Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tell your mind to kiss your ass

Kiss My [picture of a donkey]
When you’re our there running a hard training run, or a race, and shortly after “go time” your mind starts to suggest you slow down, take it easy, hold back, or possibly even quit and not even bother, what should you do?

I’ve experienced this, and so has virtually every runner I know, in one form or other. The mind is a funny thing. Two of it’s functions are to help keep us comfortable, and to help us avoid danger. These two functions can be at odds with running when we are trying to push out of our comfort zone during a tempo run or a race. The mind can become fearful that we won’t be able to sustain the pace we’ve selected or simply urge us to slow down to a more comfortable pace, as if immediate comfort outweighs the training benefit or the PR that might come from an effort just a little beyond our comfort zone.

The mind can come up with arguments that seem awfully rational for slowing down, or even stopping altogether when we’re working hard, but in truth there is nothing rational about wimping out on a race or a hard training run. The purpose of these are to run hard and fast – either to do the best we can (a race), or to improve our condition and stamina (tempo run). Wimping out might make the mind happy, for the moment, but it’s shortsighted. It short circuits our training and slows progress toward our fitness goals. The truly sad thing is that it just generates more anxiety later when the big event is approaching and we find that we aren’t ready to perform at the level we had hoped!

So, when your mind tries to hold you back because you’re working hard, tell your mind to kiss your ass, and just focus on your running! If you focus on the physical aspects of your running, and pay attention fully to what you’re doing/feeling right here and right now, instead of ruminating over some possible outcome or some perceived need to avoid the discomfort of a hard effort, and you do a good job of it, you can really give a run your all, and still be astute enough to detect when you’re giving too much and risking injury.

It's simple, but it ain't necessarily easy. The mental ability to do this is something to practice/train and develop, just like you train to develop your muscles and endurance.

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