At spin class the other night, I was forced to confront an ugly aspect of my attitude that I had forgotten about. My legs were aching and sore from my run and kickball the day before and teaching barre3 that morning, and I struggled to push myself through spinning. Sweat was pouring off my body in a way that was simultaneously impressive and disgusting, even for me, and I forced myself to keep going and not let up. At the end of the class, I only felt one thing: anger.
I didn’t feel proud. I didn’t feel like I had accomplished something by pushing myself. I didn’t feel satisfied or exhausted in that way that tells you you’ve done all you can. Instead, I was busy fixating on the fact that it felt hard in the first place.
Sometimes – ok, a lot of the time – I forget that hard workouts are supposed to feel hard. It’s like I believe that there is this point that I’ll reach where no workout will be hard because I’ll be in good enough shape. Any time I have a tough workout where I struggle, it’s a reminder (in my mind) that I’m not in the shape I want to be in. And trust me, I know exactly how ridiculous that is.
This feeling, and my inability to be proud of a hard effort – has shown itself multiple times this training cycle, including in my attitude immediately after the Swamp Rabbit Half Marathon. It’s also the reason that I’ve never really liked weight training (working my muscles to fatigue makes me feel like a failure) and why I’ve never enjoyed speed work. Logically, I do know how absurd all of this sounds (and is), and when I sit down to think about, I can talk myself down. But in the moment, my first instinct is always just to feel angry.
I don’t really know how to fix this besides to recognize when it is happening and counteract the negative self-talk with positive thoughts. I mean, that’s all I can do, right? The reality is that every workout where I push myself is one in which I am becoming stronger, and it means I can push just a little bit harder next time. I guess there’s still plenty of work to be done when it comes to upping my mental game!
LEAVE A COMMENT: Do you ever feel frustrated after a hard workout or effort?
Whew! My biggest week so far is in the books, and it was a doozie! I sustained another kickball injury (what the hell is wrong with me?), had some great runs, some terrible runs, and did some solid cross training. Oh, and there was a casual 17 mile run thrown in there somewhere.
Monday, 3/13/17, 5 miles: Oh my, the struggle was real on this run. My lower left leg was tight, I couldn’t get my breathing under control, and everything just felt harder than it should have. Fortunately, I was running with my friend Pearce, so that made the whole experience slightly less terrible. Surprisingly, I actually found myself feeling encouraged by this run. Yes, I felt terrible, but our pace was decent despite feeling sluggish – 9:36. Also, every training cycle has bad runs. This is the first really crappy one I’ve had (besides the whole kidney infection thing), and those runs make you stronger on race day.
Tuesday, 3/14/17, 9 miles: I have a love/hate relationship with mid-week longish runs. Mentally, it is really challenging for me to spend an hour and a half after work (or super early in the morning, but let’s be serious here) running. It just feels like a really long time, and it gives me anxiety about other things I should be doing. Still, they’re a GREAT confidence booster and I have a huge sense of accomplishment when I’m done. This one went great – I held a 9:19 pace (what?!) and my last mile was my fastest. It’s almost like I’m getting into shape or something.
Wednesday, 3/15/17, barre3 class and kickball: I had a full day of out-of-town meetings on Wednesday that required me to leave my house super early, followed by a kickball game at 6:30 pm, so that meant that the only time I would have to workout was 6 am. You know how I feel about morning workouts, but I did it anyway, and I was truly glad I did. I was less glad about pulling a muscle somewhere in my inner thigh/groin on my way to three hits (kicks?) at kickball plus a run. It is possible I am a little too emotionally invested at my kickball performance. I could barely walk afterwards – not good. We did win 23-1, though.
Thursday, 3/16/17, OFF: Due to the aforementioned kickball injury of 2017, I decided to make Thursday my rest day instead of Friday. Normally, I run Thursday, then take Friday off and do my long run Saturday, but between the muscle pull and the fact that the weather isn’t going to be good Saturday morning, I decided to switch things around. Lots of walks around the neighborhood and stretching for me today!
Friday, 3/17/17, 6 miles: It was a little weird to be running on a Friday, but I was definitely relieved to have my leg feeling back to normal! I went for a super easy 6 miles and felt great. Overall pace was 9:52 and my heart rate was nice and low!
Saturday, 3/18/17, rock climbing: Since my long run was moved to Sunday, AJ and I decided to take advantage of a cross training day and head to the climbing gym on Saturday! We both did a lot better than the first time we went, but bouldering is hard! We’re going to try and keep going a few times a month just because it’s fun.
Sunday, 3/19/17, 17 mile long run: I felt both confident and slightly intimidated going into this run. I knew I could do it – after all, I felt great after my 15 miles last week – but 17 miles is still a long way to run. Unfortunately, my lower left leg felt tight from the beginning and it was challenging for me to find my normal stride. Still, I didn’t feel bad – it just felt like I was causing myself a lot more impact than I should have been, if that makes sense. I experimented with using fuel (shot blocks) for the first time and um…that did not go so well. They were basically frozen when I needed to eat them the first time and still ridiculously chewy the second time! It was hard to choke them down and I won’t be eating those again. Anyway, the first 7 miles went by on the slower side. Then, I met up with my friend Pearce and ran 8 miles with her, which was a great way to break up the run! Unfortunately, my weird stride and all that impact caught up to me around mile 15.5 and my back start hurting pretty bad. I made it home fine (my last 3 miles were my fastest once again, and I even threw down an 8:45 mile) and overall pace was 10:04. Once I cracked my back at home, I felt a lot better, so maybe things were just out of alignment. Overall, I’m absolutely thrilled with how this run went. I had the endurance and strength to keep going, and although I don’t think I’m quite ready for a marathon, I know I will be soon. That’s exciting! Also, 37 miles in one week is the most I’ve run in…a very long time.
LEAVE A COMMENT: What’s your favorite type of long run fuel? Do you ever struggle to find your normal stride on a run?
As I’ve mentioned in my race reports for the Run Hard Half Marathon, Swamp Rabbit Half Marathon and the Green Valley 10-Miler, improving my mental toughness has been a huge focus for me this training cycle. My mental game has always been a weak spot for me when it comes to running (and let’s be honest, sometimes life), but I’ve been determined to stay positive while training for the Prague Marathon. Many of you have noticed how much more positive and upbeat I’ve been about running, training, and racing, and its no coincidence – I’ve been working really hard! I’ve been employing every tool I can find to boost my mental training and I think it’s working. While I don’t think any one of them has been the difference maker all on its own, the combination of all of them has really helped! Here’s how I’ve been upping my mental running game:
1. Reading Sports Psychology Books: My coach recommended that I pick up the book Mind Gym, even though the stories in it are largely about baseball and football. I thought I had never heard of it…only to find out that it was already purchased and buried somewhere deep in my kindle from four years ago. Oops! I actually like that the stories are mostly about other sports, because it allows me to make my own connections as to how the lessons apply to running in ways that are the most relevant to me. The chapters are short and have helped me identify some of the issues that are holding me back while also offering suggestions for improvement. I definitely recommend checking it out!
2. Scrolling Instagram: I personally find Instagram excellent for motivation. I don’t mean the “perfect body” kind. I mean the kind that gets me out of bed on a Saturday morning because as tired as I am, I see that a few of the people I follow are already out there doing their long runs. For me, it has helped me to feel a sense of community and helps me get out the door. When I know other people are out there running, I find myself thinking more positively about what I’m doing. Weirdly, I also feel some sort of sense of wanting to make people proud. It helps me push myself! So please keep posting your running photos – the earlier in the morning, the better. And follow me on Instagram, too!
3. Tuning in to podcasts: I’ve always preferred chatting with a friend while running over listening to music, but there’s a problem – I don’t have many friends in Greenville that run (yet). That means that for the first part of my training, I was headed out the door solo and wasn’t usually super motivated by music. Right around the same time I started training, two of my favorite bloggers launched their own podcasts – Ali from Ali on the Run and Kelly from Run, Selfie, Repeat. I only let myself listen to their podcasts while I’m running, so it has been a fun way to motivate myself! Through them, I’ve also found other running podcasts. The great thing about all of these podcasts is that in addition to the fact that they are “keeping me company” on the run, they’re also offering their own tips for training and running strong. And I need all the tips I can get!
4. Using the Headspace app: While this isn’t technically running-related per se, I’ve started to use the Headspace app at night before I go to sleep to help shut my brain off. I know that’s not really the point of the app – it’s a meditation and mindfulness app – but for me, it is really helpful to quiet my thoughts before I go to bed. Not only does this help me get a better night’s sleep, it also helps me push any worries about the next day’s workout out of my mind. That’s particularly helpful the night before a long run, when I usually find myself doubting my strength.
5. Watching YouTube videos: I’m not exaggerating when I say that tuning in to YouTube videos has been a HUGE component of my mental training. I never kept up with Kelly’s (@RunSelfieRepeat) training for her first attempt at qualifying for Boston, but I found her YouTube channel this year right as she started training for her second attempt. Even though we have totally different goals, our races are just a couple of weeks apart, and I relate so much to some of the struggles she has with running – especially the self doubt. It has been so much fun to follow along with all of her videos and keep up with her training. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt totally unmotivated or even afraid to go out and run, and I just turn her latest video on and watch how she feels the exact same thing as me – and then goes and does her workout anyway. I’ve noticed that watching someone else deal with their confidence issues has really given me the courage to deal with mine, and I’ve seen huge improvements. Plus, it is fun to root someone else on, and YouTube is a way different medium than blogging, obviously!
6. Utilizing Visualization: Piggybacking onto my discussion of YouTube, I decided to do something this year that I have never done for any marathon course in my entire life. I decided to find a course video for the Prague Marathon! I used to absolutely hate knowing what was coming on a course because it made me feel intimidated about the length, but I figured if I started visualizing running strong on the entire course of the Prague Marathon – and actually knew what it looked like – it could be helpful! I’ve been able to identify spots where I might have a tough time – for example, long highway stretches near the end – so I’ll be mentally ready for them when they come during the race. Plus, the course is so beautiful and it gives me something to get excited about!
7. Training to finish strong: My one and only goal for Prague is to finish strong. Logically, that means I need to train so that a strong finish is possible! I don’t want to be crawling across the finish line. So, for each and every single run I’ve done this training cycle, I have practiced running faster at the end – even if it is just the tenth of a mile down my street. Pushing myself when I feel exhausted has given me a lot of confidence, and I’m constantly reinforcing the idea that I have a little more left in the tank. For long runs, I’ve taken it up even further – I aim to make my last mile my fastest and I gradually increase my pace over the last few miles. This has been working like a charm! My fastest miles have always been at the ends of my long runs (usually the last 3 miles) and I believe this has been a huge contributor to negative splitting the Run Hard Columbia Half Marathon, Swamp Rabbit Half Marathon and the Green Valley 10-Miler. I am training my brain to believe that I can run strong the last few miles in Prague, even if they aren’t my fastest!
8. Developing a mantra: As we established during the Green Valley 10-Miler, my mantra-making could use some work. While I’m still not the best at developing those “short and sweet” phrases to motivate myself during the race, I have been practicing positive self-talk and worked on pushing negative thoughts out of my head, both before and during hard efforts. Currently, I’m liking “strong and steady!”
9. Working with a coach: I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that working with my coach has been a huge contributing factor in the improvement in my mental game. In addition to the accountability that a coach offers (I text her my workout results every day), she is also so positive and encouraging about every run. Before the Green Valley 10-Miler, I literally sent her a text that said “Pretty sure I’m going to finish this race in last place. Everyone here looks very fast. But I suppose as long as I survive and my kidneys don’t mutiny, that’s what counts.” Her response was ” I love how you’re not dramatic at all.” And then she said some positive and encouraging things but more importantly – she made me see how ridiculous I was being. I like to think that she finds my neuroses amusing, such as when I recently flipped out over her adding one mile to my mid-week runs. Her support and reassurance has been huge, and I love that my training plan has always felt completely doable but with just the slightest hint of challenge. It’s been great for boosting my confidence and has resulted in a lot of great runs!
LEAVE A COMMENT: Do you have a strong or weak mental game when it comes to your running? How do you work to improve it?
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