works, and what needs tweaking and improving as the summer draws to a close and it takes more willpower to get out and about.

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