Training for a marathon is no small endeavor. It is a long process that is both physically and mentally taxing. It is a time when most people feel like they are pushed to the brink of insanity.
One of the most difficult tasks is simply staying motivated, especially during the winter months. For those three or four months, time seems to slow down and the activities that came naturally during the sunny weather of the spring and summer feel much more difficult.
To help get you out of your seasonal funk, implement some of these tips to stay motivated and maintain a positive outlook on those dark and dreary winter days.
What is Your Why?
You may think that the prospect of better overall health or weight loss would compel you to train, but it’s just not enough to keep you motivated. I read a study that asked participants why they started exercising. Three-fourths of the participants listed weight loss as a top reason while only 25 percent said they wanted to improve the quality of their lives. Yet, surprisingly, the second group spent as much as 30 percent more time exercising.
For transformative motivation—the kind of motivation that gets you through the darkest of days—you need to search within yourself to find your why. It’s a mental, emotional and spiritual process that is much deeper than a passing whim. Why do you want to run a marathon? Why do you want to run at all? What is at the very core of this goal? Maybe it’s to become the best possible version of yourself for your family. You may have some deep-seeded self-confidence issues related to your weight. Perhaps your doctor diagnosed you with sleep apnea due to your weight. Or maybe you just feel sleepy throughout the day and it is affecting your quality of life.
If you are training for a marathon for someone other than yourself, you will fail. As much as you will want to please them, external motivation won’t get you out of bed on those dark, snowy mornings. But, if you train for a cause that is important to you, you’re far more likely to accomplish the goal of crossing the finish line.
Set the Goal
Goals are the foundation of any marathon training program. Start small and simple, allowing yourself little triumphs along the way. Remember to make your goals realistic, achievable and trackable. I set an ambitious long-term goal of running a marathon in a year. This was huge because when I started the training program I had never run long distance. My short-term goals were to run one mile without stopping—then two, then 10, and so on. I had to start with walking and work my way up from there. I will never forget the day I busted through the ceiling and accomplished the goal of running 10 miles.
If you were like me and hadn't exercised in a while, a good short-term goal might be to walk for 15 minutes a day. From there, you can move on to an intermediate goal of walking 30 minutes a day. And a good longer-term goal might be to finish a 5K walk. Start where you’re at and go from there.