Community Training for the Unknown, by Lanni Marchant

    Training for the Unknown, by Lanni Marchant


    By now, I know, this isn’t the first article you have seen or read about how to stay motivated during uncertain times. We have all been patiently waiting to see what the World is going to look like for weeks—months. We have all had our target races cancelled or postponed. And are now accepting the possible reality that our fall races too will be pushed away from us to some uncertain date.

    It’s frustrating. Trust me, I know. After battling my body since the 2016 Olympics—yes, nearly four years—I was finally ready to start toeing the line and clawing my way back to the upper ranks of Canadian Distance running. I went from an unmeasurable and uncontainable amount of motivation to counting three kilometre runs with my pup as “training.” 

    At first it was easy for all of us to stay motivated. For me, just celebrating being able to run healthy was enough to get me through the first month of the earth being closed. But like anyone, that celebration slowly stopped being enough. I am hungry for more and not being able to lace up and race due to circumstances completely outside of my control is not a scenario I mentally prepped for during all of those years of surgeries, rehab, and rebuilding.

    Through the past few years I’ve tried to force my body to run the mileage I used to do mindlessly. I’ve not run for months at a time to focus on cross-training and fixing my weaknesses. I’ve lined up to race with essentially no proper training. I’ve had perfect training blocks only to end up either needing another surgery, or as was the case this past December, developing a femoral stress fracture and having to start from scratch.

    I remember being frustrated last year that I couldn’t really get more than 4-6 weeks of training without having some sort of setback. It wasn’t until my chiropractor reframed things for me that I became more patient with my body and the things that are outside of my control. He told me to look at each of those 4-6 week blocks as mini-builds. That yes, I used to be able to build a season that lasted months and had large lofty goals associated with them, but for now I have to look at what I gain in each mini cycle. And that eventually those 4-6 week blocks would become 6-8 weeks and so on. It seems like a simple enough concept, but it was a total game changer.

    It helped me take the pressure off of chasing after race schedules and timelines, and instead focus on what I wanted to accomplish in the short term.

    It’s a mindset that is helping me stay the course right now. I can’t let myself worry about what other runners are doing—some are still doing big workouts, others are running by feel, some aren’t running at all. Instead, I just focus on what I want to accomplish every few weeks—and not all of my goals are running related. For those that follow my social media accounts I am currently in a three week to three kilometre time trial challenge with another runner based here in Colorado because we both were hurting for motivation and wanted something to build towards. I haven’t raced a 3k since my early 20s, so I have no “Olympic Lanni” measure to hold myself to. After we “toe the line” on Sunday, I am going to shift my focus to something else for the next few weeks. I really want to be able to do a single leg pistol squat again, so maybe that’ll be my next challenge.

    I guess that’s what I’m trying to say here. That during these uncertain times we can still train and have goals we want to accomplish. But make it fun. If you haven’t been running, join an online challenge or sign up for a virtual race to get your bum out the door. If you’re feeling a bit burnt out, then find a Netflix series and allow yourself to enjoy it—and for real, guilt free. When was the last time you did a handstand? Or practiced yoga? Do you have two trees in your backyard? Instant soccer net right there to practice some coordination and movements outside your standard running gait. Forget the pushup challenges we keep seeing on Instagram—grab a beer (or a pop) and see how many push up planks you can do taking sips.  I am not trying to sound ridiculous. I certainly haven’t given up on my lofty goals of making my way back to Olympic level running. I just recognize that maybe the past three years have given me an outlook that is keeping me happy and healthy during these scary and isolating times. We are runners even if we aren’t racing. Taking some down time does not make us lazy or weak. Finding new challenges does not mean we are giving up on our actual running goals.

    The World is a little weird these days – might as well join on in. Stay safe.  Train smart.  Be happy.