Overcoming Training Challenges

Contributed by Erin Mink Garvey, a 2018 Ambassador for The Biofreeze San Francisco Marathon.

Ask any seasoned runner who has trained for their fair share of marathons or half marathons, and they’ll tell you that it’s inevitable that training will not go perfectly. Before you freak out and think that your race day goals are doomed, fear not!

Overcoming challenges during training will make you that much stronger – physically, perhaps, but definitely mentally – come race day.

Anticipating that training will not always go according to plan can make it easier to manage the hiccups that occur along the way. Things like illness, work obligations, family obligations, travel, or injury can throw your training off on any given day (or week). Sometimes, with a little planning and flexibility, you can control the variables that may send your training plan to hell, but other times, you just have to roll with it and do the best you can.

Take the setbacks as they come and adjust accordingly.

As a mother of two young children, I completely understand how challenging it can be to manage the demands of training for a marathon alongside raising a family, working, leading a household, and having a hand in roughly 1,000 other commitments at any given time. Believe me, I get it. This stuff isn’t for the faint at heart.

Tips That Helped Me Manage & Overcome Training Challenges 

1.) Write your training plan in feather. Whether you’re self-coached or paying someone to coach you, remember that every training plan is written in feather. Consider your plan an evolving, adaptable document that can help guide your training, not dictate it. Extenuating circumstances will inevitably affect your running, and it’s important to account for them. Talk with your coach in advance — or consider the circumstances when you’re planning your training — so you can work around them as they arise.

2.) Getting sick? Play it smart. You know what your threshold is. If you feel yourself coming down with something, you’ll know whether you can power through it or if you should get medical attention. Don’t be an idiot. You’ll be able to adjust your training accordingly, once you’re feeling 100%.

3.) Feeling an injury or niggle coming on? Play it smart. Again: you know what your threshold is. Very few runners will admit that powering through a worsening niggle, or a full-blown injury, was a good idea. I’d suggest nipping any niggles or small-scale injuries in the bud before they become something more nefarious by talking to a sports medicine practitioner or physical therapist. Once you know what’s going on (and have a plan in place), you’ll be able to adjust your training accordingly. You don’t want to be the fittest person on the sidelines of the race because you didn’t listen to your body. Again: don’t be an idiot.

4.) When work kills your running mojo, rearrange. We all have busy seasons at work, and sometimes it feels like the only way we can run is if we can find a 25th or 26th hour in the day. When that’s the case, cut yourself some slack. Rearrange your schedule if possible, perhaps allowing for time in the morning to run (because very few people have meetings at 5am or 6am). Do the best you can. Remember, your job — not your running hobby — is probably what’s paying your bills each month. Try not to stress out too much about your running because honestly, it doesn’t help anyone (or anything). The busy season will pass.

5.) Reinvigorate your motivation by running with friends. Finally, sometimes one of the biggest challenges to overcome during training revolves around tanking motivation. Believe it or not, sometimes you actually may not feel like running! When that happens, enlist the help of friends. Set up happy hour run dates — or bRUNch dates on the weekend — and go out and enjoy the miles at whatever casual pace you all decide. Allow the energy that radiates from the group to heighten your mojo. We all have slumps. You’ll get through it.

When you’re training for a big event like the San Francisco Marathon, half marathon, 5k, or ultramarathon, it’s practically guaranteed that something is going to go wrong somewhere along the way.

Do the best you can with whatever it is you can do, given your unique challenges and circumstances, and don’t dwell on what you can’t do.

Provided you’ve done most of your training more often than not, you’ll be able to safely toe the line come race day.

A little perspective can go a long way, and come race day, you’ll be able to revel in all that you were able to accomplish despite – or because of – all the challenges you overcame.        

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