I love the blank slate that comes at the end of any period of dedicated focus, whether a distance training program, a 30-day challenge, or a specific fitness routine. I’ve been thinking of my focus for 2018, and with marathon training behind me, I get to start now with changing my focus.
I’m shifting from thinking in terms of goals to areas of focus. A goal is something specific and measurable. I’m taking a break from that. I want to get back to the joy of running and fitness instead of working toward anything specific. And I’m not putting a timeline on it. It’s starting now and will go into at least the beginning of 2018, if not all of the next year. I have four main areas of focus.
1. Eating Well
One of the things that did not go well for me during this past marathon training cycle was continuing to eat well. All my mental energy was focused on training, and I had nothing left to plan for and prep healthy meals. I started regularly eating unhealthy food I’d never normally eat, like candy and chips. I also ate mindlessly, just grabbing whatever there was in the house without thought. I caught myself halfway through training and got back to eating well for a few weeks, but then I fell off the wagon again. As a result, some of my pants are starting to fit tight again. But more importantly, I just don’t feel good about myself when I don’t eat well.
Since I stopped training, I’ve been doing much better with planning my meals and actually making real meals instead of just eating sliced tomatoes and a bagel. I’m excited to start cooking again and trying new recipes. In winter, I love to make soup and dishes with roasted vegetables. It’s the perfect time to get back to cooking and eating well.
2. Strength Training
I’ve always said strength training is my first love. It was strength training, not running or any form of cardio, that I credit with enabling me to lose 35+ pounds six years ago. I was at my leanest when I focused on strength training.
Running has taken over my life since then, with strength training becoming something I could rarely find time for. I know that’s contributed to my weight gain too. Plus, I miss the tone and definition I used to have. During marathon training, my legs got very muscular from all the running, but my upper body really lost definition.
I’m hoping that focusing on strength training gives me balance so that running doesn’t take over my life again, and also helps with weight maintenance.
I have a beautiful, well-stocked home gym and have saved dozens if not hundreds of different workouts from magazines. I’ve already started doing more strength training and am really enjoying it.
3. Active Living
I’d like to take more advantage of living where I do in the city to stay active, especially on non-running days. From my house, I can literally walk or bike to Washington D.C. (via a series of connecting rail trails). I have no reason not to take advantage of it.
First, I’d like to better use my commutes to work. This summer I got in the habit of biking to work because it’s so quick and easy via a bike path. But it’s so quick that it takes almost no effort and really isn’t a good form of exercise (though better than driving!) since the round-trip is only about a 5K. Walking a 5K a day, on the other hand, is decent exercise. I’ve decided that on non-running days, and maybe even on days I run, I’m going to walk instead of bike to work. This works better anyway because with winter coming, I won’t be able to bike in rain or snow. I’ve already started walking to work most days and have been enjoying it.
Second, I’d like to go on evening walks with my husband and dog. We do this a lot in the summer. But when winter comes, we tend to hole up inside during the evenings. There’s no reason not to get out though! Getting outside more in winter will be good for all of us, and it’s something we can do together.
4. Running for Fun
This winter will be the first in four years that I won’t be training. I look back at the old me who ran through the past four winters, and I don’t recognize her. The me who thought nothing of running in sub-zero temps? Who just put on a face mask when it got that cold and continued on with training? The me who wondered why other runners would switch to treadmills when running in winter was so awesome? The me who never got cold? I have no idea where that old me went or why, but she is gone.
I started struggling with the cold when the temps dropped into the mid-40s last month. It’s gotten unseasonably cold since then, and I just can’t seem to adjust. This morning, it was 30 degrees when I went out for a run. My legs were very cold the whole run, and my toes froze halfway through. And I was wearing the same sort of gear I’d usually wear. There’s no question my body’s tolerance for the cold has changed. I’ve become a cold-weather wimp!
The other thing is that the change of clocks didn’t help me at all. It’s still pitch black when I go out to run, and now the early darkness in the evening makes me really unmotivated to run after work, which is always a challenge for me anyway.
Given all this, I will not be training this winter! And I’m thrilled! I plan on running when I want to. I’m shooting for 3-4 runs a week, but I’m not going to make myself run when the weather’s bad. And I’d like to run more with friends, which will really help me when I’m unmotivated to get out there.
While I was still marathon training, I’d decided to break from doing any training in 2018. Well…you know how that goes. A few weeks of not training, and I’m already getting the itch to get back to it. The itch isn’t bad enough to make me run through winter, but I might do a short training segment at the end of winter for a spring race. Then I’ll do a long training segment through summer for a fall race. Ah, I’m already looking forward to wearing shorts and tanks again!
Yes, I said my four-letter word: Race. I know I just posted about how races aren’t my thing and I’m leaving them behind to just run for fun. But I’ve been thinking a lot, and I think I have a strategy to have the routine of training that I like without the anxiety and stress of the pass-fail mentality I inflict on myself when I run a race. I’m incredibly excited about my plans and look forward to sharing details in an upcoming post. But the short version is that next year I want to focus on running strong without regard to pace. This will be big shift for me that will affect everything from how I approach training to how I think about performance. I’m really excited to work on this next year. More to come!
What are your winter plans? Training or focusing on other things like me?