I did a workout today. I didn’t run far, or fast, but I did run. My brother, who I’m usually able to push in a workout, was kind enough to jog alongside me as I was huffing and puffing. Getting outside and working out on the ground has been a long time coming since I figured last spring my hip had been hurting all year from a torn labrum. It took three months for me to get surgery, and another 3 months until I could start running with my full body weight.
I have had a hard time getting motivated when I am so out of shape and the future is uncertain. Am I going to be able to get back to my pre-injury fitness? How soon? If I don’t run fast this spring, how am I going to get funding for training the following Olympic year? How am I going to pay for medical support and travel?
You may already be happy with your level of fitness, but if you are struggling, here are my tips for staying motivated when you are feeling discouraged:
1. Get People to Work Out with You: I’ve conned all sorts of people into running with me on my easy days and workout days from the people I usually run with to long lost friends while home in Minneapolis. On workouts I either do a shorter set and less reps of the same workout (60 sec hills when Katie Mackey and Brie Felnagle are doing 80 sec hills) or just hang on the best I can, knowing I’ll fall off quite a bit (5-4-3-2-1 with Elizabeth Yetzer).
2. Run on the Alter G: Anti-gravity treadmills are becoming more and more accessible. Many physical therapy offices are getting them for patients returning to walking or running. The Alter G allows you to run/walk at a selected percentage of your body weight. For example, my first run back was a 8:30 pace at 75% of my body weight, for 25 minutes. This allowed me to run without the full impact of my body weight.
3. Practice imagery of Long-term Goals: My fitness is so far away from where it needs to be in order for me to accomplish my goals, I sometimes just want to quit. My goals seem impossible to attain, so why try? I’ve been practicing imagery, sometimes laying down and sometimes running, of me racing the steeplechase at major meets this spring. I get excited because I love the feeling of racing strong, but it also allows my mind and body to reconnect with why I’m going through the hard, unglamorous work of getting back in shape.
4. Switch Up Cross-training: I need to cross train, even while transitioning back to running, in order to keep my body healthy. Too much running too soon would likely end up in another injury. I supplement my running with low impact aerobic fitness. I get bored always going to the elliptical machine, so I make sure to switch it up with cross-country skiing (while in Minneapolis), swimming, and biking. These other activities take me more planning, but it’s worth it not to go crazy in the gym.
5. Keep a Training Log: It’s easier to go out for another work-out if you know you are improving. Keeping track of your mileage and work-out splits will let you see how things are improving. Maybe you were able to run 5 extra miles this past week, or you were able to cut your 400m splits by 1 second. Either way, I get motivated by numbers.