Training Without a Goal Race

With lockdown, most of my planned races have been cancelled or postponed. Those that are still scheduled to go ahead may get cancelled too. It’s unsettling and it can make you want to stay inside curled up on the sofa rather than to lace up your trainers. Why would you want to go out and put in the effort if there’s no race to train for?

Although I felt relief at some race cancellations because I wasn’t going to be ready for them, my winter training having been very hit and miss, sadness and disappointment took over when my summer races ended up cancelled too. I reached a stage of ‘what’s the point anymore?’. My 2020 racing season was pulled from under me. The races I sign up for are the reasons I get out to train. It’s why I get the bike out of the shed in spring, why I brace cold water swims in early summer and rainy/windy/muddy runs in winter. Cancellations & postponements all over the place are throwing my careful planning and everything else in the air. And it doesn’t feel like it’s quite over yet. Which got me thinking. How do I keep motivated when the external goal post keeps changing? How do I keep motivated when my goal races have been cancelled?

So how do you motivate yourself to keep going for a run?

1. Sign up for a new race

person holding Rock N Roll St. Louis half marathon medal

The vast majority of the races scheduled for the autumn are still in the calendar, and a number of spring/summer races have been postponed to that time of year. As training for a race is usually my biggest motivation to get out of the door and do that dreaded interval run, if you’re anything like me this is definitely an option to consider.

I have two races still in the calendar (end of August and mid-October), and I’m considering adding a 3rd one to keep me accountable.

β†’ Variant: virtual races

If like me, you’re not sure any of these races will actually go ahead or that you’ll be able to get to the start line if you’ve been silly enough to book something abroad when this used to be an easy thing to do… Virtual races are the next best thing. I’ve taken part in a couple, and the thrill of pushing for a Personal Best (PB) was something I missed so far this year. So you get a bit of the excitement of a non-virtual race, get a couple of friends to sign up too πŸ˜‰

Which leads me nicely to my next tip:

2. Weekly Challenges / accountability group

Find some running buddies and work out weekly challenges. For me, this started with a Lockdown League organised by a local running club, which gave us a weekly distance or time based challenge, with a result table and all. It gives us a reason to go hard or go long each week. Having a team with friends in the league, sharing our achievements or disappointments together, made these challenge runs something I was looking forward to each week. It kept me accountable but it kept it fun.

So much so that now the league is winding down, we’re looking at keeping this going through the summer, deciding our own weekly challenges. If you fancy joining us, just let me know. The more, the merrier!

3. Big personal challenge

woman walking on pathway on top of hill at golden hourIf you’re not a big fan of having to be accountable to others, and someone else choosing the distance or time you should be aiming for, why not plot your own personal challenge?

Is there a distance you’ve been wanting to run but never dared sign up to an actual race for it? Is there a time you’d wish you could beat on one of your favourite distance? Or you simply want to see how long or how far you can run? Be bold! Set yourself with an ambitious challenge that excites you but also makes you slightly nervous, because you could fail. That’s the sweet spot. Be realistic with the training you need to give yourself the best chance and set that date in the calendar when you’ll run it. It’s your challenge, go for it!

I’ve personally set myself a challenge of how far I can run in 12 hours. To be run between end of August and mid-October, exact date to be defined when my race calendar firms up or vanishes in the next month or so.

4. Run for fun

If none of the above appeals or works for you, go back to basics. Remember your why. Why do you go out for runs in the first place? It could be to relieve stress, to get you out of the house for some ‘me’ time, to reset, to wake up or to wind down, for the rush of endorphins and the feel-good feeling post-run, to feel some fresh air on your skin, the warmth of the sun on a beautiful evening or the cooling of the rain on on grey morning.

Whatever this is for you, this is what’s important and not on what shows on Strava. You may have a slow run, a fast run or something in between. It may be 15 minutes or 60. All out or with many photo stops. Or anything in between. Focus on the present and the fact that yes, you did get out of the door today. That’s an achievement in itself.

5. If none of this works

Be honest with yourself too. If running isn’t doing it for you at the moment, explore other activities. It’s a hobby, not a job. You’re not always going to have good runs, some will be downright unpleasant but you shouldn’t dread every single one of them.

If you’ve lost your mojo, there’s no shame in taking a break and exploring other activities.

Summer’s a great time for cycling and swimming. A lot of lakes and reservoirs are reopening around the country, this could be a good time to try of the most invigorating activities I know πŸ˜ƒ

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And if you have other tips, let me know!

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