Training…by feel.

This post is totally inspired by a conversation I had on Saturday with these lovely ladies:


Meaghan (total rockstar) and Samantha (another rockstar) and moi!

My sis, Meaghan and Samantha – at our sushi date at Snappy Sushi on Newbury Street in the city.

This lunch date was a LONG time coming — we talked about getting together way back in January but it was around that time that Jo and I started barre n9ne teacher training and all weekends were spent training away. WELL worth the effort since we’re now both instructors at the studio but it meant waiting uber-patiently for this “date” of ours to finally happen.

We talked about a million things at lunch – spending over three hours at the restaurant well after we’d devoured a gorgeous plate of sushi (that I’m still dreaming about today!).

But one of the topics that made a big appearance during lunch was running, training, listening to our bodies when injured and everything in between. A biggie (at least for me) was around training for the Chicago Marathon and doing right by my body, both in terms of fueling needs but also in terms of the race day itself.

and training, by feel. Which is how I roll, but very few runners (at least the ones I know) tend not to do.

For me, I know it’s been a good run when I don’t hit the proverbial wall during a longer run, or I hang in there during that last round of speed work on the treadmill, or I have that “I could run for miles” rockstar run like I had on Saturday.  I don’t need a series of numbers to tell me how good or “bad’ or challenging a run was.

I train…by feel.

I don’t train with a Garmin. You all know this by now. I don’t avoid the Garmin to be a running rebel or anything, I just know that for me — I’ll get so caught up with the numbers that it’ll steal the joy from a sport I’ve grown to love, and it’ll prevent me from getting my head fully in the game, both during training runs and on race day itself. (As Meaghan said during lunch, “the Garmin can be a total mindf*ck”…right on!!)

And for me – having my head fully in the game is the key to running strong, running happy and running proud. My ongoing running mantra these days.

But interestingly, this “training…by feel” mentality is also serving me well as it relates to that training “fine line” I blogged about just last week. When it comes to barre n9ne classes — I know what my body is capable of and I try, with every single class that I take, to give it my all. To know that I’ve pushed myself to that shake point and beyond and can confidently walk out of that studio knowing that I left nothing on that floor but my best effort. Every single time. And when it comes to balancing taking classes with teaching classes and training for the half marathon in May — the training by feel mentality has helped me to tweak my plan each week. Even just minor tweaks like turning Sunday into my rest day this week, pushing the 6-miler I had planned for the day to Wednesday night after work instead.

Little tweaks. Training smarter, not harder.

So I guess what I’m saying is this. The bottom line (realizing this way of training won’t work for everyone, per se) is that training by feel is what’s working for me.  It keeps me balanced. It helps me maintain the mind/body connection I’ve fought so long for. And it’s keeping me strong and energized during a very busy training cycle leading into race day.

The big goal in all of this is to have a great race on May 6th (and *maybe* a shiny new PR…maybe), but also to go into full marathon training with the tools I need to continue to train smart, to train by feel, and to toe that starting line on October 7th ready to run proud, strong, and happy.

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33 thoughts on “Training…by feel.

  1. Ah Jess you’re definitely my running kindred spirit!! I don’t train with a Garmin and I’m a huge training by feel. Even my last 1/2 marathon I ran without music just so i could be in tune with my body.

    The more you’re in tune with your body the healthier you’ll be. Awesome post, one of my favs!!!

    • Kindred running spirits, indeed!! I knew it as soon as I saw your post the other day on that running group you ran with. Ha!

      I never run with music either – I love just being “one” with the run, letting my mind wander wherever it wants and soaking in every last second of the run. I’m so glad you totally know where I’m coming from here — I’m SO in the minority among most runners I know!

  2. Can I just say I was a bit jealous when I saw you all check in at Snappy Sushi?!

    When you listen to your rational self – the one that doesn’t give into the self-doubt and worry – it can push through anything your body is telling you. Listen to that and you will indeed be training smarter every day. Can’t wait for your running to continue to thrive this year!!

    • Jo and I both totally looked over at “our” table from our last visit to Snappy Sushi and both commented that we miss you so much!! Come visit soooon!!

      As for the “rational self” concept — absolutely right ON my dear. It’s hard to let the rational self take control sometimes, but when you do, it makes all the difference when it comes to training smarter and smarter. Thank you for your continued support my dear, I heart you!!

  3. This is why you continue to grow as a runner sis. Because you listen to your body, you usually take your own advice (LOL) and take into account others’ advice and perspectives too. Then, mix it all together into your own special sauce and voila, training for you. That’s how I feel too, obviously, and no matter how much advice and suggestions I get, I still take into account what I KNOW will work for me and what won’t (5 runs a week – won’t work for me. I KNOW this – for example). Great post sis 🙂

    • LOL “usually” take your own advice and others’ perspective. Yeah yeah, I know – I could do better at taking advice, I realize this 😉 But yes, by taking bits and pieces of advice, along with my own personal experience, I’ve come up with a running “formula” that tends to work really well for me. But again – it’s what works for ME, it won’t necessarily work for everyone and that’s totally ok. To each his/her own when it comes to running – it’s such a personal sport isn’t it?

  4. Good choice on Snappy Sushi. As much as I miss Tealuxe, Snappy is a good addition.

    I think its very important to listen to your body and know how to take care of it. However I have difficulties feeling paces and like being able to challenge myself in looking at my Garmin pushing myself. Wish I was better at running by feel!

    • I LOVE snappy sushi – that brown rice makes all the difference, I swear!

      I think if the Garmin works for you in terms of helping you to push yourself, then by all means – do what works for you. I suppose I’d learn a thing or two if I went for the Garmin, but I also know myself and my issue with numbers in general. No bueno.

      If you’re interested in running by feel – try to go a week with running garmin-less and see how it goes?? Might be a fun little experiment.

  5. It’s so important to find what works for *you* – not your friend or running buddy, not the chick they profiled in Runners World but for you, your body and your mind. I love that you are tapped into that and remind us all of that important message. Sounds like you had a fantastic run. Congrats on tackling it solo!

    • YES. That’s my thinking, exactly — there is SO MUCH advice out there from all sorts of sources and resources that it can be downright overwhelming. Picking and choosing, figuring out what your style is gonna be is so important in the grand scheme of things. Make the sport your own, that’s my advice.

  6. Yes, this is definitely a great concept! I wish more people would get on board with this… I had a garmin, and it surely made me crazy about numbers (and then I hurt my knee)…and then I quit using the garmin!
    These days, I’m just so all about how things feel. Will definitely be promoting your Training by Feel concept!

    • Oh wow, kind of crazy the impact using the Garmin had on you. I’m so glad you found a style of running that works for you and keeps your body healthy! So important!

  7. I’m currently trying to learn how to run. That seems so silly saying it out loud since I’m and avid exerciser, but running is a different beast for me. I’m starting to think I’m over thinking it. I feel heavy and I think I over think how my feet hit. I want to go out this weekend and just run, not think about it and just let go. I’m hoping that changes my attitude a little bit…

    • It’s not silly at all – running is what I’d consider a sport with a pretty wide learning curve so it’s smart that you’re going into things as a “student” if you will. I do wonder, however, if you are overthinking it a little bit — the getting out there and “just running” concept is so lost on some runners who are too busy thinking about pace, mileage, distance, speed, fueling, hydration, etc. and have lost the joy that running should bring- just running. Nothing else. I think you should totally go out this weekend, throw your sneakers on and just run – wherever those legs take you. Just run. It’s a beautiful thing.

  8. I often do this, even though I’m attached at the hip to my Garmin. I’ll just run and run without looking at it and then be pleasantly surprised!

    I know more often than not lately I’m craving a Garmin-less run. I think I”m going to start working one into my week! Just get a general idea of distance and go!

    • Pleasantly surprised is such a good feeling, isn’t it? I hope you do go out this weekend and run “free” – especially given your plan-less plan this week, it’s a really good time to get out there and just run by feel. Do it up, sista!

  9. I always wear my Garmin, but I try not to look at it until my run is over. I like to push myself based on how I feel, not what the watch is telling me to do, but yet I still have visible results afterwards. It definitely works for me!!!!

    • That’s a really good “happy medium” when it comes to using the Garmin as a tool, a great idea and I’m glad it’s what works for you! That’s half the battle, right?

  10. Awesome!!!! I was starting to feel ‘left out’ by not buying any of those little arm machines to tell me when to run faster, slower, etc…. 🙂 I run by feel too! Thanks for making me feel normal Jess!!!
    T

    • Ha! I love it! A total sonavab*** is right! I dare you to give your next week’s worth of running a shot without the darn thing. Will you try it? Double-dog dare you?? 😉

  11. I can see both sides to running with or without a Garmin or HR monitor. While it can be easy to get caught up in numbers, sometimes those numbers can be very very useful for training purpose. I know that I was able to gauge my speed just off my HR – and also to recognize that if my HR was way off compared to true speed, then something was wrong. Knowing your HR (not calories, miles, all that) can really be beneficial sometimes in knowing if you’re starting to be overly fatigued, maybe pushing too much too often. That sort of thing .Then, it can be really darn nice to know the miles and not be guessing. I’ve definitely gone farther than I should have because I was guessing miles based on how fast I thought I was going. So. that’s just my 2 cents.

    I know that I always run with mine, but I seriously don’t look at the numbers very often during a run. Thankfully mine vibrates each mile so I don’t have to look. Plus I’m likely to fall in trying to look 😉

    • I totally see the value in a Garmin, I really and truly do. And I know that it can totally work for a LOT of runners, the vast majority of them use a Garmin of some sort so they must be useful, right?? 😉

      I kid, I kid.

      Seriously though – I like how you use the Garmin, mainly to keep you honest more than anything which I totally dig. Just please, don’t trip over your feet looking down on it, that sounds dangerous, hehe.

  12. The first step is always listening to your body. I use to swear by my Garmin but I’ve been running so much without it, and I can now tell you what pace I’m running without using it.

    Your training is going so well and you have such a good head on your shoulders!

    • Oh how awesome that you now can tell without the Garmin to confirm it, what your pacing looks and feels like. That is the sign of a truly “in-tune” runner if you ask me. I dig it!

  13. One day a week I train by the book, and that is Saturday, my ‘long run’. Since I have started training that is the only day where I run what my training schedule says and I do not skip no matter what (I would if I was injured or sick though!) I look at it like race-day practice. No matter the weather, my mood, ect., I want to train for the all variables….make sense?
    But durning the work week, I adjust and train what I feel. Sometimes with my garmin, somethimes without. Sometimes with music, sometimes without. Maybe I run with friends, maybe by myself. I sometimes run 5 miles when I should run 6, or 10 miles when I should run 8. For me it keeps running fun, and not like a chore.

    I think this approach is going to 100% work for you! And I am so, SO excited to follow along with your marathon training 🙂

    • Wow, I really dig that approach my dear. I think I need to borrow much of that for my full training and even now for half training. Like you said, the long run is the most important one of the week, rain or shine (or snow!). Like I said on your blog today, I continue to be SO impressed with your approach to training for your first full. I admire your committment but also your ability to veer away from a hard-and-fast training plan when needed to. SO SO SO great.

  14. training by feel is HUGE for me (especially now that im knocked up ha). even before though…when a run was bad sometimes…i’d just shorten it..or walk more..or whatever i needed to do. they can’t all be perfect. today i was going to run 5 miles but was feeling tired and crampy so i shortened it to 3 and walked quite a bit. if you’re body is telling you something…you should definitely listen! sometimes its hard though

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