15 Tips to Overcome Disappointment in Training

By Nate Pennington

If you have dealt with disappointment in training or in a race I hope this list of 15 tips to overcome disappointment in training will keep you motivated. Runners are already highly motivated people.

If you are a beginner and just starting out, you have already proved to me you are a winner simply by searching out knowledge in how to better your running. I have been competing for the last 20 years and had to train extremely hard, have had three knee surgeries, all on account of running.

I can relate to how you feel if you are dealing with disappointment in training, racing, or overcoming the frustration of an injury. It is hard but your willingness to accomplish your goals will get you through. How badly do you want it and are you willing to make the long-term sacrifice it is going to take to reach it?

Attitude and your level of focus is what counts. I mentioned the story of “Three Feet from Gold” in my post, “9 Vital Ways to Become a Better Distance Runner”, about a man who was searching for gold.

He found land that contained the gold and made use of it, but after sometime he gave up on the land because (so he thought) it failed to produce anymore gold. He gave up and sold it to a man that lived nearby. Moral of the story?

He was only three feet from a major gold vein and had he continued on in the face of adversity, he would have been set. You can’t let up on account of disappointment in training or in a race.

This man thought his luck run out, but he let the disappointment of thinking his gold find had run dry dictate his actions. Have you felt this way? I am too old? My best races are behind me? I am not talented enough? I’ll never run that fast.

There will be good races and bad races, great workouts and workouts that will go poorly. You will start to question yourself, am I too old to still be doing this? Am I overtraining? Is it mental? Should I be running more mileage? Am I running too little?

These 15 tips to overcome disappointment in training will help you destroy those limiting thoughts and help you overcome disappointment in training to get you to the start line ready to accomplish your race goals.

#1 – Believe In Your Plan – Know that no matter what you will have to face… an injury, a poor effort in training, fatigue, etc. you can overcome it. You have to believe in what you’re doing and you can’t let any disappointment get the best of you.

#2 – Write Down Your Goals – The great Billy Mills, gold medal winner of the 10,000 meter finals at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, put the power of belief in goals beautifully when he said, “The subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between reality or imagination“.

You have to put that goal you have set for yourself on paper and by doing so, you have made that goal a priority. You see it. Your mind knows about it, and is reminded every time you walk by it.

I have 2.14.30 on a piece of paper hanging up in my room here in Afghanistan. I am thinking of that time daily. See you goals, don’t just think about them. Remind yourself of what it is you want and your mind will work for you to get it.

#3 – Get Adequate Sleep – Don’t mislead yourself in believing that you can train hard and think that four to six hours a night is adequate. It isn’t. Obviously, we, who work full-time don’t have the luxury of full-time training so time is precious, as precious as is sleep. Take it seriously. Get at least eight hours a night and you will offset poor performances in training and in your racing.

#4 – Slow Down – This is a vital tip that not enough runners adhere to. I am guilty too as I spent many of my earlier years of running and racing focusing too hard on paces. I needed to be at X pace on this or that particular day. Who cares what pace you are running if an easy day is called for?

Why do you hound yourself mentally while running thinking, “well I’m running at 8 minute pace today, I should be going at least 6:30 pace.”? Let go and slow down. An easy day is there for a reason, if you want to run harder, then make your hard sessions count.

If you are feeling fatigued, listen to what your body is telling you and slow down. You can’t keep pushing everyday and get a positive kickback from that mile repeat session you just did the day before if you’re focused on how fast you should run the next day’s “easy” recovery session.

Disregard pace on easy days. Don’t concern yourself with it. If you did a hard workout the day before, then throw away the watch if you catch yourself focusing on what mile pace your hitting.

This takes patience and some practice and the sooner you take your easy days just as seriously as hard days, disappointment in training will be diminished. You can’t always do everything perfect but backing off on easy days that are constructed for that very purpose will increase your chances for success.

#5 – Start Taking A 65mg Iron Tablet Daily – This is one tip that will pay you back 100 fold. Runners unknowingly are mistaking their fatigue and not being able to turn over in training as overtraining when it could quite possibly be they are running low on iron.

I was diagnosed with anemia in 2007 and have taken iron supplementation since. You lose iron both from sweating and foot strike. Females are even more susceptible to becoming anemic.

#6 – Eat More Iron Rich Foods – If you are a vegetarian, consider #5. If not, eat more red meats, nuts and spinach. Check out “Top Ten Foods Highest in Iron” if you would like to know more about what are some of the best foods you can eat with the highest concentrations of Iron.

#7 Take That 65mg Iron Tablet With Orange Juice – Orange juice helps iron absorb faster into your body. You can go to any pharmacy on the vitamin isle and get Iron tablets. I take Natures Choice 65 mg iron tablets per day and have religiously done it since I found out my body was dangerously low on iron.

You can find out where your body’s iron and ferritin levels are by getting a blood test. If you are low on iron, your body’s ability to transport oxygen to the working muscles is dramatically decreased. You will feel run down, extremely fatigued, and not be able to hold paces in races and workouts.

#8 Surround Yourself With Like-Minded Athletes – A disappointing race or workout is not the end of the world, but you also need to vent. If you surround yourself with other athletes who can relate to what you’re dealing with, then you have an outlet in case you feel like letting go of the sport.

It’s ok to walk away, but don’t walk away with regret. Find friends and family who will uplift you through those hard times, like when you ran 100+ miles a week for months and missed your mark by 10 minutes. Those are the people who are going to give a damn, not those who sit back and laugh because you didn’t meet your goal.

#9 Let Go – Simple but easier said then done. You have to let go of that last bad race or workout because you cannot bring it back. What you can do is work toward your next great race and take the lessons you learned from your disappointment in training or race effort and make a plan of attack.

#10 Pace Yourself – How many times have we gone out too hard in a workout or race? I am sure we are all a little guilty of this. It’s ok to make this mistake, just don’t make a habit of it. It takes just one perfectly paced race to overcome a disappointment in training or racing.

#11 – Repetition, Repetition, Repetition – The more you do anything, the easier it is going to become. Ever seen a professional public speaker? They make it look so easy. Public speaking is feared more then death itself, but individuals who do it, college professors etc., have done it so many times it becomes automatic.

Disappointment in training and racing is conquered by the refusal to stop doing the work on account of a few trials and setbacks along the way. Adjust to your thinking to that of the minority, those who don’t quit regardless how many times they fail.

Look back to all the successful athletes, educators, aviators etc. Their characteristic is they wanted more. They had no interest in being a part of the majority. Crowd into minority mindset, the one that doesn’t believe in the word “impossible” and keeps fighting until the objective is met!

#12- Don’t Be Afraid to Fail But Also Don’t Accept It – You hear “don’t be afraid to fail” all the time and it is important. However, don’t accept failure either. Instead, take something away from that disappointment in training or race. Did you go out 20 seconds per mile too fast the first five miles in your 10-mile race?

You know what you did wrong. Correct it and you have conquered that disappointment because you know next race, you have a new plan and you know where you went wrong.

#13 – A Bad Race Doesn’t Mean Your Next Will Be Too – If you are prepared to race and you misjudged your pace or were too overly aggressive, it doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of your goal. A slow performance will screw you up mentally, if you let it.

If you have as your goal to hold 7:15 pace for a half-marathon, focus on running a few seconds outside that pace early and push down the gas pedal in the latter miles. You will be able to react and accelerate because you fixed the glitch in your last race.

A runner who goes out running 6:35 pace because he or she “feels good” may seem the right thing to do early on. However, come mile-8 and that same runner starts running 40 seconds per mile slower then goal pace, we know “feels good” doesn’t work.

A smart pace plan early will destroy disappointment every time because you have set yourself up for success before the race really begins. Stay on your planned pace! It will make the difference in the end.

#14 – Control Your Emotions – Very hard to do but important. Leave the disappointment in training. Leave the disappointment and the emotions from that poor workout or race there. You can’t do a damn thing about that workout or race so don’t give it any of your precious energy, direct it toward your next effort.

#15 – Find Uplifting Websites and Learn From Them – My personal favorites are Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits and Joel Runyon’s Blog Of Impossible Things as well as other sites that closely resemble our sport like Outside, Letsrun, Runnersworld and Running Times. All are pieces of a big success puzzle you can use to get you through the disappointment in training and racing.

Thanks Nate for submitting your article! He’s a 2:19 marathoner, currently stationed in Tennessee with the U.S. Army.

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MarathonTraining.com was one of the premier online resources for marathon training information, run from it's inception by author and coach Art Liberman. Now the MarathonTraining.com archives exist on Marathon Handbook, for future generations of runners to enjoy and learn from!

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