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You don't have to swear off all treats while training

Many runners ask me if it's okay to enjoy a drink or two during marathon preparation. While endurance training requires a lot of effort and discipline, I firmly believe that it's alright to balance the hard work with a little fun and relaxation.

Sipping a drink on the odd occasion won't hamper your performance. In fact, a little escape from the routine may even stave off potential burnout. Just don't go hog wild on tequila night. Going out on a bender will tax your system to flush out the alcohol, and it will decrease the quality of your sleep.

Most of us have realized that as we get older, wild nights take days of recovery, leading to a negative effect on your training, both psychologically and physically. Also, excessive alcohol intake causes dehydration, so remember to drink a glass of water with each beverage.

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The same principle applies to other indulgences, such as dessert. For those of us with a sweet tooth, it's probably a good thing to step outside of the training cycle every now and again. Once in a while, treats can lighten our mood. You can afford the extra calories from all your training. It's important though that you stay within your training zone.

Consider it a reward system, where indulgences serve as a reliable motivator. You may even do the little extras, like core work, knowing you have a special something waiting for you at the end.

While some of us benefit from the treat concept, others may prefer to remain disciplined throughout their training and then spoil themselves after the race. This may work best for you if you have the willpower to follow rules that you set, and the faith that these small sacrifices will enhance your commitment and performance. Sometimes the psychological edge is all we need to push ourselves that little bit further.

My weakness is chocolate almonds. It's become a small joke with my friends and training partners during big mileage weeks. But I figure that since I am so disciplined with training, sleeping and work that I could afford a little treat to remind me that life isn't all about hard work. As a coach, I also recommend my athletes indulge occasionally, too. It's all about balance.

Nicole Stevenson is a running coach and the ninth-fastest female marathon runner in Canadian history. She is a long-time competitor in the Canada Running Series

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