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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  1. Perfect timing for this post for me – I’m still in a funk after my first half marathon in October, even though I’ve knocked about 2 minutes off my 5k time running without any tempo runs or intervals or major long runs, go figure.

    My goals for 2012 are to break 2:00 in my next half marathon in April, and to break 22:00 in a 5k by Aug 1. I was all ready to start training on Jan 1, but we have a ski trip the weekend of Jan 5 so your vacation description of has inspired me to wait until after we get back and then go all out!

  2. Welcome to California, Jason! Although I’m in Southern California currently, I grew up in Northern California and know those places you were at–good stuff, and you gotta love that weather we have here! 🙂

    Good post, too–this definitely speaks to my own situation: my A-race was in October, the Long Beach Marathon, and I had races each of the following 3 weekends. It was a brutal schedule, and I definitely needed the break in November! For me, I concentrated more on easy short runs, ditched the interval training, and got back to running with my dog (who I sadly had to leave behind on a lot of my marathon training runs), and enjoying the scenery in the trails around the area. I definitely needed that recharge, and now I’m back into the swing of things in December. This will be my highest volume month ever, with over 200 miles logged, and I’m looking forward to a strong 2012.

    Have a happy new year!

    • Hey Kurt – you’re certainly setting yourself up for a great 2012 with a huge December. Nice work. And running with your dog must be great! Having some company, human or otherwise, is a great way to have fun and not fret so much about every detail on your run.

  3. My halfway decent first year of real running – this last one – has me targeting my first year of competitive running. I stumbled in to an ultramarathon coach, somehow, and actually training has made a world of difference. This is as much a matter of personality as anything, but for me, having a purpose to my actions makes them more fulfilling. Trail running, as you experienced, is the perfect antidote to training boredom; and so that’s what I train for. Of course, I’m logging some track and treadmill time as well, but if 2012 goes according to plan, I won’t race on pavement once. As for my goals, I’m trying to avoid worrying about where I place. Rather, I’m targeting times, and increased fitness. First up: Trail 50K, around 4:30.

  4. “I outran a train here. No big deal.” Hahahaha. I love it! I really enjoyed this post Fitz. Great pics and great writing…per usual. 🙂

  5. After roughly 4 years away from the sport, I ran the White Rock Marathon in Dallas this month and feel more energized about my training and racing than ever! I’ve already planned a couple marathons and trail races in 2012 and actually look forward to the training as much as the racing! I’ve found a lot of inspiration on this site, as well as watching vids about some of the great ultrarunners out there right now – Kilian Jornet, Tony Krupicka, the North Face teams, etc.

    My main goal is to run a 3:20 marathon this year, but my 2012 isn’t so much about the destination as the journey. To enjoy each run, whether it be trail or track, and just be thankful that I can run, is what it’s really all about for me. Even in my late 30’s I believe my best running days are still ahead of me and I want to be sure I enjoy every one of them! Thanks for a great website and best of luck to you in 2012 as well.

    • The journey is just as important as the destination. If you hated to train, why race? Good luck in 2012 Chris!

      • Oh I didn’t hate training before, I guess I just didn’t appreciate it as much as I do now. It’s funny what a little age and experience will do for you! Of course I may be singing a different tune if we have another summer this year in Texas like the last one (70 days of 100+ degree temps)….then it’ll be time to take my own runner’s vacation to Colorado or something.

  6. I seemed to have a delayed funk – never really wanted to take the time off, and did enjoy pushing some workouts, but had trouble getting above 50 miles / week, generally hit the snooze button one extra day / week. Probably needed the sleep, and things hit the wall on vacation when getting out postdusk to run was exceedingly tough. Now to remotivate I’m starting my marathon training a week early, and looking forward to doing so.

    • I actually did too. I was so energized after Philly to train since I had done well for me, but was physically unable to with all the soreness. Two weeks later when I started running the magic was gone…


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