Last April, I almost saw my abs. The sunlight reflected off the mirror in such a way that I could nearly make out a small ripple in my lower belly. Back then, I was training hard and was as fit as I had ever been.
Then the pandemic raged on, my races got canceled and ice cream, pizza and Costco-sized Irish cream liqueur reached out to me like old friends who discovered I had just won the lottery. They offered comfort and companionship while I was stuck at home streaming Netflix. They said they would only stay a few days.
But they lied.
The transition from winter to spring can be difficult when it comes to training for ultras. It is easy to find ourselves lacking the motivation to get back at it. The weather generally sucks in most parts of the country, and many of us are still trying to shed that extra layer or two of warmth that we added over the holidays.
But this year presents even more challenges. We still face uncertainty with the pandemic, and we don’t know if the summer races we signed up for will even happen. Committing to training is just that much harder. And while months have passed since that glorious day when my abs shown down from the heavens, my rotten friends are still here. It’s time to say goodbye (for now, at least), break out of my running funk and get back to training. Here are five ways to do so.
1. Be consistent (but don’t worry about mileage)
Don’t overthink it, just run. Run as long or as short as you feel like. Right now, consistency is more important than volume, so try to get back into a routine. Build up to running as many days as you would during a normal training week, but don’t worry about pace, weekly mileage or getting in a long run. Just get out the door. Start to retrain your brain to focus on positive habits.
2. Discover new places to run
Running the same routes over and over again can become monotonous and start to feel like work. Running should never feel like a job, and this could be a recipe for disaster leading to injury if we’re pushing faster than our fitness allows. Get out and explore new trails and new neighborhoods and most importantly, have fun.
3. Reward yourself
My wife and I recently started writing down our weekly fitness goals every Sunday night. If we accomplish those goals, we treat ourselves to a tasty reward from the bakery down the street. It’s fun for my wife to share in our accomplishments together—and those cinnamon rolls taste that much better when we’ve earned them. Whether it’s food, drink, or a night on the couch watching movies, don’t be afraid to grant yourself small rewards along the way.
4. Reconnect with friends (safely)
Running outside with friends is the one thing we can probably all agree falls in the lower risk category. If you can safely connect and run with friends, now is the time to do so—especially with friends who are also just starting their training and will not be too far ahead of you in terms of fitness. Miles fly by a lot faster when shared in good company.
5. Remember the last time (or dream about the first)
It’s been a long time since I’ve crossed the finish line in an ultramarathon. I long for that feeling of accomplishment and complete exhaustion once more. Thinking back to my last finish drives me to start training for my next. Remember how satisfied you felt the last time you crossed a finish line? Or, if you are new to ultrarunning, try and imagine how that will feel.
Now get out there and run.