This is a guest post by Doug Hay of Rock Creek Runner.
It happens to everyone.
No matter how good your intentions are in the beginning, sometimes training becomes a real drag. In any prolonged training cycle, what was once one of the most exciting things you ever started can feel more like that new friend that wants to hang out … every … single … day.
Sometimes you just need a break, and sometimes you just need a little reminder about why it is exactly that you still like that needy friend.
This recently happened to me (not the friend part, the training slump part). After a long winter of training for the No Meat Athlete group event for the Rock n Roll USA Marathon, I was beat up and burnt out.
I would have just taken a few months off, but my next big race, the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Miler, is just around the corner — and training to run 50 miles knows no long breaks. So what did I do?
I took off to the mountains.
With nothing but a car full of camping gear and a pair of running shoes, I found my retreat, rejuvenated my soul, and now feel better about my training than I ever thought I could.
Planning your perfect running getaway
Running camps and retreats are not a new thing.
If you ran cross country or track in high school, you might have gone with your team to summer training camps, where hundreds of pre-pubescent teens with pale legs in short shorts run around large fields. Or more recently, it seems like nearly every issue of Runner’s World highlights a runner’s dream getaway, where like-minded athletes jog pristine trails and eat food from the retreat center’s garden.
But chances are you aren’t in high school anymore. You don’t have the thousands of extra dollars lying around to pay for one of these retreats. And with a family and job, you don’t have more than a weekend to spare. So what do you do?
I’m here to help! With a little planning and a few bucks, you can plan your own running getaway to reenergize your training, challenge your legs, and reset your weary head.
Below I’ve highlighted three easy steps to get you out of your slump and off on the running getaway of your dreams.
Step 1: Find the perfect getaway location
If you’re hoping to reenergize the body, you have to first reenergize the soul. Everyone finds solace in different places. For me, being in the woods, with little more than a tent, some fresh food, and a few tasty brews will bring me to a place near total contentment that few places ever could.
For others, that holy grail of retreats is a white sandy beach with warm sunshine and seagulls as your company. So when planning your retreat, one of the most important steps is picking the right place works for you.
To find that place: first dream big.
Close your eyes and envision your perfect place to run. Only once you’ve got it should you come back to reality. Then it’s time to consider the basics, like how far you want to travel, how much you’re willing to spend, and for how long you wish to go.
Here’s how it went for me: My magic spot is deep within the Andes. Considering I live thousands of miles away from those snow capped mountains, in downtown Washington, D.C., I picked the closest major mountain range and national park (Shenandoah) and took off on the short drive out of the city. Just ninety minutes later, I had arrived.
Here are few important things to consider when choosing your location:
- Price. Anyone could feel refreshed after a long weekend on a private island off the coast of Greece, but most of us can’t afford to go there for just a few nights. On the other hand, camping, where food is purchased ahead of time and fees are often minimal, is a great option for the budget retreat. If you are going with a group, renting a cabin or beach house which can be split amongst your running buddies is another great opportunity to lower the cost.
- Location. With all this talk about relaxing, let’s not forget about the running! After you have a destination in mind, do a little research about nearby parks or trails. Make sure that you aren’t going to be stuck on crowded sidewalks, but have access to open bike paths, long beach boardwalks, or endless single track to clock those hours.
- Distance from home. A good running getaway is an easy running getaway. Find a good spot that isn’t too far from home. A getaway that’s nearby can be the most rewarding of all, because you don’t have the added stress of long car or plane rides.
Step 2: Who should you bring?
After figuring out where you want to go, the next big thing is deciding who to bring with you on such an epic journey.
Training for a distance event is a very personal thing. In my most recent trip to the woods I decided it would be best to go out on my own, take that time to clear my head, and focus all my thoughts on running. If this is something you’re comfortable doing, going solo can be very rewarding.
But for many people, solo is a no-go because of safety concerns and other reasons. In that case, a few members of your local running club or running buddies can make the perfect addition to your escape. Don’t be afraid to take the family either: training can be just as difficult on the family as it is on the runner, and sometimes you all just need to get away together.
One big thing to make sure of when asking people to join you is that your escape is also their escape. If you’re going with a group of girlfriends and none of them likes camping, then you’re headed for trouble.
Also set expectations; make sure anyone you go with knows that your focus is running. While the trails outside a cabin in the woods might be the best place for your retreat, if your family wants Disney, you might need to find a middle ground that works for them and still allows for the trip’s purpose, from your perspective — your running.
Step 3: Oh yeah, the running…
The beauty of a well-planned running retreat is that you’ll have plenty of time relax and rejuvenate, but also time for more running than usual. What could be better?
Many people feel the need to strictly follow a training plan. But while this can be a great thing, especially for someone attacking a particular distance for the first time, it can also be limiting.
Don’t be afraid to add some extra miles during a running getaway. If the plan calls for a 15-mile long run that week, consider bumping it up with an 8-mile run one day and the 15-miler the next. Or go out for your 15-mile long run one day, and then a nice and easy 90 minute run with no set distance in mind the next day.
Push yourself — it’ll be a great way to boost up your confidence when you return home and back to your normal schedule.
At the same time, don’t forget about the “getaway” part! This is nearly as important as the running itself. If all you do is log miles, you’ll go home feeling tired and cranky because you just spent an entire vacation weekend running.
So be sure to throw in a little fun. Enjoy a sunset along the trail near your campsite, make an after-run visit to a vineyard in a nearby town, or soak those weary legs in a swimming hole or salty ocean.
What are you waiting for?
What distance runners don’t acknowledge enough is that training is often hard and takes up a lot of time. After pushing yourself for so long, a little getaway that reenergizes your training (and reminds you why you love running in the first place) can be an amazing experience. Treat yourself, you deserve it!
Have you ever designed a running getaway of your own? Where would be your dream location? What are your tips for a weekend of running and retreat?