I have been coaching runners for over 10 years now- in my Lazy Runner Clubs, Online and all over Australia and the world with my Running Bootcamps and Running Workshops.
I get asked so many questions about running. One of the reasons I wrote the Lazy Runner book was an attempt to answer all of the questions runners have asked me over the years about running. And often they do not only ask me questions and advice on their running , they like to know about my running as well.
This week I am going to answer a question here that I have been asked regularly in my bootcamps over the past few months-
Do you think running is more about Mental Strength and how do you deal with it?
Do I think running is mental? Are you kidding..90% of it is- but then again, that is not just exclusive to running- most things in life that need to be done or are important can be a real mental challenge for us- but running is very high on that list of mental strength requirement.
I think that is because its such a solo sport- its just you and yourself out there. Who cares if you fake the distance or cheat your times, or even don't turn up...its only you that you have to answer you.
Many people think running is about the body and muscles- but I say 'no those things just go along for the ride', running is about the lungs and heart (so cardio vascular) and the head, if those things are not doing their job then its tough stuff and nearly impossible to run- the great thing is the heart and lungs can be trained to run, so they get stronger and fitter. The head can be trained too, but it can take a bit more work- and often reverts back to its negative, lazy, whinging state- so its always a work in progress, no matter how far you can run or how long you have been a runner.
I believer running is so Mental that I devoted a whole chapter in the Lazy Runner book on how to get through and past those mental blocks when they come up. But I honestly believe our minds are incredibly strong and the body will do what ever it is told- it just needs to be told.
I find there are two types of Mental challenges when it comes to running
1. The getting yourself up and out on the road
2. The keeping yourself running once out there
Luckily most runners are either one or the other and I am number 1. Its hard to believe- I know. I sort of live, work and breathe running, but when it comes to getting up and out there I am not always enthusiastic. Once I am out on the road running- I'm fine, I could run forever- but that starting point is a bit of a mental struggle for me.
Its not the getting up and out of bed- goodness knows I can do that- I am the ultra early birder- However, I tend to throw myself the biggest pity party when it comes to the mornings I have to do my own running- it goes like this 'Oh I get up 4-5 mornings a week at sparrow fart, throw the running gear on in the dark and go to coach, why do I have to put get up and put it on again for my run?'
So the question is how do I deal with it- and I do deal with it quite well.
I have a few rules hard and fast rules that get me through my running.
I need to lock those runs into my week- if they are not locked in or written down, they are less likely to get done. My rule is, I cannot go into run debt - every run I put off or don't do- I have to do within 24 hours- not a minute later. I usually rake over all the things I have to get done in the 24 hours and if I know I will struggle getting it done- I just say 'come on get up and do it, as you know you wont get it done in the next 24 hours' This keeps me honest. If I say I will do it the next day, whats the bet that I will extend that to the next day and before you know it, I have another run looming down on me and I am in double debt and that is far more of a mental nightmare- especially if you are training for an event.
So if you are like me- write your runs in your diaries over the week on the days and times they are to be done- just like any other appointment and then all you have to do is turn up at the allotted time! If that doesn't happen, it has to be rescheduled within 24 hours. This can be tough, I have been known to be running in lunch breaks, jumping on treadmills at night or getting up at a more ridiculous hour to get it done before my coaching sessions starts- or doing it after the coaching session, so no coffee for me, straight off for a run- that can be a real pain! And often when that happens I berate myself saying 'Why didn't you just go this morning when you had the time'
Another good tip is to have everything ready to go- leave nothing to chance. If you are going to go, get out that door quickly. I'm so good at this now, that I am usually only just waking up by the end of km one! I have a little pile ready in the bathroom and everything I need for running is there. If I have to go looking for my socks or one shoe, it could only take a few minutes but that is often all I need to talk myself out of it, or say I can't go now as I wont be back in time for diddly squat or something else I have on that is just as important, like coffee maybe...
As I say once I'm out on the road and awake I am fine and I do enjoy the run- mostly and of course when I get back I am super happy that I did get up and go- I just need to bottle that enthusiasm for my before run mental block.
As I mentioned above there is number two- you are out there running along and having a lovely time, feeling pretty chuffed with yourself for getting up and going- and next minute- the doom of the world settles-'I hate this' Why am I doing this' 'I cant do this' I want to stop' I'm going to stop' 'I'm going back' 'I'm walking' and on and on it goes. That's not good and once again its all mental. And like my dramas above it can be turned around and changed.
*When the wanting to stop kicks in- Don't stop running, but do a deal with yourself, run to the next big landmark (bridge, bus stop, end of street etc)- get there and reassess- often that is enough to get rid of that thought and off you are running happily again.
* If you listen to music, put on an upbeat song on the low moments- music really does affect mood- so it doesn't have to be your favorite song- especially if that is a Celine Dion number- put something upbeat or fast or the rap songs, its amazing how quickly it will change your mental attitude- I'm not a huge fan on Eminem or Rap music but when I'm feeling flat I ramp him up and there is something about someone yelling and swearing at you that sort of makes you forget your own dramas and just gets you running, even faster!
* If your run is dull and boring- stop it being that way. If you run around your neighborhood on boring side streets, you are far best to drive to a prettier location and run there. I say life is too short to do an ugly run- I am always looking for a lovely vista when I am running, just like music, something beautiful visually lifts the spirit as well.
* Get a running buddy- when you are running with someone its a bit hard to say 'Hey I'm over this, you just finish off on your own, I will catch you next time' Mmmmm you may find your running buddy starts screening your calls after that- your buddy is looking for your support just as much as you need theirs- so its a win/win.
*Push your reset button- yes you have one, so make sure you use it. When you are feeling low and want to stop or walk or just turn back- reset. Go through a Posture Check, it may be something you are doing that is causing your fatigue, so shake it out and go through a full posture check from head to toe. Stop at the next drink tap and have a few sips, wet your tongue and lips, this is a great reset. Read every shop or street sign; count things; check out every other runner and do posture checks on them (I love this one)...Smile- it may be look pretty scary to others out on the street- but even a fake smile changes your mental attitude- there are lots of things you can do- make sure you do them- it really works.
*Break your run up. This is a good one, usually I break mine into thirds or quarters. On the courses I know I set my sections by landmarks-Then I count them down- First section, warm up/sort of not into it (I'm not a great starter) so I give myself a little high five at the end of section 1; second section- start to get into it, know that I am heading to halfway, once I get there I deserve a pat on the bum; third section- heading home- well that is just the best bit, kick back and enjoy. This helps to work through each section rather than being out there thinking- '10km is hard, 10km is long, 10km is boring...' you know what I mean??
* Be PROUD- you are running, you are amazing, you are doing something good for yourself and you will live longer, everyone else is at home in bed getting unfitter and here you are out seeing the world, living your life, running towards your dreams- do you say this to yourself when you are running? No? Well start. Every time those negative voices kick in get this positive talk happening-because all of it is true- speak to yourself in the third person- and pretend you are your own child or best friend or workmate- what would you be saying to them- all of those wonderful things above. We tend to be so ready to give others praise when they tell us about their running and yet we are so much tougher on ourselves...be nice to you.
* Save your happy thoughts for your run. I do this all the time. If I start thinking about exciting things coming up or a holiday or I am daydreaming about a past wonderful event- I stop myself and say 'No save that for your run in the morning' and I do. So when I start to struggle on my run- I think about those happy things- I start planning what I am going to pack for the holiday, all the things I am going to do, what book I am going to read... I tell you it really works. I save all the big discussions that I need to have with myself on my runs- and before you know it the run is nearly over and I'm still sorting out things in my head.
Running can be tough mentally- but in turn it makes us strong mentally. I know running has improved my mental strength in so many ways- I use that strength on all areas of my life now- not just running. So embrace it when you are running- push through it and you will come out the other side such a better, fitter and happier person.