Envision Yourself to Success

Over half way into my marathon training now and things are getting serious! After unwillingly taking a break from running for a week and just sticking to strengthening workouts, my knees have felt a lot more comfortable and I do not find long runs as daunting. I also invested in some knee supports which I know to be careful with and not rely on them but as the marathon is getting closer I am trying anything to ensure I do not get a serious injury at such an important time.    

So the running overall is back on track and I am feeling my confidence for the marathon is much higher than it was before. After a few weeks of slow runs, I finally had a week of runs which felt great, my legs were on form and the knees did not moan. I have been enjoying a few event runs while training because it is a nice change to the normal runs and of course the medals and t-shirts are always a bonus! My most recent one was the Penmaenmawr Big Rock run where I took part in the 10k and the 5k colour fun run. The 5k was the perfect warm down and so much fun! The day overall left a really nice memory and made me appreciate all the people I have around me also taking part in this marathon journey. Here are some photos from these past couple of weeks, been some amazing runs!

18472298_10155323936429530_2004131457_o
After the colour run! Photo by Isobel Trimble
18493130_10155323934754530_2059338176_o
Beautiful run! Photo by Nicole Brizell
18493368_10155323936689530_258657003_o
Medals! Photo by Nicole Brizell
17635538_10155997929148242_6258378399208796747_o
Run to the hills! Photo by Isobel Trimble
18175319_10155266624519530_2106881824_o
They keep me going! Photo by Isobel Trimble
18110028_10155266626234530_830547028_o
Run to the hills! Photo by Nicole Brizell

So as the marathon date looms closer, here are some mental preparation strategies I have been focusing on to pick myself up and keep my running head on.

Mental Imagery

Mental imagery is a great way to mentally prepare yourself either for a race or even just a training run. It can even be used while on a run, for example I find that when I am struggling, I will visualise a time when I had a really good run and I had other people there to motivate me and I find it not only distracts me from the current pain but pushes me to carry on. So, for example Wayne Rooney was known for asking the clubs kit man what the teams kit was going to look like the next day and the purpose of this was to enhance the accuracy of his psychological preparation. He stated that he would visualise himself doing well in a game and to put himself in the moment properly he needed to know what he was wearing so the vision was more detailed and authentic. I have started doing this myself, more so for races, planning my outfit for a run and then before going to sleep imagine a run going well and there is something about the accuracy of the outfit and place that helps with a positive mindset on the race day. It’s a good way of getting your body used to performing under pressure. Sports psychologist Dr Steve Bull explains that everything down to the sound, sight and smell is important when using imagery. Preparing mentally is just as important as physically preparing yourself, it can improve confidence, focus, clarity and speed of thought. The more vivid the mental image is the more effectively the brain will prime the muscles ready to complete the image that has been produced. Sounds all too good to be true I know but not only have I experienced it myself but science even suggests this works. It was found that visual rehearsal triggers neural firings in the muscles and creates a mental blueprint that can help with future performances.

Self-talk

Another one of my favourite strategies that I have found to work for me in positive self-talk. This can be related to anything in life not just exercise, I use it often when in work and doing university work. When it comes to my running, it usually involves me shouting in my mind that I can do this or not long to go! Things as simple as this can work for positive self-talk. People use self-talk in everyday life without even realising it however this is where I find I can give myself negative self-talk without even realising it. More so when I am having a bad training run I will tell myself I cannot do anymore or I may as well give up. Telling myself this makes the run a lot worse and often when I get to that stage I just want to stop running. There is a way to develop a positive self-talk dialogue that will naturally occur when you run into a problem and it just takes practice. It starts with having a good mantra, mine is as simple as “you can do this” which I usually repeat over and over. Once this becomes the automatic phrase to go to when the going gets hard, you can then start expanding positive phrases for yourself. Again, for me, hills are the devil and unfortunately with where I live they are everywhere. Which also means I have pretty much ran up and down most them so when I’m having a bad day and come across one, instead of giving myself a break and walking, I tell myself “you know it’s doable, you’ve done it before”. Going back to visual image, using these positive phrases with an image of yourself doing that certain hill well, it creates a positive message of belief to yourself which is honestly the most powerful combination you can have. 

I recently read in Runners World about a study done by Samuel Marcora which looks at the effects of self-talk on endurance performances. In short, volunteers did a cycling test to exhaustion, half of the group then got a two-week self-talk intervention before doing the test again. The group that got the self-talk intervention improved and managed to last 18% longer than the first time. They found that they could convince themselves that they could last long and that it felt easier as it went on. The self-talk they used was like what I mentioned that I use before, statements such as “push through this” and “feeling good”. They found however planning what your motivational statements will be beforehand benefit while exercise otherwise you are more likely to slip into negative self-talk. 

Overall these few weeks have been more about training myself mentally and telling myself I can do this! Lets see what the next few weeks before the marathon brings.

The Power of Grit

Weeks 7/8

These past couple of weeks have been a difficult one in regards to my training since the half marathon. My knees since the Anglesey Half Marathon have still not fully recovered even with following my runs with a foam roller and stretches. My new goal for the next month is to build up on my strength as I can see now why it is so important to have strong muscles to be able to keep up with the amount of running I am doing.  My main focus is to build the muscles in my quads as they control the movement of the kneecap and hip muscles as they stop the knee from dropping inwards. Many online articles have some great exercises to follow for it but I have personally been using Runners World and 220 Triathlon.

I am finding my motivation for the runs has slowed down mainly because of the pains I have been faced with and I keep not wanting it to push me down but when even a small 3 mile run feels hard on my legs compared to two weeks ago when I would be happy to run 10 miles and then work a shift the same night, it does make you feel as though you’re either moving backwards or not at all. However, this just showed me I have to review my training plan and work out where I may have gone wrong.

Success & Grit 

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAbFAAAAJDg4NGYxZTcyLTc1YWMtNDEyMC05ZDY1LTdjNzA3OTIwODI3OQ
Credit: The Real Truth About Success

On a similar topic, friends and family have approached me to tell me how well I am doing and how they wish they could achieve the same. Not to say I am not proud of myself on how far I have come so far however it leads me to the picture above which is titled The Iceberg Illusion. Related to my own experience when I see this picture it makes me think of when people see me posting my pictures of races I have done where I have beat personal bests or in general training photos with the glorious sunny weather with some of my fellow classmates.However they do not see the harder times, the times my alarm goes at 6am for a run after working a night shift and I lie there debating whether its all worth it. The times I find even the shortest of runs a struggle and beat myself up for it the rest of the day. The social events given up so that I can get a good nights sleep and a clear head for another run.Yes, you could share all these things but who wants to see that? Better in thinking that someone is naturally talented in that way.

“Most of what I try fails, but these failures are often invisible, while the successes are visible.”

Johannes Haushofer

Leading on from this, working hard for what you want is also known as having grit. Very strongly researched by Angela Duckworth, she focused her work on grit and self-control. Grit means to have a strong interest and put a lot of effort towards a very long-term goal and self-control is the ability to subdue our impulses to achieve a long-term goal. Research was found that on average people who are more “gritty” had more self control however the link between these two is not perfect. You can have people who had no self-control but were very gritty whereas others showed little grit but high self-control.

My long-term goal is to finish the Liverpool Marathon and I would say I am personally passionate about it because it is something I have always said I have wanted to do and I want to show myself I can work hard for something when I want it enough. Showing I have grit is also by overcoming any setbacks that come my way which for instance right now is aches and pains. The main way I can overcome these is by not giving up completely and reviewing my training plan to work around my injuries and building myself back up. I took the grit scale test and came back with 3.20 which I am rather happy with! Having grit is not just important for people doing sports but can be used in any aspect in life in order to become successful.

What I aim to work on next… 

Cadence

This means the number of steps per minute while running. Researcher & coach Jack Daniels found that 180 or so is the best cadence to aim for while running as it minimizing over-striding, has less impact on the legs and maintains forward momentum.  So after reading this Runners World article on improving cadence, I am now following the steps to finding out what my current cadence is and training myself to stick to one that is right for me and hopefully notice some differences in my running form which could lower the risk of making knees and legs any worse.

Improvements

So considering I thought this blog was going to be completely on what was going wrong at the moment, I have actually got some small improvements that have been noted. I never really had a problem with my heart rate being too high however it is motivating to watch as my resting heart rate slowly goes down the fitter I become and also very interesting! Below is a screenshot from my Fitbit app which shows my resting heart rate in the last month.

17547256_10155169877054530_1896126459_o

Overall I think these couple of weeks have been a good learning point for me. This is my first time ever training for  a marathon, of course I wont get it perfect the first time, of course I am going get bumps in the road but it’s helping me learn more about my body and mental determination in ways I have not before.

I hope you enjoyed reading and will carry on following me through my journey!

 

 

 

 

Half Way There & New Hobbies?

Its been the week of slow runs and cross training this week! Last weekend (5th March) I completed my second half marathon! Not only did I get to see my course friends there I got to do it with my Dad which felt great to have someone as supportive as him with me. So lets begin with how it went – I beat my last time of doing a half marathon by half an hour! I mean I was hoping to get sub 2 hours however I was over by a minute! I am still very happy with how I did especially with the horrific weather we were graced with that day which was constant rain. I usually prefer to run in the rain but I think it took me by surprise how much it could affect me while running. The first 10 miles with the rain was rather cooling, however the last 3 miles I noticed the cold, my legs were feeling tight and I felt like they would not move any faster no matter how much I willed them to. Post run it took me what felt like hours to actually warm up again and get colour into my body. I recently found out I suffer from Raynauds disease and my hands were especially not a healthy colour for a while! As some of my training runs will be longer than the half I have looked up for any advice for running with bad circulation and found an article from the site Another Mother Runner on advice for people with this disease who will be outside running a lot. I would say the main one I would do next time is wear a hat and gloves! The wet hair was not helping so a hat would of been a lot handier.

Other that this I actually really enjoyed the half and I am v17311690_10155127786159530_427925514_oery pleased with my time. I have had some issues with my knees again this week however so I have been at with the wonderful foam roller again and trying not to push myself too much. As my runs have not felt too pleasant this week and i did not fancy missing out a week of training I decided to take up a new hobby that could also be a benefit to me which is rock climbing! I have always wanted to get into it as I lack upper arm strength and also wanted something different than going to the gym! It is definitely something that I am going to try attend once every week and will report on my progress! As I mentioned in my last post my new smaller goal is to build up some strength so that my body can handle the longer runs easier and speed myself up on shorter runs.

On that note I mentioned starting to go sprinting which I did with two of my classmates this week! I did a sprinting session with the class two weeks ago and found it very hard but exhilarating at the same time so was looking forward to the after feeling of this session as well. I noticed I was not as tired by the end as I was the first time we did it which is a good sign and I felt I worked a few different muscles that had been on a break throughout the longer runs.

Following an article on Runners World, this week I am hoping would of been beneficial to me because recovery is the most important aspect of training and as much as I would like to go outside and run, I would rather not give myself an injury so I can not run at all!

The goal for the next week is get back into the swing of my full training plan as I would say the legs have had enough rest from the long runs now and I’m reading to get my miles in for the week! Hopefully my next post I will have picked up on my speed and smashed some personal bests! Wish me look and thank you for taking to time to read.

 

 

Foam Roller Life

Weeks 4/5

So the aching has begun, I was feeling like I was not working hard enough and although it could of backfired I decided to up my miles on week 4 went for my first 10 mile run of my training which definitely was challenging considering the I had jumped up a few miles from my actual training plan however looking back at the run I managed a steady pace and did not feel much muscle soreness after! However my next training run I noticed some complaining around my knee and after some searching and asking around came to the conclusion that is was most possibly Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS).

The Runners World site has become my go to bible at the moment and wrote a couple of articles on ITBS that may be interesting for any other runners our there! In their article they state that ITBS is a common injury which many runners can come across while training.  The iliotibial band is the ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh from the hip to the shin and this can be become tight or inflamed when overused. The IT band is attached to the knee and helps to stabilize and move the joint so of course when this is not working very well it makes running very painful. I was lucky in that the pain was something I could still run through that day and I had noticed it early so I could begin to start doing something about it before it really affected my running. After reading running articles on foam rollers and then seeing it for myself, i have come to realise how important they are! It has become my best friend which i use after runs, before i go to bed and even my rest days. I noticed a big difference after around a week of doing this and the tightness seemed to have calmed down.

The weekend of week 5 saw me complete my first race event of my training which was the Rhyl 10 miles! After my knee mishap earlier on in the week I was worrying that I may have to give it a miss and try do a shorter run but after a few slow and short runs I felt they had recovered enough for me to try again for a longer one. Sure enough I felt great afterwards! Even though the last mile was still hard I defiantly noticed a difference in my endurance than the 10 miles I had ran previously.

16996062_1616066951741116_6600110437895301562_n.jpg
My hair did not agree with the 40mph winds… Credit: SteveJefferyPhotography 

I have got into my head that my training runs are not fast enough and I need to start getting my pace up however after looking it up out of interest I found a few articles, one by  by Jeff Gaugette a fitness column writer, in particular to be perfect for what I was feeling. The main line that sticks out for me is “It’s better to be 90% prepared and 100% healthy than 100% prepared and 90% healthy.” which I definitely need to keep in mind sometimes when I am kicking myself about not going fast enough or not doing enough miles one week because I would rather not over-train and get injured at this point of my training. It goes on to explain how you could run slower than your potential on your training runs and still see improvements in the long-run. It was described as “banking” the miles so to speak.

Decide on a new small goal which will be to add a sprint session once a week instead of one of the weekday runs. I feel my motivation could start to struggle slightly if I keep it all the same each week so I thought this could mix it up a bit and give me something challenging as sprints are not my strongest or my most favorite workout!

The half marathon is next to come!

Training/Goals/Motivation

Let’s start with a brief history of my running. I have always been an active person and running has long been a side hobby of mine which started with doing the Race for Life events yearly and a couple of years ago even decided to enter the Chester half marathon. Since that event I have not been as focused on just running, I starting enjoying just high intensity training. So I am very excited to start my new module of my third year university called Born to Run which focuses on motivational psychology and by the end of the module we are going to be running a marathon! The aim is to put into practice the theories we will be learning about during the module. As part of the module we are going to be writing these blogs which will follow our training and showing how we are putting these theories into practice and show improvements or downfalls along the way.

smart_1
Credit: Red Blogs

So this first post is going to be focused on my goals. American psychologist Edwin Locke has studied the power of goal setting since the late 1960’s.He found that if the goal was too easy then the motivation was less likely to be there, this is because motivation is channeled through goal-directed behavior so in order to stay on track and be motivated you have to set goals that are suitable for you and ones that you know you are likely to achieve but also challenge you otherwise you can easily be demotivated. In order to do this I have planned out some SMART goals. I started the Born to Run module saying I wanted to just finish the marathon and that was my goal however after a couple of weeks I decided to be more specific with my goal in order to motivate and push myself harder. I decided I wanted to finish the marathon in 5 hours or less. An article from Competitor.com gives some tips on how to stay motivated along the way and one of them that I have definitely found works in the past is to have some many different race events planned. I have followed with this and also set time goals for each run so that I can see how well i am progressing and also make one long term goal seem less daunting. Along the way I have many race runs planned which I have set time goals for so that it keeps up my motivation instead of having just one long term goal which can be daunting.  For example I plan on doing the Anglesey Half and set up on finishing this in 2 hours or less. I chose this time because when I completed the Chester half I finished in 2:30 so it will feel great to beat that time.

So how were my first couple of weeks of training?

So to start with I am using the walkjogrun training plan as I liked the idea of running by time in the weekdays and doing a long mileage run on the weekend. Plus I added my own cross training workouts but I did not put these down as a must do, if I simply did not have time to do them I did not worry too much, my main goal each week was to get the miles in. I work part-time on top of uni so my training plan has to change weekly to fit in with my work schedule which so far has worked out fine for me so far.

training-plan
A small screenshot of my training plan

The first couple of weeks I did not push myself to any extent and tried to see how my body responded to getting back into running fully. The aching has not begun yet but lets see what happens in the next few weeks as I bring up my training! Thank you for reading and I hope you will follow me on my marathon training journey!