-- Marathon Running Information, Coaching and Advice from Coach Joe English

Training — Seven Ways to Tackle Tough Workouts #running

running-advice-bugSometimes you just have to do it. That tough workout that’s looming on paper in front of you. You need to get out and do it, but something is blocking you. Whether it be fear, anxiety, or just general fatigue, there are days when you just “don’t want to do it.” It’s times like those when you need to take choice out of the equation.

7 ways to tackle tough #workouts

7 ways to tackle tough #workouts

Let me tell you a story to illustrate this point. As you may know from reading this blog, I have had my own struggles with doing tough workouts lately. But last Friday my friend came over for a run. I needed to do intervals and I was going to bring her along for the ride. We walked out the door and I said to her, “we’re doing intervals today.” She grimaced and said, “oh, man.” But off we went and we both did them. The workout was tough, but it went fine and we were both happy afterward for completing it.

What I had done is taken the choice out of the equation for her on that day. Rather than asking, “do you want to do intervals with me?” I told her that we were doing them. Had I asked, she would have most likely said no.

Many people that come to us running coaches perform in the same mind-set. We hand them a daily plan and they just do it. If they were left to their own devices, they wouldn’t attempt the same kinds of workouts. They’d probably run a lot more junk miles and maybe even take more days off. But in the context of working through out plan, a “coach says so” attitude takes over and they just do the workouts that have been assigned. What they are doing here is removing their choice from the equation — or to put it differently, putting the choice in someone else’s hands.

If you need a boost in getting over some hurdle, let me give you a few ideas that might help. These ideas shift the personal choice decisions going on in your mind and make it harder to say “no” or take easier choices. In spirit of getting in the best workouts, try some of these:

Work out with a partner — there is nothing like a little bit of peer pressure to get you to perform. Rather than going to the track alone, go with someone. You don’t have to run the same speed, but just the sheer act of going with someone will likely get you there and get you going.

Run in front of a crowd — go to the track when the gym class is out there or a soccer practice is going on. You’ll be amazed at what kind of subtle pressure those watching eyes will do to motivate you.

Tell someone your workout — Tell you friend, spouse, girlfriend what you’re going to do that day. Even better post your workout plan on Facebook. “I’m going to try to do four 800s at the track today,” you might write. The motivation will come from the follow-up questions, “how did it go?” and the “I did it!” that you get to say back.

Follow a plan — There is perhaps no better motivation than checking a workout off a list. It doesn’t matter how complex the plan, having a plan and keeping track of it is the key. I have a calendar on the back of my closet door with very high-level goals for the month (e.g. “20 mile run, 8 track workouts, etc.) and I tick them off as I go. At the end of the month I want to be able to say I did what I set out to do and this simple tool gives me some motivation.

Run with a group — No one likes to be left behind. Running with a group is good motivation because “everyone’s doing it.” Just make sure that you are running with people of the same speed or faster than you or you will end up wasting the opportunity.

Use a Social App Media App — Using an app on your phone like Strava Run or Strava Cycle provides some on-line peer pressure. The app displays what you do and Strava even compares you to other runners. It’s like running in front of crowd, but without the cheering.

Get a coach — As I mentioned above, have a coach set up a plan that you follow makes you accountable to someone else. This is ultimately shifting the choice making to your coach, but it is a powerful motivation to feel you need to answer to someone else.

Try some of these things to help you get in those tough workouts. You’ll find that after you have a few successes it will become easier and easier to do the workouts and you won’t need these tools forever.

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon, USA
Running Advice and News


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  1. 1. The Five: Wednesday, September 25 | This Running Life September 25th, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    […] Great piece about not giving yourself choices in […]

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