Finding Inspiration: Recharging the Legs and Mind

Can you stay motivated to train for big goals year round?

Capitola Wharf

For most runners, it isn’t easy. The high mileage, intense workouts, and sacrifices that are inevitably made to enhance running take their toll after months of focus. You can’t be “on” all the time – mentally or physically. If you try, you’ll find yourself over-trained, injured, or without motivation to reach your best performances.

After the Philly Marathon on November 20th, I found myself uninspired to train. I was mentally tired from the fatigue of marathon training – the 80+ mile weeks, 22 milers, and consistent double runs. The personal sacrifices I made to run 2:39 were significant and I just wasn’t ready to get back into hard running. Plus, I’m not entirely sure what I’ll be training for.

Physically, I fared well after Philly. Unlike the NYC Marathon in 2008 which resulted in my epic ITB injury, I had typical post-marathon soreness. I took almost two weeks off, healing almost every tight and sore muscle.

While I felt pretty good, I had a sore left glute that made my IT Band tight. It wasn’t nearly as bad as my 2008 injury and I still ran frequently. But my heart wasn’t into it – I didn’t want to train (it being the holiday season didn’t help) so I didn’t rush my recovery.

What’s the Ideal Marathon Recovery Window?

Read any running or marathon book and you’ll find that 1-2 weeks is suggested as optimal recovery. But this only takes into account your physical recovery. Months of marathon training might necessitate a few more weeks of mental recovery so you can get back to your running with renewed vigor.

If you choose a week or a full month to rest and recover from your marathon, know that it will be deeply personal and depends on a lot of factors:

  • the length of your training cycle
  • your experience with the marathon
  • the time of year and your personal commitments
  • future goals

For me, I found that 4 weeks was plenty. Now I’m ready to start training, build on my fitness, and train for shorter distances in the spring of 2012. My recent vacation to California with my wife’s family helped recharge my body and mind to find new motivation in my running.

Sometimes, all you need is a change of scenery. I was able to train near Seacliff State Beach in Aptos, CA for five days, enjoying a small network of trails, great weather, and a little bit of barefoot running.

The stunning cliffs, gorgeous beaches, and relaxing runs were the perfect reminders that running is my sanctuary. I’m ready to go now!

I hope the images from my mentally rejuvenating trip help inspire you to attack 2012 with renewed enthusiasm.

Strength Running HeadquartersStrength Running Headquarters… too bad the internet didn’t work

Pistol squats near the beachPistol squats on the Pacific

BeachTime for barefoot work!

Uphill TrailThe uphill path from the beach to a great network of trails

Cliff ViewThe view from the top of the cliff

TrailDirt single track. Perfect.

Technical TrailGnarly trails

Train TracksI outran a train here. No big deal.

SavannahIs this California or the Savannah?

View from CliffHeading back down the trail to the beach. Treacherous…

Lessons from a “running vacation”

Taking a break from “real” running and just enjoying yourself is a great way to reinvigorate your body and mind for hard training. There’s no way to generalize for every person, but here are a few ways to keep your leisure runs truly relaxing:

Get rid of that Garmin! Run by feel and time, not by distance or pace. Who cares if you’re running slow or covering 4.9 miles instead of 5.0? Do what your body wants, not what your watch tells you to do.

Take in the scenery. It’s okay to stop and look around while you’re running. How do you think I took all these pictures?

Don’t do any workouts you don’t like. Hate tempo runs? Forget them. Can’t stand intervals? Who needs ’em?! Focus on what you enjoy and what energizes you. For me, that was a little bit of barefoot running, core work, and easy running.

Skip a day or two (or more). You don’t have to cram workouts in to a vacation or break in training. So if you feel like taking a recovery day – or a string of recovery days – take them without guilt.

Don’t freak out about diet. I certainly indulged a little this Christmas season, but I used some strategies to limit the damage. Check out my holiday eating guide for some of my tactics. Some folks found it so helpful it even got featured on Lifehacker!

Now that I’m back to civilization with cell service and internet, I can’t wait to refocus on Strength Running and my own running. I have big plans for 2012 and I hope you do too!

What big goals do you have for next year? How can I help make it your best year yet?

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