You wake up and look outside. It’s a grey, drizzly, miserable morning. Typical British weather. You have a session or a run to do. Now, quite a lot of people would say oh I’ll give this one a miss. I’ll stay in bed. Staying in bed seems a much better, more enjoyable option, but when it comes to training for me, and many other athletes, NO is NOT an option. Whatever the weather, it has to be done. If the body feels fine, the weather isn’t a barrier.
I don’t deny that at times it is hard to motivate yourself, and you may not be particularly looking forward to the session or run ahead of you, but not doing it is never an option that runs through my head. I may find some days harder than others, but I still love what I’m doing, and the overall enjoyment outweighs the struggles. I would never not do my training. It is not an option in my eyes. It’s just a case of preparing yourself mentally for it.
I hear a lot of people say they have been so busy they haven’t been able to fit any running in. This may be the case, but to me, my life is organised around training. However busy I may be, training has to be fitted in. I may have to wake up slightly earlier, run at lunch, or later in the day, but it gets done. If it is something you truly want to do you will find time to fit it in, no matter how busy you are. My brain doesn’t work in a way that would ever mean I wouldn’t fit it in. Nothing stops me getting out of the door, it is just not the way I am programmed. One day may be more of a mental struggle but it is never a battle about not doing it. It will be done, it can just be a case of when. I am fortunate enough to work that way.
You may be thinking; how does my brain work like this when staying in the warm and watching a movie is undoubtedly a kinder option. Yes, I love doing that too, but the enjoyment I get from training, and working towards my goals is much greater. Once training is done, I can sit still until my heart is content, but when it is time to go, it’s time to get out the door. Looking at what else you could be doing doesn’t help motivate yourself. Look at ways of seeing the training you have to do in a more positive way. This way the comfort of your bed won’t win the battle.
Here are a few tips that work for me when I need a boost of self-motivation:
Find out ways to trick your mind. Approach a run in a different way. Tell yourself it doesn’t matter how far you go, how long you go for, all that matters is getting out of the door. This way, before you know it you will have done exactly what you intended to do in the first place. Just by convincing your mind you don’t HAVE to do what you planned, all of a sudden what you were going to do becomes a whole lot easier. You realise your strength and are able to push yourself when you didn’t feel able to.
Mix it up a bit. Change your route, introduce intervals into your run, do something different to make it that bit more enjoyable. Incorporate easy running with faster bursts and you will find time races by. By breaking down your session into smaller sections you are able to focus on overcoming the barrier of each interval rather than only seeing the initially distant finish. Additionally, a change of route can make a massive difference. Introducing new stimuli and new views gives your mind something else to focus on, other than what you are doing. Unless you are like me and completely switch off and don’t even notice what you run past, this will give you something new to focus on.
Find a friend! Having other people to run with can also help make time go a lot faster. All of sudden, you have been chatting away and half an hour has gone by. By holding a conversation you are able to stop your mind paying attention to how tired you are or how long you have been going for, and it all becomes a lot easier. Try to find someone of a similar pace to you, this way you won’t become frustrated by having to slow down for them and you won’t become demotivated if they are considerably faster.
Although I don’t personally ever listen to music, it can be a good way to occupy your mind. If you are someone who finds running ‘boring’ at times, music can help to add some interest to it. I for one enjoy the quiet, and use running as a chance to shut my brain off from all the chaos of life. Everyone is different though, so if you think listening to music will help you, give it a go!
Finding a few different ways to mix up your runs can make a massive difference. NO is NOT an option, just find ways to get around the mental barrier you may be facing.
Maintaining weight whilst training regularly can be a constant battle. What goes in usually ends up being expended. Therefore, it is difficult to ensure that enough fuel is put in the tank to avoid weight falling off. It is a struggle, but I am learning, and thankfully I am now at a stage where weight loss is not a problem, as long as I keep on top of it. My focus is on maintenance and if I put on a few pounds, it only acts as a security blanket to injury. Ensuring you are eating enough doesn’t have to be a chore, it can be enjoyable. It is what you make of it. I always believe it is better to eat more than you need than not enough.
So what do I do to ensure I keep the weight on?
Healthy fats. Nut butter, in particular Almond butter is something I now swear by. Not only is it high in calories, it is also super tasty!
I apply lashings of it to toast in the morning, and a large tablespoon to porridge oats, dip apple in it, mix it into yogurt. The possibilities are endless. Nut butters are such a good way to increase your calorie intake without even noticing. Avocado is another life saving ingredient. Served with eggs, on its own on toast, in sandwiches. I often use it as an alternative to butter in sandwiches as I don't like butter.
Lots of calcium. I am very conscious of taking in enough calcium rich foods. I had convinced myself I didn’t like anything with calcium in it, and stripped my diet of it. This was not a good move! We need calcium to maintain a good level of bone health. Calcium rich foods have now become my friend. I eat yogurt in tablespoons multiple times a day and I even eat it with curry. I add feta to pasta, I drink milk after every session and if I haven’t fallen asleep, I have another glass just before I go to sleep! One of my favouriteeee things is the homemade rice pudding my mum makes. So, when I’m lucky enough to be home for the weekend, I ensure I get a big batch made. It’s creamy heaven!
Carbohydrates. This has always been a food group I have never scrimped on. I LOVE carbs, and so should everybody else. Carbs are not something to be feared of. To us long-distance runners, they are golden. I eat carbs at all 3 meals of the day, and I wouldn’t ever not do that! If a salad is what you fancy, it isn’t complete until you have a nice, crispy, fresh loaf to go with it in my eyes. Otherwise, how is that supposed to fill me up?! I eat a lot of grainy bread, pasta, rice, you name the carb and I probably eat it! One, because I enjoy them, and two, because I need them. Carbs are not a ‘bad’ food. No food is bad, you just need everything in moderation and more of the foods that are going to repair and protect your bones and body. Carbohydrates help provide us with slow releasing energy, vital for long-distance runners.
This is just a little insight into what I do. What works for one person, may not work for another, but these are a few things I have found have helped me. There are lots of other ways I make sure I get enough nutrients throughout the day, but these are the key things I do.
How do you keep the weight on whilst training? Would love to hear from everyone!
It’s easier said than done. Some days are good, some are bad. Some days are a struggle, others are a breeze. But it happens to all of us. None of us are gifted with the prospect of having a fabulous day everyday, but, personally, I wouldn’t want that. It’s the difficult days that make us stronger, and shape us into stronger athletes.
My journey to BUCS XC has not been a simple one. I've battled with severe anaemia, being majorly under fuelled, and injury. At each of these points I could’ve stopped. I could’ve said enough was enough, as pulling out of every race halfway due to weakness was not what I had envisaged for myself. I battled back from the health difficulties only to be hit with a physical one. I knew the journey wasn’t going to be easy, but I was never going to give up. If I want to succeed within the sport, or anything in life, giving up is NOT an option.
There were points at which I doubted myself and thought I would never get to where I used to be, especially after my injury, but my love for running prevented me from ever giving up. If I did give up, I would never have got to be on this journey of seeing where I can get to. It’s tough, but it’s exciting. The hard times make the good ones even better and more deserved. Who knows where this journey will take me, it may be where I want, it may not, but unless I give 100% I will never know!
Since coming back from my injury I had always felt like I was holding myself back in races. My self-confidence when racing hadn’t quite been there. But I told myself at BUCS XC last Saturday, I had put in the hard work and stuck with it when it may not have been easy, so if I can do that, I can put all the hard work into this race. Being only 6k I knew I didn’t have time to get into my pace, so I would have to push from the word Go. And I did. It was a true cross country race, and hilly to say the least, but, I loved it! I felt strong up the hills, and was able to use it to my advantage and overtake. I can honestly say I didn’t give up, I gave it everything. To have beaten my first performance at BUCS XC by 352 places shows me that every last bit of hard work was, and is, worth it. If I put my mind to it, and want something enough, it is achievable. I had no markers going into the race, but would’ve like top 40, so to come away with 18th was beyond my expectations!
It just goes to show, you don’t know what’s round the next corner, so never give up.
This Saturday will be the first time in exactly two years I have pulled on my university vest. To be quite honest my memories in the vest aren’t the best, but I hope to set them straight this weekend at BUCS XC.
My first two BUCS XC experiences have not gone well to say the least, but let’s hope it’s third time lucky. To simply finish the race in one piece, with a smile on my face is all I am aiming for.
My first ever university cross country in first year was disastrous. It wasn’t until over a month later I found out I had been suffering from severe anaemia! No wonder it felt so difficult. I remember setting off on the start straight, only to be elbowed in the head on he first corner. Now, this would not phase me, but when you are tired, under fueled, and weak, a hit in the head is the last thing you want. The course that year was a relatively good one, speaking from present day me, but the Hannah two years ago, struggled to run 100m at any sort of pace, let alone in thick mud. I remember vividly making it to about 2k and seeing my mum and brother on the side and bursting into tears. I didn’t have the strength to compete in that sort of field. My mind felt it was capable of so much more than my body allowed. I went to the edge of the course, collapsed in my mum’s arms, only to be told, I had to get on with it. This was the sort of thing I needed! Tough love goes a long way!
She said to me… 'no one cares where you come, but for yourself, finish this race.’
'no one cares where you come, but for yourself, finish this race.’
And I was so pleased I did. Whilst my positioning is irrelevant, and I now know exactly why I ran so badly, I am forever grateful I finished that race. Sometimes we do races to prove to ourselves we are mentally strong enough. Whilst we may have the physical strength, it is the mental strength that matters the most. Although at that time, I did not possess the physical strength I needed, my mind did not let me give up, and I am so pleased I didn’t!
Surely the second year must have been better? Umm, definitely not. Whilst I did not stop halfway round the course in tears, that would’ve been an improvement, as I didn’t even get to the start line. Yep, you guessed it, I was injured. I spent the race as a spectator. I do believe spectator duties are essential for all athletes to do, as it allows you to see what you are missing, and I doubt I’m the only one who thinks this; but, it motivates you! Even if I was broken, it made me stronger going and watching everyone else race. Plus, it wasn’t uneventful to say the least. Following the massive mud/water ditch… my boyfriend came out with a dislocated finger. But, as should be done…he finished the race, then we drove straight off to A&E!
Yet again, last year I had the mental strength, but not the physical. My body had told me if was weak by breaking, yet my mind was eager to race.
Let’s hope this year is different. Whatever the outcome, I know I am going into the race, happy and most importantly, healthy.
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!