People run for a litany of reasons: to get faster, stronger, healthier, to decompress, to relax, to meditate, to train for a race…the reasons are practically limitless. For me it’s a chance to decompress, to improve cardiovascular strength and to get faster so I can nab me some more race bling. Regardless of why you started working out, don’t stop. In order to ensure you don’t stop, you should monitor your progress. Whether you’re dropping weight, able to lift more, able to run farther or faster, your clothes fit better or you take progress pictures, you should keep track of the work you’re putting in to remind yourself it’s yielding dividends.
I personally monitor progress in two ways: the first method is I keep an old shirt and/or pair of pants which were just a tad too small around the stomach when I felt like I was overweight and ensure they fit correctly every now and then. The second is I periodically return to the same workouts. For upper body this entails reverting to my favorite bodyweight circuit every couple months and for cardio this means I tend to run on the same two trails repeatedly or at a standard school track. As I’m typically training for half and full marathons, this means I’m primarily running long runs along the same trails week in and week out.
I don’t run as a means of exploration-I run because it’s how I traverse the Road to Gainzville. I like running the same paths repeatedly because I’ve audio notifications set to go off every half mile, so after a few runs I know how long it should reach me to hit every half mile marker. I know if I hit mile 2 in 20 minutes, and then 3 weeks later I hit mile 2 in 22 minutes and I’m not consciously running slower, I need to pick up the pace. I run the same routes because with familiarity comes the ability to measure my progress (or lack thereof) on the fly.
Measuring progress is extremely important, so much so I plan to devote a future post solely to discussing a few of the different ways someone can do this. As I mentioned previously, one of the primary reasons I run the same routes repeatedly is to monitor progress-this is how I maintain motivation, which is the biggest hurdle I-and I’d surmise, most runners-encounter when tackling a run which takes over an hour. When fatigue sets in, your mind begins to wander. To combat this, I’ve both music and the constant pace reminders to keep me focused on my goal for the day. This helps me stay focused on short-term goals during my run (maintaining my pace until the next half-mile notification) while focusing on the beat/lyrics of whatever songs pop up on my running playlist. (NOTE: If you don’t have two playlists-one for running and one for race day- start making some).
When training, it is important to mix things up-not only to avoid mental boredom but to ensure you’re making optimal gainz. It’s equally important to measure progress and maintain focus at all times. The number one inhibitor on the Road to Gainzville is complacency, so you need to combat this on both the mental and physical levels. I run the same routes to maintain focus on long runs and to measure my personal progression. While this may not be the most appealing method of maintain progress for you, I encourage you to find something which works for you. The goal is to keep your mind sharp and focused, because this will prime your body to stay on the Road to Gainzville. What’s your favorite way of maintaining focus? Let me know in the comments!