This week has been mentally challenging as far as marathon training goes (I know; I know – it’s nothing compared to late April when I am logging 20 milers and all that…). Regardless of what’s to come, it was just tough. I was extremely hard on myself. I didn’t have very nice things to say to myself. And ultimately, I convinced myself that maybe I wasn’t ready to train for a full marathon.
I know I’m not the only athlete who has gone through this. We all reach those dips during training cycles where we question, “can I do it?”
Training plans may be somewhat unique, but generally, most include easy runs, long runs, workouts, and perhaps some strength and/or cross training.
Believe it or not, most training plans are missing something crucial to runner success…
…training the mind.
Your mind will give out before your legs ever do. Your brain will tell you to stop when you’re not even close to running on empty just yet. How you treat yourself will reflect your success in this sport.
It’s so, so important not only to train your mind to “shut up” when you hit the wall, but to train it to think positively throughout training cycles. You have to silence the negative voice in your head. Consider the following.
You will always believe yourself. I’m a true crime addict. I’ve read so many books, watched all of the TV shows (like, all of them), and I listen to true crime podcasts religiously when I am on the treadmill. Among other things, something I’ve learned is that the most dangerous criminals are the ones who believe their own lies. You can convince yourself of anything if you try hard enough, and even if it’s all lies, you will believe it eventually. I mean, you’re not a criminal, duh (well hopefully not). However, you may be damaging yourself more than you realize depending on what you say to the person in the mirror.
With that in mind, I want you to take a minute and think about how you talk to yourself as an athlete and runner. What do you say to yourself when you fall *maybe* a few seconds short of your desired pace? When you don’t PR as planned, what do you tell yourself? Do you lovingly look in the mirror and say, “You did your best and you can always try again – you’re a great runner;” or…do you say, “you’re a loser and I can’t believe you didn’t reach that goal – you’re a terrible runner…”?
You will believe what you tell yourself. I promise you that. You should be building yourself up, not tearing yourself down. Everyone has bad training weeks, a bad race, injuries that are out of their control…be nice to yourself and give yourself the grace and credit that you deserve.
You will meet fear head-on multiple times during any training cycle, and you shouldn’t waste your time on it. Look – I don’t care of you’re an Olympic gold medalist or you’re running your first 5k…you will encounter fear over and over. It’s impossible to avoid fear, but it’s also possible to head-butt it out of the way. You’re bigger than fear. Fear is a feeling, and it’s possible to acknowledge it and dismiss it for what it’s worth: nothing.
I’ve faced a lot of fears during this whole marathon training gig, and I’m not even halfway through the training! What if I get hurt? What if I have to miss a week of training? What if I can’t hit the paces in my speed interval workouts? What if the treadmill breaks or something? What if I’m not ready to train for a race of this distance?
I’ve thought these things over and over and over again. Yes – I have manufactured a worst case scenario where the treadmill breaks and I freeze to death in Newport Lake. It’s ridiculous; I know! But those of us who can be worriers, and who might sometimes cower in the face of fear, have so many “what if” scenarios packaged inside our heads. Nearly none of them ever happen.
Don’t try to avoid fear; don’t try to run from fear. Meet it head on, look it in the eye, give it a few minutes of your time – just long enough to say “screw you” – and move on. Feeling fear is inevitable; taking fear seriously is a choice.
Comparing yourself is useless. There will always be SOMEONE faster, stronger, etc. Who cares? Remember that one of the best things about running is that it’s very individual. The running community is one of the most inclusive communities out there – we want to hear and see your best times and efforts regardless of the numbers! You should be proud of all of your accomplishments even on the days and races where you didn’t quite meet your goals.
Most of us aren’t running distances races to win overall first place (or to win at all). The number of competitive runners now shies in comparison to the number of millennials who run to stay in shape and have fun. Of course, competitive running still has a place – but running has become so much more of a sport where we compete against ourselves vs. those around us.
When I read Jeff Galloway‘s book titled Marathon: You Can Do It!, he talked about how there were 16 people who entered one of the marathons he entered. SIXTEEN. If you take a look at mainstream marathon registration numbers NOW, you’ll see thousands of people ready to take on a 26.2 mile course. Running has become accessible to anyone, and that’s such good news. The other good news is that with so many of us entering races for personal reasons (in honor of someone we love, to show ourselves what we are capable of, etc.), comparing yourself to other runners is absolutely useless.
I want you to have the best training cycle that you can. Having a positive attitude and mind doesn’t mean you suddenly stop feeling fear, guilt, and negativity. It means that you acknowledge that those are temporary feelings that probably don’t deserve any of your attention, and you move on. It’s easier said than done, and I am making mental training a priority as I continue my trek to the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon!
Are you ready to turn off the negativity and get running? Register today for the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon or the UPMC Health Plan Pittsburgh Half Marathon!