If you are finding yourself easily able to complete and enjoy training runs as you increase mileage, then that is a pretty good sign you are making positive progress toward achieving your running goals. Great job! However, what if runs feel like a struggle or you seem to be making little progress?
It is normal for there to be days when runs just are not as easy as others. Those days here and there should not be confused with lack of progress, rather should be expected at times. Your positive mental attitude will allow you to rise to the challenge on those days. If training for a marathon, it is not uncommon to experience a week somewhere late in training where you seem to hit a block. Again, just be aware of that and allow your mental stamina to push you through.
Areas of concern should be when you seem to be making little progress during the first quarter of a training program. Fortunately, often one little fix can make a big difference.
First, consider your pace. Are you trying to run too fast at the beginning of your training runs? If so, that could not only lead to a more difficult run, but over time can lead to overtraining. Be sure to ease into each run and ensure that you can breathe easily while running. You should be able to talk comfortably with a running partner (or imaginary friend if running alone) during the run. Run a comfortable pace that allows you to complete the run without gasping for air.
Second, take a look at your diet and recovery time. The diet can have a major impact on the performance of your training runs. Just like anything else in life, you get out of it what you put into it. Carbohydrates provide fuel, but protein is needed to repair muscle fibers. Be sure to have a carbohydrate and protein rich snack within thirty minutes following each run to help your body recover and prepare itself for the next run. Take into consideration the amount of time you are allowing between each run for recovery. Perhaps a slight change in your schedule may allow more recovery time and lead to better results.
Third, dedicate more time to developing the proper mindset and building mental stamina. One easy method is to take just 5-10 minutes to lay quietly with your eyes closed and visualize yourself completing an enjoyable run. If you expect the run or some part of it to be a challenge, then picture yourself in your mind approaching the obstacle and pushing through the finish. This simple practice will get your subconscious mind working for you, acting as a heat seeking missile to bring your vision into reality. I cannot stress enough the benefits of this simple exercise or in building mental stamina for distance running.
Again, it is often the little things that make a big difference. Whether you are already making positive progress or just trying to get started, always look at the little things and do the little things right.