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Getting into the groove

BOLD STATEMENT ALERT… I believe I have the answer to keep you motivated, your training consistent, and ultimately help you to create a healthier relationship with your running!

It’s been 24 weeks since I broke my fibula rolling my ankle in the woods, and it’s 17 weeks since I’ve been back running. I really feel in a groove with my running right now. I’m enjoying it. Not every session of course, but overall my running (and training) is complimenting my life, not hindering it.

Of course that isn’t always the case. As runners we can often be at loggerheads with the sport; the sport that we have chosen to engage in. Sometimes we can go weeks, even months, battling our lack of motivation to get our butts out of the door.

But then sometimes everything falls into place. We hit a groove. Training seems, well not effortless, but to flow, from one session to the next. Even those days that are a bit of a struggle, you just know that ‘sacking it off’ isn’t an option. You will push through the negative thoughts, lace up, and bank those miles as intended.

Well this blissful state doesn’t have to be left to chance. It can be orchestrated. I believe the key to being truly happy with your running is down to a combination of three main guiding principles that anyone can apply:

1️⃣ Meaningful and realistic goal setting.

2️⃣ Effective management of expectations.

3️⃣ Acknowledgment of progress, however small.

Let’s take a look at these in order….

Meaningful and realistic goal setting

The goal has to mean something to YOU; not your friends, your partner, your club mates, your neighbour’s cat…. YOU! Do you WANT to break 60 minutes in a 10K? Do you WANT to step up to a full marathon from a half marathon? Only you know the answer to these questions.

If the goal has a big enough meaning to you then you are far less likely to ‘throw the towel in’ when the going gets tough, which invariably it will.

The goal also has to be realistic given the timeframe you attach to it. This is key. The target you have set of going under 4hrs in a marathon might well be realistic for you, but is it realistic within the 6 month timeframe you have given yourself?

Effective management of expectations

While your chosen outcome may be possible, it is also important to understand (and accept) that it is exactly that…. a possibility.

There are elements of our training and preparations that we are in direct control of for example how often we run, how hard we work, our diet etc and then there are those elements that we aren’t in complete control – for example the weather, how we feel on a given day…. lockdown!

If we sit there on a Saturday night and expect the weather to be perfect for our long run on Sunday then we are certainly risking a big fat dollop of disappointment if Mr Rain decides to put in an appearance the following morning.

Managing your expectations of a training run or a race will also reduce the risk of you beating yourself up over the outcome, and increase the risk of you actually enjoying it.

Acknowledgment of progress, however small.

My first run after the injury was short and slow. It didn’t matter. It was the relative progress of once being laid up in a walking boot, unable to even flex my ankle, to actually wearing a pair of running shoes for the first time in 4 months and plodding gingerly around the local park.

Most people set outcome goals, but there are also huge benefits to setting process goals. Process goals are typically smaller targets that can help you to achieve your outcome goal.

An example of an outcome goal would be “I want to break 60 minutes in a 10K”.

An example of a process goal would be “I want to be able to do 15 single leg squats to develop my single leg stability, which will help me to break 60 minutes in a 10K”

Small steps of progression towards a meaningful goal, in a way, are more powerful than achieving the goal itself. By setting challenging but manageable ‘mini targets’ (process goals) en route to your main goal (outcome goal) you actually get that wonderful feeling of achievement more frequently than if you were just to focus all your attention purely on the ‘big day’. Caveat: As long as you take a moment to ACKNOWLEDGE those achievements.

With all races seemingly off the table for 2020 now is the perfect opportunity to go back to the drawing board, strip away old habits, and rebuild your running from the ground up. Just be sure to lay down these guiding principles as your foundation. 🧱

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