Motivation Advice Column: Ask JP III

Advice Column: Ask JP III



Dear JP:

Is there ever a day that you wake up and don’t feel like running?


Raw Shark


Dear Better-Hit-The-Snooze-Button:

I better start off with the disclaimer that I’m a recovering addict, so my brain appears to be hardwired to get as much as I can of something that gives me a ‘buzz’ and makes me “feel more like me”.   Now that I’ve been clean and sober for almost 19 years, the only ‘high’ I can get my hands on is that magical feeling known as the ‘runner’s high’.   And for me, running is definitely a drug, but like any drug you consume, the more you chase the high, the more elusive it becomes.

I typically log 200 km per week, so in answer to your question, I guess I’m somewhat lucky in that I never wake up and “don’t feel like running”.  I look at running as a ‘gift’ I get to open every day – I’m never really certain what that gift will be, but I have faith that it’s always waiting for me on the other side of “I can’t” or “I’m too tired.”   The journalist and novelist, Pico Iyer, summed this up so eloquently when he said:  “Anyone who has traveled knows that you’re not really doing so in order to move around, but you’re traveling in order to be moved.”  And to me, that’s the essence of running in its purest form – its ability to ‘move us’ through movement, taking us away in order to bring us back to ourselves.

Dear JP:

Even with the dusting of snow on the ground, we’re still in a transition between fall and winter. When it comes to running attire, what do you wear to stay warm but not too warm?


John C.

Dear All-Dressed-Up-And-Nowhere-To-Go:

Believe it or not, I actually love cold weather running despite having relatively little body fat to speak of, and I should probably add, being somewhat of a ‘whiner’ when it comes to complaining about always feeling chilled.  That being said, it can definitely be a little tricky to dress appropriately during this transition from fall to winter running.

One of the common mistakes in November and December is to overdress by piling on too many layers as you head out the door for your training run.  As a general rule of thumb, I figure that if I feel a little ‘cold’ for the first 20 minutes, then I’m appropriately dressed.  Typically, our body begins to warm up about 5 km into our run, so if you’re feeling nice and ‘toasty’ at the beginning of your run, chances are that you will start to sweat as you overheat.  You really don’t want to be wearing damp clothes when the temperature is hovering at or below zero.

Being the ‘hardy’ Canadian lad I am, I wear shorts on my runs until the temperature drops below -5 degrees Celsius (or -9 with the windchill).  If you’ve ever watched professional cyclists prepare for their descent down the Alps or Pyrenees, you’ll notice that many of them grab a folded up newspaper to shove down the front of their racing jersey to help block the wind.  It’s a great idea, but not all that practical for runners.  When the winds are particularly cold, I shove a plastic bag (the ones that the newspapers are delivered in work best) down the front of my shorts, between my running underwear and shorts.   And ‘yes’, before you ask… I am aware of windbreak running underwear, but this low-tech solution certainly does the trick.

Another piece of advice I would offer is to make sure you have a comfortable running vest in your running arsenal.  I tend to wear my vest when the temperature ranges from 3 degrees to -9 degrees Celsius.  As long as you’re moving, you’ll stay nice and warm, and there will be less chance of you overheating and bringing on the dreaded sweats.   And remember the old running mantra:  “There is no such thing as bad weather… just bad clothing choices.”   Embrace the colder weather – it prepares us for running in the ‘Polar Vortex’ that will arrive later in the season.


Dear JP: 

I can’t seem to get my marathon times back!  3:30 or 3:27 seems like miles away.  I am having trouble hitting four hours!  I would like to get my 5th Boston, but I seem to be having trouble.  What is your long run advice?  Do you go the full distance in your training, or do you keep it low?


Jim C


Dear Battling Father Time:

This is a fantastic question, and it’s one I’ve contended with on many occasions throughout my running career.  I think the best way to address this question is to step back, and for me to ask you to be honest about what you expect to get out of your running practice.  Is it faster times?  Longer distances?  Fewer injuries?  … or what I consider to be the Holy Grail of running – “longevity in the sport”.   A few years back, I decided that pounding out sub-3 hour marathons left me feeling depleted not only physically but also emotionally.  I made a decision to pull back on the intensity of my speed training, and instead, focus on endurance and fostering a supportive running community.  And, I can honestly say, I haven’t looked back since.  I’m running happier, healthier, and more than I ever have before in my life.

But… if you’re still convinced you’ve got another Boston Qualifier in you, then I would suggest you tweak your training to focus more on endurance speed work rather than on interval speed.   Training for a spring marathon through our tough Canadian climate is always challenging, and even more so, if you’re trying to squeeze in interval sessions on icy streets, or on a soul-destroying treadmill.  What I do instead is to run at least 5 long runs at 36 km, and 2 long runs at 40 km.   I avoid speed work during the week, and instead, focus on running the first 70% of my long run at a comfortable pace (at least a minute slower than your marathon pace), and then I do the last 30% of my long run at marathon race pace (or half marathon pace if that is what you’re training for).   This is an excellent way to get the speed work in while avoiding the possibility of increased injury risk that often occurs with short and intense speed work.  And, as an added bonus… Training like this really helps you avoid slowing down in the last 10k of a marathon.