(This post has been updated to be relevant to the COVID-19 shutdown of races in 2020. Some previous suggestions – such as trying fitness classes or other sports such as skiing or swimming – have been removed for the time being).
For many runners, seeing a marathon or half marathon on calendar provides all the motivation needed to lace up their shoes and head outside for a run. However, you can’t rely on races year-round to provide motivation. Seasonal weather or, as in the publication of this post in March 2020, a mass cancellation of races prevents you from relying on races for motivation. Without a race, you may feel directionless in your training.
So how do you stay motivated when not training for a race? How do you keep your competitive fire burning or satisfy your desire to see progress?
Focus a Non-Finish Time Goal
The goal of race training is to prepare your body to complete a distance such as a marathon. If you are a more experienced runner, your goal is likely to run it faster than the previous time. That goal keeps you focused and motivated through long weeks of training, tired legs, and all sorts of weather conditions.
Similarly, having a short-term goal for the base building period can motivate you. That can be a weekly or monthly mileage goal, a mile time trial goal, or even running a certain number of days per week.
If you always wanted to run higher mileage such as 30 miles per week or 50 miles per week, now is a great time to pursue a mileage goal. You can build incrementally with appropriate cutback weeks, until you reach your desired mileage. Then, you can work on holding that mileage for several weeks. When you finally are able to train for a race again, you will benefit from a tremendously strong aerobic base and be able to handle a higher training load.
Without a race in the near future, you have the time to focus on a non-racing goal without disruptions. You have the gift of a long, focused block for consistent training for your goal. You do not have to adjust your mileage goal for tapering and recovery.
Work on Your Areas of Weakness
Do you struggle with your finishing kick in a race? Are your marathon times significantly slower than the time your half marathon PR suggests? What workouts do you struggle with? Do a self-assessment of your running; an area of weaknesses is an opportunity for improvement.
Many marathoners struggle with speed, which is why a speed segment can tremendously benefit long distance runners. If you aren’t training for a race, devote your training to speed development and VO2max workouts. If you struggle on hills, devote time to more hill training with both repeats and long steady-state hill runs.
Since specificity is not a concern without a race on the calendar, you can have fun with your workouts. A sense of fun will make There is no better time to try unconventional workouts such as multi-pace combo runs and cutdown intervals .
Race a Strava Segment
Strava segments can satisfy the desire to race and provide a measurable sense of progress. Unlike a virtual race, you can race a Strava segment as often as you wish, for any distance you wish.
You can use the Strava segment to track your own progress, as Strava will let you know your fastest time on the segment. You can set a goal for how fast you want to run it and train for that, or run weekly or monthly time trials on your segment.
The leaderboard of a public Strava segment permits you to “race” against others (while practicing social distancing). If someone bests you, you can try to beat their time – meaning that a Strava competition for the crown can continue for as long as you desire.
You can even create your own Strava segment, for private or public use. You simply go into an activity and select “Create segment” from the three dots on the lefthand side. From there, you can crop a segment as you wish.
Participate in a Virtual Race
Virtual races are a popular option for a good reason; they provide you with the opportunity to race even without an actual event. If your race was cancelled due to dire circumstances, a virtual race allows you to cash in your training. You can compete against other runners, albeit remotely, and still enjoy a sense of community. You could treat the virtual race like a regular race and follow a focused training plan. Or, you could have a goal of racing a virtual race each month. Since you are not paying to travel and do not have to worry about logistics, you can participate as often as you want!
[Tweet “5 Ways to Stay Motivated When Not Training for a Race via @lauranorrisrun #running]
How are you staying motivated without any races on the calendar?
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