Monday, June 3, 2013

Overcoming the Mental Monster

The past few weeks I have struggled significantly with my runs.  It wasn't the heat, my feet or legs, or any other physical cause.  It was all mental.  I mentally turned off the ability to run.  It is said that you must create a mental toughness.  Endurance is about 25% physical and 75% mental.  In the beginning, I did run for 60 seconds.  I was completely out of shape...physically.  But I wanted it.  I wanted to conquer the Couch to 5k.  I was mentally ready for the challenge.  And I flew through the program without repeating any weeks.

When I reached my first 5k and finished, I think something happened.  I am a very goal-driven person and when I reached that goal, the mental monster began knocking.  While my primary goal was to complete the 5k, I had to walk (more than I wanted) to achieve that goal.  I think when you feel like you failed (in some form or fashion), your mental handicap kicks in.  My brain began telling my body that it wasn't strong enough.  That I wasn't going to be able to run it. 

The mental monster had not only knocked on the door but had moved its stuff right on in.  I struggled with  my runs for the next few weeks.  I had encouragers and cheerleaders but nothing said (positive or negative) could conquer the monster.  The fight was mine alone. 

Last night though.  Last night's run was good.  I went back into the Couch to 5k program and started over.  I chose week 4 (3 and 4 minute runs).  Ashley is coming back from an injury and ran it with me.  I had my running partner and a running exercise I knew that I could do.  It was good.  I was hot and sweaty but I did the exercise and then I did an additional short run at the very end.  It felt good and normal.  When I got home, I wasn't kicking myself or exhausted.  It felt good like the old runs used to feel.  My tired muscles felt good because they did their job.  I could feel the monster packing its things.  It was moving out.

I can't say that one thing helped me turn the corner but a number of things.  And I don't think I completely conquered the monster.  I think it's going to be right outside waiting for right moment to come back in.  The key is to keep that door locked tight.  I know that physically I can run.  Now it is time to workout my mental muscles.  That mental toughness is what I need to acheive next.

Here are some tips that helped me:

Take pride in yourself
Some people won't call themselves a runner until they feel like they have achieved (maybe placing at a race or some other accolade).  But me.  I became a runner the second I decided I was doing this.  You change when you make the committment.  You are a runner!

Don't let your fears rule you
To quote Dune author Frank Herbert, "I must not fear.  Fear is the mind-killer."  And it is.  Don't compare yourself to other runners.  In our running nerd-herd, there are four individuals.  We all run at different paces, have different strides, prefer different shoes, etc.  Don't compare yourself and think of yourself as a failure if you aren't doing exactly what someone else is doing. 

Refocus and clean the slate
YES!  Set a new goal.  Get a new pair of shoes.  Find some new running tunes.  Do what you need to do to conquer the mental monster.  If the monster clouds your path, then change course. 

Surround Yourself with Cheerleaders
It is true that no one can make you overcome except you.  But having a good support system goes a long way.  Talk about running with people around you.  Draw motivation from them.  You may not even realize that you are inspiring them.

Find running partners.  You see each other overcome, move forward, achieve, struggle.  You see each other at your best (runner's high!) and your worst (literally...Alabama summers make for some gnarly sweaty people).

And the #1 Tip - Don't Give up!
Slow down.  Refocus.  Find your groove again.  But don't give up.  Don't let the mental monster exhaust you to the point of giving up.  Even if you can't run that whole mile right now, keep  moving.  Not stopping is the best fight.  Keep building those mental muscles with every step.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, this is sooo me. I have run 6 miles without walking, I know it's possible for me, yet lately I "can't" run two miles without a walk break. For sure, it's mental. I'm stepping back, too, starting over a bit. Sometimes you just need to refocus. Keep on keepin' on, Melanie! =)