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How To Stay Motivated During Race Training

Amy Mangueira | 24 January, 2022

            How To Stay Motivated During Race Training

You signed up for your spring race (or got into Boston - YAY) and now it’s February and you're starting to hit that “unmotivated” streak. This streak is amplified 110% if you live in a place where the weather is cold. I will never forget the year that I was training in Chicago for the Tokyo Marathon. We had a polar vortex which basically meant that I couldn’t go outside to just get the mail. So running was not an option. I remember having to do a 2+ hour treadmill run that day. I felt like the hardest thing ever - and how I was so unmotivated during this time.

Regardless of what your list of reasons includes, now is the most important time to stay strong and persevere through your training. You are almost there - and think about how great it is going to feel to get through that finish line. You can do this.

Since we are all human, sometimes it helps to have tactics in our back pocket to help when the motivation runs dry. Here are my favorite tips to stay motivated so you make it to the BIG day:

1. Find a captivating podcast or eBook, reserved for running only (no cheating)

While I was super late to the game, during one of my most unmotivated 6 weeks of a marathon training block I stumbled uponSerial - OH MAN! This story following the case and trial of Adnad Syed helped me to pass hundreds of miles. While I found myself wanting to listen to it around the clock just like a great Newflix binge, I made sure to reserve it only for my runs. That had me jumping out of bed at 5:00am ready to go.

Some of my other favorites include:

2. Reward yourself

As runners, we are strong negotiators with ourselves. During speed days we will come to an agreement that if we get all of our speedwork done, perhaps we can shorten our cool down. Or if we get all of our training in this week, time for a donut. No matter what your negotiations include, one thing is true: you are at a critical time in your training and you need to put in those miles. With that, I find that rewarding yourself can be a very good tactic to get you out the door. 

How I approached this was on a bi-monthly basis - every 2 weeks. I made a list of things I would never normally do for myself and started down that list. I found myself working for mini-milestones like getting a Hydrafacial, going to the mall for a new outfit, or buying a shiny new pair of running shoes. I remember hitting a lull about 6 weeks out from the Chicago Marathon which was going to be a HUGE PR for me (I didn’t totally believe it was possible at the time). I had gotten a cold and it was just extra hard training. I told myself that if I didn’t miss a workout leading up to race week I was going to splurge on theNike Vaporfly Next %. And I did it - and ended up running Chicago in these bad boys.

3. Adjust when necessary

Flexibility is the name of the game when training. Life happens - we don’t sleep very well, we get sick, we are run down, work throws curveballs, we have to travel. We can try to plan all we want but sometimes, adjustments are going to be necessary. And that is ok. If I listed all the adjustments I have made over the past 10 years running, we would be here all day. With that being said, some popular adjustments can be:

  • Moving around your speed days
  • Changing our speed work for easy miles
  • Doing your long run in 2 parts - either half in the morning and half at night or part of Saturday and part on Sunday.
  • Getting out there for time vs miles
  • A cross training replacement like biking, rowing, etc.

Sure, we want to try to stick to our training 95% of the time, but things happen. And if we can’t adjust, it only amplifies our feeling of being unmotivated.

4. Journal

Journaling is a really helpful, habitual way to stay motivated or atleast become aware of what may be causing your unmotivation. I find that having a training log is really helpful to get me through my current cycle, but to also use for a lookback heading into another training cycle. 

My journals show that I always hit a lull around 6 weeks from race day. That allows me to be prepared for it, as well as mentally try to put some protocols in place to push through it.

Because I become very focused on this training log, getting out the door to complete the miles so that I can log my progress provides that extra bit of “umph” I need. Once my run is done, I come in and journal immediately logging how I felt, what was hard, where my head was at, etc. I also make some plans for my next run - things I want to work on or try for mental toughness or whatever tactic I am trying to focus on. I promise that this one really helps and can lend itself to a really great part of your race strategy.

5. Become race day obsessed

This one is my favorite! Just like every bride out there getting ready for their big day, you also can become race day obsessed which helps you to stay all in. So what does that look like? First, get your calendar out, find race day, and start marking your training weeks backwards until you reach today’s date. Now you can see how many weeks are left - that is always FUN (and sometimes scary which increases motivation). Next, plan out a race day planning activity for each week. Things like: flight, hotel, restaurant reservations, celebration post-race day, expo time & packet pick-up, activities leading up to race day, massage appointments, and what you want after the race is over (i.e. a medal holder to hang this beauty, a way to remember this special moment, a massage because you are so sore, etc.)

The time is going to fly the more you are able to immerse yourself into this planning. Seriously - give this one a try.

Hopefully one of those (or maybe several) will help you keep that motivation heading into race day. And one more thing: You’ve already come too far to only come this far. There is so much more. You’ve put in so much work - remember that. Get after it and what’s to come will be life changing - those finish line feels. Can be experienced only.