My 6-month run challenge (weeks 17 and 18): the mental (run) game

Running is such a mental game for me. 

And I know to some extent, running is a mental game just by nature of the beast. It just is.

Sometimes I just feel like it’s more of a mental game for me than it should be and something I should have kicked to the curb in the 18 weeks of this run-challenge of mine.

But then I realize that even the most seasoned runner still has days where the mind doesn’t quit and in enters the mental game. 

And I realize that even if I might have a more mentally challenging run than I’d like, it’s usually 1 out of every 5-6 runs and not every single one. For example, my run with my sister a couple of Fridays ago? The complete opposite of mental. It was utter perfection.  But at the other end of the spectrum? Enter today’s run.

Today’s run defined mental game. I was initially planning a rundate with my sister this afternoon but she’s trying to fight the ‘notsick’ vibes and opted not to run (good girl!!) and just come over for dinner (on tap, btw? THIS lentil recipe. Another lentil kick!!). In came the self-doubt. Running alone. Something I’ve lately had limited success with. I probably shot myself in the foot by even allowing myself to let that self-doubt creep in. The fear of not running well alone, since the last few times I’ve done solo runs outside have been meh. And just like a self-fulfilling prophecy, it was a meh run.

Started out great. Warmer than I thought (definitely wore a too-thick shirt!). Less windy than I thought (I have developed a fear of running in the wind of late, wtf is up with that?). Speedier than I thought. And then about a mile in, I stopped to take off aforementioned too-thick shirt and my calf started to bother me. And that pain never ceased. And my breathing was up and down, more labored than I thought. And then I had to stop again to stretch my stupid calf. And the run just felt like it went to hell in a handbasket (another wtf – why am I using that phrase lately?!) from there (yet the last mile or so I finally felt like I hit my stride).

So, yeah, I did it. I ran outside by myself. I forced myself onward. But I fought the mental game the entire time. I worried that if I am having a bad run now by myself outside, how am I going to do more of these? And is it because I am alone or because I am going through another streak of ‘meh’ runs? Or am I just jumping to conclusions? OR is it my new sneakers? (still debating that one. I got fitted for these and they feel great, yet, when I run in them, the soles of my feet start to hurt after awhile. Not normal? Must try running with my old pair and see if it still happens…).

Does this happen to anyone else or am I in the minority? I just get so frustrated when I have one of these runs because I want to progress and grow and continue to gain strength and speed and…confidence. I’m hoping it’s just one of those days. And I ran. And that’s all that matters. I can run. And I did.

Right?

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29 thoughts on “My 6-month run challenge (weeks 17 and 18): the mental (run) game

  1. First things first — running is 90% mental, for ANY runner. You are not alone. As you said in your post.

    But secondly, and more importantly – I think you hit the nail on the head – self-fulfilling prophesy. You went into this run already filled with fear that it would be a “bad” run or that you were about to hit a “meh” running streak. So you basically willed yourself into the run you feared having to begin with.

    All I can say is this — you are able, fit and strong. You are a RUNNER through and through. Stop writing doubt into your run-story and start writing confidence and happiness and passion into your run-story instead. It’s there. You proved that on our last run together. Like whoa.

    1. I know, I totally went into this run expecting to fail. So I did. But beyond this run, I just hate when running becomes SO mental. It’s frustrating. I am working on getting past it, with each run it gets better, right? Can’t wait to run together again sis! Must be that magic that does it :)

  2. Just like with yoga, you have to be able to get out of your body. Your body knows what to do. I think running alone will definitely empower you, if you opt to try it more often.

    I love how you document your battles here. I miss running. :(

    1. Get out of your body, it knows what to do <–damn, girl, you are SO right. It does. I'm futzing with it and that's what is messing up my stride. My body can do it! I wish you could run, friend, I will channel you and run for you!!

  3. Completely agree – running is more mental than physical. That’s totally what I found when I was running a lot but every time I went out there, I learned something – whether it was a good run or bad run – there’s something I could take away. You most definitely are a runner because you run. You keep going out there and you keep learning and getting stronger. Love the quote at the end by the way. Thank you for going out and running today. Yes, I would do the same for you <3

    1. (hug)) aww, thank you! Pay it forward, right? One day perhaps you can run some miles for me, ok? :-) I am learning and gaining strength and almost most importantly, knowledge. I totally love what you say!

  4. we are sort of opposites in this regard. i LOVE running alone. it’s my total time to just think. I always have my ipod on, but there are times where I zone out and 3 songs later, i’m like “what was i listening to?”

    eric is supposed to train with me for a half marathon in october, and I’m wondering how I’m going to run with him by my side… we’ve done it every now and then, and it’s a nice change of pace, but I’m definitely more of a lone runner…

    1. See, I USED to be a lone runner! Completely. But now, I actually really like running with other people. Who knew?! LOVE that Eric is going to train for one with you for October! Which one?? Maybe we can run together again in May :)

  5. I usually try to tell myself that when I’ve had a bad run or it was mentally challenging, it means that the next one will feel great because I don’t often have two bad ones in a row. Not sure if it’s 100% true, but it gets me out there again.

  6. I used to mostly run alone, and found that I would do better alone because I could set a comfortable (albeit not always challenging) pace and just think about stuff. But when I ran with another person, that’s when the panic and self-doubt kicked in. Once in a while running with a buddy would be a good thing, **if** our paces matched and I was feeling good, but mostly it was a struggle.

    Now that I have been diagnosed with a heart condition, though, I **have** to run with someone else in case I need CPR. I haven’t run much since I was diagnosed – literally a handful of very slow jogs – but I miss being able to do it alone, and go as hard as I want to. That’s why I love, love, LOVE that graphic at the bottom – that’s exactly how I feel. I’m the person who can’t run, and I greatly admire those who use the gift of good health to realise their potential and push themselves, instead of wasting the opportunity and their lives as so many do.

    1. I will most certainly run for you too! I am so sorry about your condition, that is too bad. But a good reminder not to let these mental runs get me down because it could be so SO much worse. I used to love being a lone runner, too, but now, I love running with others. Keeps me going.

  7. Girl, you know we all have those types of runs. Sometimes it can take 4 miles to hit a stride, sometimes you just don’t. You have to relax and get out of your head. And yes, easier said than done. Most of my runs trying to come back from injuries have been all up in my head. But you have to remember why you’re out there. And if you really aren’t enjoying it…don’t force it. Nobody is making you run. No one will think badly if you don’t like to run. Just sayin’

    1. So true. Nobody is making me run. What I didn’t put in that post, but I should have, was that yeah, I wanted to stop at some points but that’s when I actually hit my stride. near the end. Go figure. Each run is different, some good, some bad. What keeps it interesting?!

  8. It ate my comment! Now I can’t remember what I wrote…

    Oh yeah. I’m the reverse. I used to run alone, and I ran better alone because I could set my own pace and be alone with my thoughts. Once in a while if a friend came along they would challenge me in a good way, but only if I was having a good day and feeling confident. If I wasn’t, I would be filled with self-doubt and the panic would set in and my breathing would seize up = very bad for a run!

    A few years ago I was diagnosed with a heart condition, and haven’t run much – literally a handful of light jogs – since. When I do, I **have** to run with someone in case it all goes horribly wrong. I can’t run alone and I can’t push myself like I want to. That’s why I love, love, LOVE the graphic at the bottom of your post – I am the person who can’t run, and I would give so much to be able to. I greatly admire those such as yourself and many of your readers for actually using your body to its capacity and pushing yourself, instead of sitting on the couch and wasting your life as so many do. Bad days do happen, and no matter how badly your run went, the fact that you kept going is pretty amazing :)

    1. It didn’t eat it, it was just under moderation! BUT I love what you added to this version of your comment…kept going. That is different than the past. I wouldn’t have kept going. So that is also something right?!

  9. You need music!
    Also, a side note … my favorite running quote: “Running is a mental sport. We’re all insane.” ;)
    It’s totally okay if you prefer running with people. Perhaps a running class or group would be good for you and then maybe you’d enjoy some solo runs and time to yourself.
    I have the opposite problem. I’m trying to convince myself it would be good to run with people. I just enjoy the “me” time that running provides. And then I can sing or hum along to my favorite tunes and/or practice a little air drumming. ;)

    1. Air drumming – Love it! I actually don’t like listening to music when I run outside, just to get me through the treadmill. I tried it a few runs back on a solo run and it actually felt more distracting than helpful! A running group is a good idea, that might be fun. Must investigate :)

  10. I wish I could say that every run was awesome, but let’s be honest sometimes it feels like your feet are heavy or your head is not in it at all. Kudos for sticking it out – so much harder than it sounds.

    1. So true! I feel like just by nature of reading a lot of running-type blogs, the majority always seem so great, so when I have a few ‘meh’ runs, I feel like it’s JUST me. but it’s not. it just may feel that way at the time ;-) Thanks!!

  11. Running is hugely mental, no matter how seasoned of a runner you are (or aren’t).

    But, you did it. You did it, and you feel better now that it’s done. You just have to remember the perfection runs on the meh run days, keep it all in perspective. A meh run here or there is most certainly not going to keep you from improving and advancing! You’re making huge strides!

    1. You’re right, it is mental, by nature. And I did do it, that says something, right? I conquered mental even if I felt like a wuss. Learning, baby steps, I’ll get there, right?

  12. Gosh, I’ve been having the same problems lately. I get all up in my head and end up not enjoying myself! Too worried it’s going to be a bad run or my asthma is going to kick in or my knee is going to hurt……………when instead I need to JUST RUN. It’s so much more fun that way. :)

    1. It’s hard not to worry and get anxious when you are having asthma issues or knee pain! Maybe we can both try and ‘just run’ more often and see if it helps!!

  13. So proud of you for sticking with your challenge thru the great runs and the bad. That right there shows your strength and perseverance, traits to be admired. Are you working towards a specific run goal or race right now? I often find myself in slumps when I do not have a goal on the horizon. When I have a race that I am working towards, it forces me to up my mental game. For example, if I am having a particular tough run I mentally zone in on race day. I think about what I will wear, who will be there to support me, how I want to cross that finish line (SO BAD!), what it will feel like, the mantras that I will recite to myself. When I begin focusing on these things I can not help but be inspired and GET EXCITED! It helps put me in a better mood and before I know it I am wrapping up my challenging run. Remember if it was easy, it would not be as rewarding, right?!

    1. Right! if it was easy, it wouldn’t be a challenge! Right now, my 6 month challenge is my challenge/goal. I have decided not to really focus on a race or anything because I have learned that that atmosphere doesn’t foster motivation for ME, it fosters fear and anxiety! I still want to overcome it, but I am just taking it one step at a time right now and seeing how I do and how far I want to go, mile wise too. Thank you so much for your support!!

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