The mental side of marathon training is tricky. You want to be realistic, confident, and optimistic all at the same time. I feel like I get to a point in training where I am confident and optimistic but then I will have a set back that will make me doubt everything. Today’s post will cover some of the things I have learned about breaking through a mental wall in training.
The Cycles of Training
There seems to be a cycle, at least for me, during marathon training of how I am feeling about the race. Before I start training I am excited and have high hopes for the upcoming marathon. Over the first few weeks of training I continue to feel optimism. I try not to get too excited and I keep in mind that the training is only just beginning. About 3-5 weeks in I start to doubt myself. I think about how hard some of my runs are feeling and how much more work I have to do before the race. Then, if I’m lucky, I make it to the taper.
If I have had a few good long runs I am usually back to feeling confident. Then, during the taper everything falls apart. I question every aspect of my training and convince myself that I am injured or or on the verge on an injury. Sometimes I feel like I am losing any fitness I had gained while training. I doubt any chance of reaching whatever goal I had for that race. Then race day comes….and usually I am happy with my performance. Sure we all have some bad races but its usually more due to issues on race day than problems with the training.
This particular training cycle has already led me to experience self-doubt. Here I am, for the first time, creating my own training plan. Even though I am following the plan that I came up with, I am constantly wondering if it will be enough, or if its too much and I will end up overtrained or injured. I know that I developed my plan based on what I have learned about my training in the past. I am also following advice I have taken away from the RRCA coaching course. The key is knowing my own body and how I am responding to the training. Even though I have been hitting my goal paces, I have no idea if that will truly translate to a good race time.
Past training cycles
One thing I like to do to quiet my self-doubt is to think about about past training cycles. Where was I in the beginning? What did I do for mileage/speed/workouts? How did I feel during the race? Usually doing this helps me to see that I am on the right track with my training.
Optimism and Motivation
Another way to stay optimistic is to boost my motivation. I may be super motivated before I start training but as the weeks go on I lose sight of my goal. I like to think about how good it feels to accomplish a goal, look back to races that went really well, and read articles/blogs about running motivation.
Keep it all in perspective
I think about why I am doing it all- and most of all remind myself that all of this is supposed to be fun! Typically while I am training I don’t mind making some sacrifices for training purposes. Even a 4:30 am alarm doesn’t bother me too much if I know its to get in a 16 mile run and get me one step closer to a good race. If that stuff starts to bother me, and I am getting “annoyed” by training, then we have a problem and I need to reevaluate things.
So I think its important to remember that mental walls are normal- both in training and while running. Take a step back and look at the big picture- and never lose sight of the goal ahead.
How do you break through mental walls in your training?