Confession: I am not a patient person.
Some of you reading this just laughed and said “DUH.” This is really not a secret about me. I like things done immediately, I like instant results, and I don’t like waiting. It’s not that I’m not willing to work hard for something, but I get frustrated easily if I don’t see changes immediately. Truthfully, this trait has served me fairly well in most areas of my life. I am an action person. I decide to do something and I do it, and get it over with sooner than later even if I don’t like it. There are a few things I procrastinate about…like laundry, or cold calling for work. But overall, I would say being impatient works for me.
Except when it comes to training for a marathon and trying to lose weight. Then it works NOT AT ALL.
These things require CONSISTENCY over an extended period of time to see results. This directly contradicts my impatience and has resulted in a) me remaining at the back of the pack while training for the marathon in 2018 and b) gaining 40+ pounds over the past 9 years and never being able to get it off permanently again.
Yes, I trained more for Boston in 2018 than I had ever trained for a run before. But was it consistent? Did I give it 100%? If you had asked me that last year I probably would have said yes. But looking back, and comparing it to this year, the answer to those questions would be a hard no.
We get a plan from the coaches at the beginning of the season. Basically the training consists of 4 runs each week–3 during the week on our own and 1 longer group run on Saturday, with cross-training and rest days. The mileage gradually increases over the weeks, and includes hill runs and tempo runs (runs where you are running at the speed you plan to on race day). For example, our training plan this week is:
Monday: 4 easy miles
Tuesday: 4 miles with hills
Thursday: 2 mile tempo with 1-2 mile warmup and cooldown
Friday: Rest or cross-train 45 minutes
Saturday: 8 miles long
Sunday: Rest or cross-train 45 minutes
We are also supposed to work in foam rolling/stretching.
Last year, I figured as long as I got the mileage in, I was doing what I was supposed to. So if that meant skipping the runs on Monday and Tuesday because I was too busy and doing 8 miles on a Wednesday to make up for missing a 4 mile run on Monday and Tuesday, that’s what I did. It wasn’t always like that, but it definitely happened regularly. I also didn’t do hills every week, and I literally have no recollection of EVER doing a tempo run–maybe it happened, but I don’t remember it if it did. Most importantly, I NEVER cross trained. Not once. And I didn’t foam roll or go to yoga to stretch out all those sore muscles.
And guess what? I felt like I was dying on almost every long run. My feet hurt the entire run. My back hurt all the time. I would come home from long runs and barely be able to walk for 2 days afterward. Even though I was working harder than I ever had before, I wasn’t seeing changes right away and it was super frustrating. What I didn’t realize at the time was that it was the CONSISTENCY of doing these runs on the days the coaches instructed us to, with the mileage they instructed us to, and the cross-training on the days they told us to, etc. that eventually would add up to a strong race day.
Of course, I learned the hard way that not following the plan was a bad idea. I think it was mid-February and I had had a niggling pain above my knee for about a week or so. I had been to an orthopedic doctor earlier in the week to make sure I didn’t have a stress fracture or anything like that and had been cleared to run. I can remember being toward the end of our 17 mile group run and literally having to will my leg to lift up to run when we stopped at a stoplight because I was in such bad shape. At the beginning of the following week during a run on my own, I felt a sharp pain in my thigh above my knee. I kept running despite the pain (another thing the coaches had told us not to do) until it was so bad it was actually making me cry. I was afraid I had a stress fracture after all. Come to find out when I went back to the ortho and saw a different doctor, the X-ray I had had at my previous visit would not have revealed a stress-fracture, so I needed an MRI. I could barely walk. It was bad. All that training, all that fundraising for Boston Children’s, and now I wasn’t going to be able to run?
Long story short…I had the MRI and thankfully, it wasn’t a stress fracture. It was a thigh splint. But if I had kept running, it could have turned into a stress fracture, and that would have required surgery to fix. So…I finally started listening to the coaches, only now it was on my modified plan of physical therapy, aquajogging, biking, and going to the chiropractor 3 times a week. No running for at least a month, and there still wasn’t a guarantee that I would be ready by race day. By the time I was healed, I had missed 5 weeks of training, including the 21 miler (the longest we run before the actual marathon) and the taper had started (for non-marathoners, this is a reduction in mileage in the 2 weeks before the marathon to let your body rest a little). I made the last 8 mile run with the team, but without having logged that extra mileage in the previous 5 weeks, I had no idea if I would be able to do 26.2 miles on race day.
Race day came and I survived, but it was painful. Not because of the thigh splint–that was fine. But I really just wasn’t prepared. Combined with the freezing cold temps and rain, it was like pure hell on my body running that day.
That’s why I resolved to do things differently this year. It’s well-established that I’m never going to be a fast runner, but I needed to improve substantially on an almost 6-hour marathon and not get injured in the process of training. I was also SUPER unhealthy and needed to get back in shape not only to make running easier on my body, but so I can be around for many more years for my daughter. I set a goal of running Boston in under 5 hours and I made the following decisions:
- Follow the plan with as few adjustments as possible, including cross-training (I try to do it 3 times a week instead of 2) and foam rolling
- Get a nutritionist to help keep me on track with healthy eating and hopefully some weight loss (you’d think it would be easy to lose weight while marathon training…no. You’re hungry ALL. THE. TIME.)
This means scheduling everything ahead of time so I can ensure I run on the days I am supposed to, planning my cross-training workouts at 5 am to make sure I get them in, and planning out meals and tracking my food religiously. I also have a running journal where I track every run and make notes about what I ate before, what I wore, the weather, how I felt during it, etc. so I can see what works and what doesn’t over the next few months of training. I’ve been putting aside excuses I can make and am just doing all of it, whether I feel like it or not on that particular day. Probably the biggest change, though, is that I am giving myself some grace and not beating myself up if I don’t see immediate results.
And get this: all this consistency is working.
I first noticed it at my first run back with the group a couple of weeks ago for our 5 miler. I WASN’T THE LAST RUNNER TO COME BACK. IT WASN’T HARD TO KEEP UP WITH MY FRIENDS. I ACTUALLY GOT TO TALK TO THE COACHES DURING THE RUN BECAUSE I WASN’T WAY AT THE BACK OF THE PACK.
Then I noticed it with my recovery times. MY BACK DOESN’T HURT AFTER WORKOUTS. I’M NOT HOBBLED FOR DAYS AFTER ANY RUNS OVER 5 MILES.
Then I noticed it this week lifting weights. I DOUBLED THE WEIGHT I WAS USING FOR DEADLIFTS COMPARED TO 6 WEEKS AGO.
I’ve also lost 6 of those 40 extra pounds in the past 6 weeks. So that doesn’t suck.
The thing is, if I were going for a quick fix again and hadn’t accepted that I needed to be PATIENT, none of these changes would be happening. I would have kept with my same old patterns and had the same outcomes as before, if not worse. In the past, I would have given up by now because the changes hadn’t been drastic enough. Instead, I am excited to see the cumulative effect of all this hard work come April 15th.
“It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It’s what we do consistently.”
I’m running the Boston Marathon in April 2019 with the Boston Children’s Hospital Miles for Miracles Team and have a goal of raising $15,000 by race day. Your contribution in any amount is appreciated! Click here to donate!