Work/reward plan can be rewarding

By Fred Deckert


Athletes often use crutches in their training programs and runners are no exception. No, not the kind you get from the medical supply, but those that encourage you mentally. These might be a food treat that you normally abstain from, or possibly a promise of entertainment like a movie or play for a special effort.

In order to maintain your focus and enthusiasm for a long term effort like marathon training, you can give yourself a vacation or a few days off at the successful completion of the effort. Sometimes the two can go together, the marathon might be at a location you’ve wanted to visit or will particularly enjoy. Often this sort of inducement will encourage your non-running partner to be a bit more tolerant of your neglect of other areas of your relationship during those difficult longer runs. Of course you must remember to take him or her along!

In regard to short range inducements, promising yourself a gustatory treat upon completion of speedwork or a particularly grueling training run can work wonders for your enthusiasm. Sure, this is a lot like what you promise your kids to get them to do something that’s normally repugnant to them, but we’re all kids in one way or another and the idea of reward really does work.

Of course some individuals are so highly motivated and disciplined that they don’t need this kind of encouragement to keep them on the straight and narrow training track, but most of those folks are running for fame and fortune. Meanwhile, back in the pack, the rest of us are interested in keeping up with our peer (age) group, and sharpening your focus often needs some extra inducements.

There’s always the possibility of overdoing the work/reward game, so don’t fall in the trap of eating too many big Macs after your speedwork.