First let me just say, I am writing this from the most beautiful spot. The weather has finally cooled off enough that I’m only minorly concerned that I’ll spontaneously burst into flames, and I’m in the shade of a lovely tree with an absolutely stunning view.
Good times indeed.
Mind Games. I’m not talking psychological warfare; although maybe I will teach you my tricks one day. I’m talking mental toughness and running today. GOAR.
It’s been a while since I’ve run on my own. Running with a buddy is pretty wonderful. Having someone alongside you is distracting and motivating, but it’s not always possible. I ran by myself today, and it was tough. It’s been a sleepless weekend, and the weather is just brutal.
I knew I wanted to run, so getting out the door wasn’t too much of a fight, but I didn’t have a plan in mind when I left, so staying out was a bit harder. As I ran, I reached into the recesses of my mind to pull out some tried and true mental tricks for staying motivated. I ended up running 7 miles in 90+ heat, so I used a lot of these tricks today and thought it’d be interesting to share what motivates me to keep going.
- First, like the title implies, Weezy. I realize that may require some explanation. One of my first tricks on a tough run is music. Now, this isn’t exactly ground breaking advice, so I’ll be more specific. I like listening to really cocky artists/songs. Seriously, the cockier the better. Lil Wayne fits the bill perfectly. Kanye is good too. Really, it’s whoever you prefer, as long as they’re really sure of themselves. Here’s my thinking. If you’ve got, “snitch I’m the bomb like tick, tick” in your ears, there’s no way you won’t feel badass. Like, when Got Money comes on (and I realize that’s not the lyric, but this is a family blog) I think, “I am the bomb! I can totally do this run!” and I do
- Sing it loud, sing it proud. I actually sing these badass lyrics out loud. If there’s tons of people around, I’ll just mouth them, but actually forming the worlds with my own lips makes me feel even more badass. You can’t sing “I’m a beast, I’m an animal, I’m that monster in the mirror” while feeling pathetic. You just can’t. As an added bonus, when people pass you in their car, they’ll be like, “Wow! I would think running on a day like today would be miserable, but look at that girl! She’s having so much fun she’s singing!” Then they’ll go home and run, and you just created a new runner. Or they’ll be like, “That girl is cray.” And they’ll think all runners are crazy and never run, and you’ll have more trails to yourself. Boom.
- Get competitive with yourself. My run today felt a lot like that old Nike commercial where the runner is running through the city dashing from shady spot to shady spot. Now, there is no shade in Liberty State park, but when I would see a little patch, I’d race to it. Focusing on the next shady spot rather than the miles to go kept me distracted and gave me a little boost.
- Get competitive with others. Speaking of commercials. There was an old T. Rowe Price commercial that advertised how their slow and steady funds always “beat their Lipper Average” while other, less focused funds started strong then petered out. In the ad, they showed an older runner getting passed by a younger guy. The older guy keeps his pace, catches up to and passes the young guy who is donezo. Now, I have no idea what a Lipper Average is (so sorry Rutgers Economics, I’m a bad example of your teachings), but rather than get ultra competitive when runners pass me, I just think “Lipper Average” and 9 times out of 10, I pass them long after they’ve stopped running. Some people call it “chicking” when a girl passes a guy, and that’s fun too.
- Go off roading. When I’m in a park, I like to switch it up between grass, gravel and pavement. First, it’s good for your legs to take a break on softer surfaces every now and again, and second it makes you more attentive and wakes you up. When you switch from running on solid, level pavement to uneven surfaces, it forces you to be more conscious of your steps, which can take your mind off other things, like how ridiculously hot it is.
- Use those nasty comparisons to your advantage. Now, everyone knows we shouldn’t compare ourselves to other runners, but we all do it. If I’m trudging along on a miserable run, and I feel like the slowest person out there, I tell myself “Sure, it’s easy for all these silly 6-7 minute milers to get out here and do this. They’ll be done in twenty minutes! But for my 10-12 minute mile behind to be out here plugging away takes guts. I might be the slowest person out here, but that’s probably because all the other slowpokes decided to stay home today. Go me.”
- Stay present. Sometimes it helps to think about an icy cold
beershower or all the delicious foods I’ll eat when I get home, but other times that makes me even more miserable about being out and running rather than home and eating. Those times, I try to be really present. I’ll look around and try to guess what other people are talking about, how they know each other, where they’re from etc. I’ll try to notice one new thing about my running path that I haven’t seen before. Sometimes being where you are makes you grateful and keeps you moving.
- Switch it up. I’m a creature of habit, so I like running the same paths again and again, but if possible, if I know it’s going to be a challenging run, I’ll run the route in reverse. Finishing my run where I usually start it floods my brain with happy starting memories and causes me to forget just how tired I am.
- Focus on your body. When I’m really struggling physically, I’ll try and isolate exactly what it is that’s giving me so much grief and think about the actual biological processes occurring. If I’m winded I’ll picture my heart pumping extra hard and little oxygen molecules traveling to my lungs. I’ll picture my lungs expanding and contracting to take in all that good air. If my stomach hurts, I’ll picture a big old bucket of acid sloshing around. If I’m hungry, I’ll think about my body burning up glucose for energy. I’ll picture my muscles contracting. It sounds a little odd, but when I think about what’s actually going on, I realize that my body is doing exactly what it was made to do, so I’m probably not going to die, and if I’m not going to die, then continuing my run will only make me stronger. What doesn’t kill you, right?
- Have fun. I’d estimate that I spend an average of 50 hours a week doing stuff I don’t want to do. Between work and other obligations, I’m often in a place because I have to be and not because I want to be. Running should not be like that. Running is my life’s blood, but it is also just a hobby. I do it because I want to do it, so I make sure to have some fun when I’m out there. I take pictures and pick up funny things. I don’t beat myself up about running too slowly or not going far enough. I force myself to stop making mental to do lists and quit rehashing the week’s problems. I have enough stress in my life. The day running feels like a chore is the day I need to seriously reevaluate.
- Do a proxy run. I’ve mentioned this before, but I think remembering that you are lucky to be out running is a wonderful motivator. When I’m feeling like I just can’t go on anymore, I think about all the people who would be running with me if they could, and I imagine that I’m running for them. So, I force myself to run like them. I keep specific people in mind depending on what issue I’m facing. If it’s my stomach, I think of my mama who’s suffered from terrible stomach pain her whole life, and I think “What I’m feeling now is probably a regular day for her. Keep running.” If it’s my legs, I think of my beautiful sister and tell myself, “Walking around town is difficult for her, but she never complains. I won’t either.” If it’s more a matter of the heart, I think of the man who’s got a hold on mine. Chris began running for the first time in his life with me after I finished the fastest half marathon I’ve ever run. I was at the top of my game, and he ran with me, struggling to build up a base while it seemed super easy for me. He could have looked at the situation and thought, “Screw this. I’ll never get the hang of this. I quit.” But he never did, so when I think about quitting, I think about him, and I don’t.
So, there you have it. This post was longer than I expected, but I seriously love all these tips and tricks, and I wanted to share them with you. I’m sure there are so many more, so, please, tell me what are your tips for continuing to put one foot in front of the other when you’re just not feeling it?