Training for the unknown

We are in the midst of some bizarre times right now.  With all of the spring races being cancelled and the fall races highly in jeopardy it can leave anyone feeling a little confused and lost.  But we are runners and we will endure.  So here are my ideas as to how to motivate and formulate training when the start line is unknown. 

Well first we all must embrace the solo run.  I think this can serve training benefits in learning how to push yourself.  No competitors, no one on the side line cheering, just you out there working hard.  If you can gain this skill it is going to come in handy in a race situation.  This means you will have that much more control on your performance because you will be less reliant on external factors. 
GOAL: be able to find that second gear without the finish line in sight or a competitor up ahead

Now is also a good time to really be honest with yourself and what your weaknesses are when it comes to running.  We are all good at working on our strengths.  It makes us feel good to do well at something.  But if you TRULY want to be the BEST runner you HAVE to work on your weaknesses.  So for example I need to work on my mobility. You may not enjoy this type of training as much but if you can be excited about the potential of it making you better than I think it will have a HUGE positive impact.
Some examples: hills, speed, turn over, long run, strength training
GOAL: pick a weakness and commit to working on it at least 1x/wk

Along with the above I want to emphasize again the importance of working on all the supplementary things that often get pushed to the side due to lack of time. Now is the time to form great habits that you can carry forward when things resume normalcy.  Spend some time reflecting on things outside of your running that would have a positive impact on your running and put it in to action. 
Examples: strength training, mobility work, recovery strategies, reflection.
GOAL: decide what supplementary areas to work on and commit to working on it at least 1x/wk

This is a great time to change it up. But I find athletes tend to get stuck in these cycles of training the same.  For example, marathoners tend to just continually train for the marathon expecting different results to happen (*I get it I am guilty of it too).  But if you truly want to be the best marathoner you can be than you should also work on becoming the best 5k runner you can be.  I have had a lot my athletes drop down to working on the 5k for the time being as to break the cycle of marathoning.  My point with this is if you can increase your top end speed all of your paces will increase… marathon included.  Force yourself out of that same training pattern you have been in.  If you can cause the body to adapt you can work on expanding the capacity and therefore create improvements. When will you ever have the luxury of time without the pressure of a race to really experiment with your training? Have fun with it!
GOAL:  take a different approach to your training for the next month

I think all the virtual races fit in to this well as something we can still work towards but takes a bit of the pressure off.  Just about every race on the spring calendar has a virtual option now. You can put the last point in to action by trying a different distance.  And I think it is a great way to support the smaller/local races in this difficult time.
GOAL: sign up for a virtual race—maybe a distance you do not typically do to challenge yourself

It truly is the rise of the time trial right now.  And this goes well with the above point of learning to push yourself.  If you want to keep it even more low key than that throwing in time trials can be a great addition to training.  Check out the article I wrote on time trials here:
GOAL: choose a distance, make a route, go out and run it hard then train for a few weeks and go back out do the same route and CRUSH IT!

I think having a training plan right now can also serve us all well. With everything in the world being uncertain it is nice to have a plan to follow when it comes to your running.  I think it also serves well to increase the likelihood of completing your runs.  It takes the thinking out of it and means you can just head out the door and do what you are supposed to do.
GOAL:  whether you make the plan yourself or reach out to a professional (*I know a few @stridewiserunning) stick to it!

Personally as I have mentioned before I LOVE training for running. So as much as it sucks to not be able to showcase my fitness and run PBs I truly do love the process of training.  I have always said that if I ever found myself not enjoying the process I would stop running at this level.  And I think this time is the ultimate test for that.  So far I am loving it. Who knows what it will result in but even when we are training for specific goals we can never be certain of what the outcome will be. But if you are enjoying each training session itself, it really does not matter!  And honestly when you are enjoying the process that is when the performance really excels.

Of course this all comes back to embracing the process and remembering your why as I talked about in my other blog:  I REALLY think that if you can start to shift your mindset and truly embrace training and running for the simple and yet powerful activity it is you will notice a immense improvement in your performance!  And my hope is that athletes can really grasp this idea and carry it forward to their next starting line whenever that may be. 

Endurance training is not linear and all the hard work does not always result in what you were expecting but that does not mean it was wasted.  It is all about ‘consistent stress and persistent belief’ (*taken from The Happy Runner).  So rest assured that all the work you are putting in now will positively impact your future self!


  • Learn to push yourself
  • Work on your weakness
  • Change it up
  • Do a virtual race and/or time trial
  • Follow a plan
  • Embrace the process and remember your why
  • Have FUN!
Until we can all line up again…

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