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This is a big week for me as I officially kick off my training for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon as outlined by my awesome coach, Chuck Dixon. This is going to require a fairly radical shift in my training approach, but not the actual mileage per week as I will be running much more frequently but at much shorter distances.

I ran 5km on Monday morning which is not a distance I run in training all that often, so the pacing and feel of it was almost unfamiliar to me. With most of my runs being 15km or longer for the past few months, I often don’t feel warmed up or into a rhythm until I have 7 or 8 kilometres under my belt. I will also be running 6 days a week most weeks now, after running only 3 or 4 times per week since December.

There are several lessons that my recent training has taught me. Some of them are obvious – maybe all of them are – but I still think they are worth sharing.

1) Even with specific race goals, the majority of your running should be FUN. Yes there are going to be tough workouts. Yes, there are going to be days that the motivation is low and it’s hard to get your gear on and get out the door. But if you’re regularly finishing your workouts and not feeling better or at least glad that you did it, then you need to evaluate what is going on. Unless you are an elite runner who is actually running for a living, then you need to keep perspective. If running feels like a job, then something needs to change.

2) Unless you want to have bigger problems and have them sooner rather than later, you should always listen to your body. Missing a workout is ok. Shortening a run is ok. Stubbornly ignoring pain is not ok. Being a total slave to your training schedule is not ok. The fitness lost for most of us by adjusting these workouts is not only negligible, but the benefits we gain from extra rest can actually outweigh any loss.

3) Having variety in your training routine is important as there are physical and mental benefits from cross training. The best example for me is how much I have gained (or kept from losing) this winter while using my mag trainer. Stationary biking has saved a lot of pounding on my legs, improved my cadence when I get out for my runs and been a nice change of pace. I think if I was doing nothing other than biking, it would quickly lose its charm, but having a solid option for alternate days or in case of really terrible weather has been a revelation.

Those are the main things that I feel that have really been driven home by my last stretch of running. I have started the year with decent mileage, a positive attitude and what I hope is a solid plan taking me through my third full marathon in October. As I mentioned, these haven’t been necessarily new lessons, but ones I am trying to make part of my everyday practice.

Do you have any lessons that you had to learn multiple times before you actually stuck with them? I’d love to hear about it! Comment below and share your own experiences.

Happy running!