The spring thaw is here (even if it DID snow on Monday) and with it comes the realization that our winter training maybe didn’t go as well as we would have liked. What with the polar vortex and near record-setting snow, the winter of 2013-2014 threw even the most-determined athletes into training spirals. Now with spring races right around the corner, many of us – myself included – are coming to terms with being not quite as race ready as we’d hoped.
So what’s a frustrated and still-sort-of-frozen athlete to do? Don’t throw in the towel. Here’s my top tips for recovering from the winter beating. Because even though winter sucked, your spring season doesn’t have to.
1) If you’re signed up for any early season race, consider thinking of those events as training, not racing. If you’ve been treadmill- or couch-bound, going balls-to-the-wall on the course may not be your wisest choice. Kicking it into high gear with out the base you need means you could wind up getting hurt in your first race. (Or even the first nice-day run of the year.)
2) Completely wipe the slate clean and start over. Try hitting the reset button and thinking of the training as starting now, even if you thought your training was starting in January or February. (Unless you’re one of the rare people who did everything you thought you were supposed to through this horrible winter. Do you weirdoes even exist?) Reframe your season as one that’s slightly compressed with different (or maybe even slightly less lofty) goals.
3) Don’t let your psychology overrule your physiology. It’s very tempting when going through a rough time – holidays, work stress, bad weather or whatever has held you back – we can start a stress spiral that makes any situation worse. Studies have shown that the psychological stresses we put on ourselves are more detrimental than physical inactivity that we feel is so harsh to begin with. Psyching yourself out is not only bad for your mental outlook, but it also affects your physiology. If you think: “I’m fat, I’m horrible, I missed too many workouts, this is miserable” then that impacts your hormones, your sleep cycle, your moods and your interactions with other people.
4) Give yourself a break. And not just because you there’s nothing you can do once a workout has been missed. You can’t go back in time. Dwelling will only make you feel worse. Enjoy the race or the training run. Soak in the fact that it was an achievement to simply get out there during less-than-ideal training. Try not to worry about your results. (I know. I know.) Take a deep breath and realize you’re still better off than a vast majority of the population.
5) Reframe your goals. Try to look for other ways you can still show improvement. Instead of worrying about your 5K or 10K time, try to have the quickest recovery you’ve ever had or try to run while maintaining the lowest heart rate you’ve ever had. Aim for the most consistent pace you’ve ever had, by not letting yourself stray more than five seconds in either direction from a pace. Remember: It’s still a goal you can work toward and then you give yourself the chance to achieve something other than a PR or a BQ.
As for me, I’m heading to the Big Sur Marathon on April 27, far more undertrained than I’d like to be. Instead of hoping to PR, my plan is to soak up some sunshine and see some friends and eat some good foods. I have no expectations of speed, time or anything else. My goal is simply to cross the finish line safely. Here’s to you crossing yours.