3 Ways I’m Training Smarter than Ever for My Marathon Comeback

Jogger checking the running timeNote: This post is sponsored by the Cherry Marketing Institute. Opinions are entirely my own.

It’s been a full three years since I last ran a marathon, and over five since I last ran one hard. Or, to be fair (since they’re all hard), the last time I was last in PR-shape.

Although I haven’t exactly sat around since then, the training I’ve done for ultras has been much more relaxed and slower-paced than what I ever did as a marathoner. Lots of hills because of where I live, but I can count on one hand the number of speed workouts I’ve done since qualifying for Boston back in 2009.

So a return to marathons — to gasping for air during workouts, to hurrying through water stops, and to not walking the hills — will surely be no picnic. But it’s a change, and as someone who will take change over boredom any day of the week, it’s one I’m ready for.

I don’t know if I’m going for PR. Certainly not in this first marathon back; I think it’ll take me two races and a full year to get anywhere close to my 3:09:59 best. I’d love to run Boston again, and because I’ll be 35 next year (whaaat?)3:09 would get me in again, even under the new, tougher standards.

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3 Habits to Turn to When You’re Just Not Yourself

If you’re anything like me, you go through inexplicable rough periods now and then, those times when you’re just not feeling it. Not quite depression … just a funk.

You know what I mean: Things don’t excite you the way they usually do. You wake up at night wondering if you’re doing what you should be with your life. And those demons you thought you had licked start to inch their miserable way back into your life.

And during these times — whether as a consequence or the cause — you tend to do fewer of your good habits, and more of your bad ones.

So how do you break out of the funk?

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No Easy Task: How to Balance Food, Fitness, and the Rest of Your Life

The prompt for this final post in my partnership series with Garmin and Whole Foods asks how to balance food, fitness, and life.

More than with any other prompt, I feel qualified to write this one: one of the things I believe I’ve done best as an adult is to follow an (arguably) extreme diet and chase down (less arguably) extreme fitness goals, and do both in a way that feels … well, normal. And for the past four years, my wife and I have made this lifestyle work with young kids.

But while living it is one thing, explaining it is another. That’s kind of what this whole blog is about, what close to 700 posts and a book are here for.

I’ve thought hard about how to boil down the essentials of balancing healthy habits with the rest of your life into a tidy bullet list to make it seem oh-so-easy. And I’ve come to the conclusion that that’s impossible.

None of it is easy; it’s a choice you make — and sometimes a difficult one. What people chalk up to “balance” in someone else who makes it look easy might look more like obsession when you view it from the inside, on a day-to-day level.

So instead of an “easy ways” bullet list, I’m going to list three things that are hard to do. But if you do them, I think you’ll all most certainly be able to balance fitness and healthy food and the rest of your life.

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The Post-Workout Meal: Revisited and Simplified

This week’s post topic in my partnership with Whole Foods and Garmin: “Easy weeknight meals to complement any workout.” But I’ve decided to focus strictly on the post-workout meal. Why?

Because although what you eat before and during your workout is important, I don’t think of those as “meals” — for most workouts they should instead be liquid, or quick-digesting foods like dates, fruits, smoothies, etc.

When it comes to post-workout refueling, I do still eat the high-carbohydrate, fast-assimilating food, but only immediately following the activity. An hour or two later — and for a lot of people who work out after work, this means dinnertime — it’s a meal. A big meal, a higher-protein meal. A “meal” meal.

Simplifying Nutrition Around Workouts

You can get as specific as you want with before, during, and post-workout nutrition, and I’ve written about these plenty: check out our Workout Nutrition 101 page if you’re interested in the details.

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What Counting Your Steps Will Teach You About the Value of Running

Many shoeprints in fresh snow

This is post #4 in a 6-part series I’m doing in a sponsored partnership with Garmin and Whole Foods. (Not to mention the 9th day in a row I’ve published a new post, which I think is pretty awesome.)

Before this year began, I had no idea how many steps I took each day. 4,000? 10,000? 20,000?

Honestly if I had to guess without doing any math, any of those could have been it.

Now, I’m really tuned in. At the end of the day, with a glance right before bed at my vívofit, I see my step count — a little daily score to tell me how I did.

Five digits, I’m happy. Any fewer, and I remind myself to move just a little more tomorrow.

Here’s the biggest takeaway for me, though: just how dramatically the length of my run each day affects my step count. It’s way more than I realized … and that makes me want to never go a week without running again.

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19 Great Reasons to Back Down

I don’t have time.
There’s too much conflicting information.
I can’t afford it.
The timing isn’t right.
I have a family to think of.
My spouse is unsupportive.
My body isn’t meant to do it.
Everything in moderation.
I wouldn’t know where to begin.
I’m too old.
I’m too young.
I’m not smart enough.
Nobody I know has done it before.
Surely it’s already been done.
People like me don’t do stuff like that.
I don’t have the right background.
In any other economy …
What would my friends/neighbors/boss/in-laws think?
If only I’d been brought up differently …

Fabulous excuses, all of them. They might even be true.

The thing is, there are so many good excuses out there that no matter what it is you’re thinking of doing, you’re guaranteed to find one that fits.

You have a choice, then. You can let that perfect excuse stop you (again). Or you can use it as the evidence what you’re about to do is worth it. That it matters.

Because really, if there’s no reason not to do it … is there any reason to do it?

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A Ridiculously Easy-to-Follow Roadmap for Building a New Habit

Most of the advice we read about habits is fairly general: start small, create accountability, have a reward system, etc.

All great advice. But why so vague?

Because people have lots of different habits they want to change, and general advice can (hopefully) be applied to any of them. People like Leo Babauta and James Clear have broad audiences for a reason.

Of course, the cost of such generality is that nobody gets a tailor-made plan for creating their specific habit. Which makes it easier to rationalize not starting at all. At least, not yet. (Though it’s quite possible that if you search Zen Habits or James’s blog for a specific habit, you might find it. Worth a shot.)

Here’s exactly what has worked for me

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The Most Important Habit to Start Today

So many of us, adults in particular, feel we can’t change anything.

It doesn’t take many failed attempts at change before we begin to doubt our ability, lose trust in ourselves.

This is where the “start small” advice draws its power. By making promises that are easy, ridiculously easy to keep (“I’ll run for 2 minutes,” for example), you start to taste success again. And in this way, day after day, you slowly rebuild that belief that simply says, “I keep the promises I make to myself”.

But where do you start? What habit should you change or create first?

I’ve heard (and had) plenty of ideas, mostly strategic. Like start with the easiest change first or change something that will free up time, so that you can use that time for other, new habits.

But I’ve come to believe that it shouldn’t be even this complicated. There’s a more important first habit to change, because it’s one of the most important habits you can change, period.

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