It happens to every athlete ‚Äì middle-of-the-packers, back-of-the-packers, and even professionals ‚Äì all go through phases in their athletic careers when they cannot get over the hump. That hump can be many different things ‚Äì stuck at a certain pace, can‚Äôt break a specific time goal, can‚Äôt get motivated to get out there, etc. But we must remember how good it feels to be at or near the top of our game and how much of a positive impact that has on all phases of our lives. Even if we may not be capable of setting a new PR every time ‚Äì and this may be to factors beyond our control such as age, injuries, etc. ‚Äì training consistently will allow us to realize these positive effects throughout our lives.
What inevitably happens to many of us each year is we go through a phase where we cut back our training significantly if not entirely. Obviously this is a good thing at some level because we all need a little break each year to rejuvenate the mind and the body. However, many of us fall into a rut that each year becomes harder and harder to get out of. When we do begin to ramp things back up again we feel much worse than we had hoped and tend to get discouraged. This is a difficult time and a point where many wonder if they can even get back to where they want and/or need to be for their upcoming race season (because of course we have already signed up for a dozen races that fill up 8-12 months in advance!). But don‚Äôt give up!
We have many things going on in our lives and we constantly have to wage the battle amongst these competing things ‚Äì family, job, community, training, etc. Balancing these many responsibilities is difficult and I always find that when I‚Äôm doing one of these things I feel guilty about not doing the others! If I‚Äôm working late I feel guilty for not spending time with my family or not working out; if I‚Äôm working out I feel guilty for not working more or doing something with the family, and if I‚Äôm with my family I feel guilty for not working more or training more. It‚Äôs a vicious and constant guilt trip! It becomes convenient and easy for us to use this as our excuse for not getting ourselves back in shape. Don‚Äôt fall into this trap!
Many of us have been training and racing for many years and many of us believe we know what we need to do to get to where we‚Äôre trying to go. However, I believe this can be a handicap to us as we struggle to get back on a consistent training schedule and one that will help us reach our goals. It‚Äôs easy for us to bag a workout if we don‚Äôt have someone else holding us accountable to our schedule and we can always use family or job commitments as our excuse. I would highly suggest getting a group of friends together to train several days a week, or join a training group(s) that meets several days a week. These training partners do not have to be at the same stage of training as you are ‚Äì I think this is where many give up on group training, especially if they are the ‚Äúslow‚Äù one. The key is that you will now have others that will hold you accountable if you don‚Äôt show up. It doesn‚Äôt matter if you all do each session together, in fact you may end up doing many of your sessions mostly on your own if the group is of varying fitness levels and varying race goals. But you will show up and you will be on your way to building one of the most fundamental aspects into your training ‚Äì consistency, i.e. Discipline.
To get you back on track, I would suggest setting a realistic schedule that isn‚Äôt going to leave you completely wiped out every day or at the end of each week. Build in one day off each week. Commit to working out for a minimum amount of time each day ‚Äì i.e. 20 minutes ‚Äì so that it‚Äôs reasonable enough that you can fit that in no matter what else is going on in your life that day. Build in two to three days each week where you try and go a bit longer. If you are more experienced, then I would suggest a concept I read about in a recent publication from Hammer Nutrition ‚Äì over the next 15 days commit to doing two workouts each day. To qualify as a workout a session needs only be 15 minutes long. Again, this makes it seem much more manageable and even two 15 minute sessions can be fit into a busy day for anyone.
If you‚Äôre feeling like you‚Äôre behind in your training and are questioning whether you can ever get back on track, just remember ‚Äì don‚Äôt ever give up! Get some training partners; create a schedule that will get you out there; make your sessions very manageable at first so you‚Äôre not overwhelmed and intimated by an upcoming session. After a few weeks of consistent training you will be on your way to reaching your goals for the season. You‚Äôll begin to feel better about yourself, you‚Äôll have more confidence, and you will get back to that magic place!