Realistic Running: Being Mindful of Where You Are

As a woman relatively new to running, I often find myself comparing my progress to others. I see other people flying down the road with ease, and the voice in my head tells me I should be able to run faster, go longer, and tackle serious mileage each week. When my legs get tired or I’m out of breath, I get frustrated because I expect my body to be able to do exactly what I want it to do. The problem is, I think my body is smarter than I am. When I increase my mileage too quickly, and my legs are aching and flimsy, my body is telling me to slow it down (and/or do more strength training). I need to be able to recognize the difference between when I need to push through, and when I seriously need to pull back.

This is especially true for my half-marathon training plan. I ended up changing to a new one because the original one increased my mileage too quickly. While it would have been perfect for me this past summer when I was running 6 miles at a clip, I had to admit to myself that I was biting off too much at once. After taking a couple months off this fall, I needed a plan to go off of that eased back into the heavier mileage totals. This is one that I switched to:

My New Half-Marathon Training Program

This is actually a training plan a friend recommended I look into, and I feel it is a better fit for me. Unlike my previous program, the Prevea schedule is a little longer and more gradual in terms of mileage increases. I believe it was actually developed for people planning to race in the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon this May. They have other schedules to refer to if you’re interested, and can be found on the race’s website.

What I’ve found since starting to train for the half-marathon is that many of these training programs claim to be designed for “beginners,” but then have you running a 5 mile day the first week. I believe the term “beginner” is completely relative. You might be a beginner in terms of never having raced before, but still able to run an 8-minute mile without breaking a sweat. Or you may be a beginner who has never broken into a jog a day in your life. Either way, you need to find a program that fits your fitness level. In my case, I wasn’t new to running, but I hadn’t ran more than 3 miles consistently in the last 3-4 months.

If you’re starting a program, don’t just pick a program and go with it. Take into serious consideration your goals, and be realistic. Also, be willing to stray from the program or modify it to fit your needs. There might be a day when running 10 miles just isn’t going to happen. Maybe your body needs to rest. Maybe you’re just not into it that day. If you can’t make the full 10, split up your run by doing 5 in the morning and 5 later in the day. Just give it your best, but remember that your best will change from day to day.

Be mindful of where you are in your training, listen to your body, and make adjustments accordingly. Know when to push yourself harder, and when to ease up. Find a balance.

Have you used a training schedule to prepare for a race or goal? Did you have to make adjustments to your training? I’d love to hear from you!

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6 responses to “Realistic Running: Being Mindful of Where You Are

  1. For my first half marathon in October, I did follow a training plan. We used an “advanced” plan even though I really was a beginner, so we did alter the plan to fit our needs both in terms of ability and time. I probably pushed myself a little harder than I would have wanted to because of the plan, but it worked out and I had a first half marathon time that I was very proud of.

    I do completely agree with listening to your body though. If you are sick or just need a day off, I think it is important to do that!

    • That’s awesome that you were able to push yourself a little harder and end up with great time! I definitely don’t think it’s a bad thing to go harder because clearly it can make you improve – kind of like running with someone who’s faster than you. You might struggle to keep up, but in the end you might be faster than you would be otherwise. It sounds like you totally knew what you could handle, and made it work for you!

  2. I don’t follow a strict training plan, except for long runs. I know I need to do those on the weekend, and that I need to keep adding a mile every week. Other than that, I stick to a consistent plan of running 3 days a week (4 counting the long run) at about 3-4 miles each, sometimes five if I feel like it. As you said, it comes down to how your body is feeling- you need to push it a little bit to improve, but not so much as to compromise yourself. Most people also need to make adjustments based on work, family schedules, and what not.

    Thanks for linking to my blog, Kristen! I look forward to following your great work here!

    • Running 3-4 days a week is great! I’m lucky if I can get 3 runs in, but I think once things with school level off I’ll be able to increase my running days. It sounds like you’re definitely consistent, and also flexible. I feel like every runner has a different method and philosophy, which is good because we all have different goals and needs that we want to make sure we’re meeting. Thanks for the comments and good luck with your running!

  3. This is a great post! You make a lot of valid points. When I was training for my first half marathon, I followed a 16 week training plan to the letter. It resulted in my peaking too early and getting sick 2 weeks before the race. I’ve now learned that I can’t run more than 3 or 4 times a week. For me, strength and cross training is essential. It’s a little bit trial and error, but eventually you figure out what works.

    • Oh that stinks that you ended up getting sick before your race, but I’m glad that you found out what works best for you! I agree that doing other exercises are important. I think a lot of runners neglect strength training and wind up getting injured. Thanks for reading and for your comments!

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