Runners World Articles: Archives
Stomp Out the Blahs
I know a runner named Manuel, who told me that he recently had
attempted a 4-mile run. He had good intentions; he really did plan
to run the entire 4 miles. But when he reached a point where he
could either take a shortcut back home or keep going, he took the
Later he was disgusted with himself for not finishing what he had
started. Sound familiar?
Like Manuel, many runners have little or no problem getting out
the door for their runs. But they have the darnedest time motivating
themselves to keep running. That challenge has nothing to do with
physical ability. We are all capable of achieving our goals, or,
in this case, of finishing our runs. Rather, it has to do with those
negative thoughts that can pop up during a run. You know the ones:
"My body just doesnít feel like it," "If I stop now, I wonít be
so tired later," "Iím too hungry to keep going" or "I can do this
The brain has a clever way of coming up with excuses to cut your
runs short. Hereís how to make your brain shut up:
Go slow at the end. Or at least, tell yourself that you will. When
you donít think that the latter part of the run will be hard, your
brain starts dreading it. So tell yourself that youíll run the last
Break it up. Instead of thinking of the run as
a total of, say, 5 miles, focus only on a half-mile at a time, with
short walk breaks as your reward. Or focus on the trees, signs or
buildings ahead and tell yourself that youíll take a walk break
when you reach those points.
Eliminate Excuses. Sometimes the thoughts that
make you cut your runs short are legitimate. Low energy is the main
reason many people quit their runs. After all, how well can you
run if youíre hungry? The solution to this case: Donít let yourself
get hungry. That way, you wonít be able to use hunger as your excuse.
By having a snack with water about an hour before running, youíll
eliminate the problem.
Lower your stress by dealing with other excuses as well. If youíre
often tired on your runs, try to sleep and extra half-hour each
night. If you tend to worry about your harried schedule while running,
try to reduce the excess clutter in your life.
Think about it. Visualizing the challenging parts
of workouts or races before you start will train you to handle negative
messages when they pop up.
For instance, see yourself at the start of one of your favorite
training runs. Youíre full of energy and ready to go. You feel comfortable
at mile 2, picking up the pace slightly. During the third mile,
your brain starts feeding you those "slow down" thoughts. Instead
of concentrating on them, however, you focus on how great youíll
feel later when youíve accomplished your goals for the day.
Customize your mental rehearsal to specific location, challenges,
and goals. Be realistic, but positive. Present yourself with all
of the problems you might encounter and hunker down to work them
out. Doing so will teach you to push through to completion while
you ignore any negative messages that arise.
You have all the mental power you need to go beyond the negative
barriers. As you challenge yourself to deal with doubt, negative
thoughts, and lack of energy, youíll engage the the predominately
positive and intuitive right side of your brain. Even on the darkest
days, you have an unlimited well of inspiration inside you. By tapping
into it, youíll become a more positive and resourceful runner.
World,June 1999, p. 42
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