October 21 Athens Half Marathon is just ten weeks away, and my training is well underway. Well, it’s underway. Though I ran regularly during the summer months and enjoyed an adventure vacation — a week full of scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking and swimming — right before training began, ramping up my exercise schedule to keep pace with the training program has its challenges. It generally takes two weeks for my mind and body to accept the reality of vigorous daily exercise. I’m eating right, staying hydrated and getting plenty of sleep, but my hard-working muscles are tender and tired. It’s amazing how strength and endurance levels dip during the off-season.
Most difficult to master is my mind. When I’m good and warmed up, my mind says, Let’s go! I fall into my regular pace. And within 800 meters my cardiovascular and muscular systems have lost steam. It’s so important to build up speed and distance, to not attempt to go too fast or for too long before your body can handle the workload. That’s how injuries happen. And even though I know this, the knee-jerk reaction of my mind is to berate.
For me, mental training goes hand-in-hand with physical preparation. If you think you can achieve your goals, you will. But the other side of that coin is this: If you let negative thought patterns rule your mind, (I can’t make it up this hill; I have to walk, now!; I’ll never hit these split times; I’m too old to run this far; etc., etc.), you are already defeated.
Here’s what I do during a tough run: I concentrate on the gratitude I feel for these legs that hum with energy, that have carried me all these years and that still obey when I ask them to move with this much force. I celebrate my heart, pounding with ferocity within burning lungs, working together to send nourishing oxygen-rich blood throughout my body. And I feel thankful for the aches and the discomfort, without which I would have no gauge to measure the results of my training efforts, or to know I still have farther to go.
Last note: my IT Band has not been aggravated so far this training season. A mild burning ache started late in Monday’s track-repeats workout, so I reversed my direction. Running counter-clockwise on the track took the pain right away. During tempo and long runs, I try to run equal time on the left and right sides of the road. It’s always a bit nerve-wracking to run with traffic coming from behind me, but I’m super vigilant and I only run on the right side of flat stretches with excellent visibility. And of course, I continue to do strengthening exercises and stretches targeting my IT Band. Here are some of what I do:
And here is an excellent article from Runner’sWorld.com on the subject of IT Band injuries, called Strengthening Beats Stretching…
Okay, off to tackle this week’s long run. Thanks for reading! Wishing you a most happy weekend. Cheers!