Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mental block

Today a co-worker popped her head in my room with a question. About running. I loved it. And even though I am extremely UNqualified to give any advise about running...I thought I'd answer by just using my own experience.

The question: How do you get past the mental block?
It doesn't matter the distance, we all have numbers that psych us out. And for those of us who are starting out or starting again, increasing mileage can be totally overwhelming.

So here are my tricks (that sometimes work) to help me break through that mental block.
1. Break the goal down. Don't do a big jump from 1 mile to 2... Instead go for 1 mile plus a handful of minutes.
2. Keep adding. I have found myself wanting to stay put after a particularly big jump in mileage, wanting to wrap my mind around the new distance, wanting it to feel easy before tacking on any more. But when I think about the times I have added on most successfully--it is when I keep on trucking. Whenever I am working from 3 to 4 miles (like I am currently), going 3.5, 3.7, 4...and then right on to working towards 5, no hanging out at 4.
3. If you listen to strategic. This summer it was SO hard to build my mileage again. But Adele's song "Rolling in The Deep" was positioned strategically at 15 minutes in to the run. At 15 minutes my feet just naturally started slowing, and all my good intentions slowed with them. And then Adele's voice would start up and my feet danced their way towards 20 minutes. 
4. Which brings me to my next trick. On a particularly mentally challenging run, I go faster and harder right when I get uncomfortably tired. I think it fools me into thinking the run will be over faster and when I slow back to my original pace it feels luxurious, like I could stay there forever.
5. Enlist help. I hated running with friends when I first started running. I was so self-conscious of my slow pace and worried I would be holding them up that I would only set out solo. But running partners are an incredibly valuable tool. Having different partners for different runs is appropriate. For example, my husband is faster than a lot. But he is also who I am the most comfortable with. I can tell him my goal, ask him to push me, and I can totally cop a 'tude during the run, because it sucks in that moment, and he still loves me. I have other friends who are similar paced as me and it is great for a slow, steady run. 
6. Last, go slow. I get really stuck on my speed. I want to be a faster runner ultimately. But that is a long term goal. If my short term goal is to run 6 miles and have only ran up to 5 in the last few weeks when I set out for 6, I am not worried about time. My focus at first is to get that 6 done, and that might mean slowing down so that I have something left when I am mentally fatigued. 

Okay readers...I've got to know...what keeps you truckin' when everything in you says "stop"????



  1. Great post and great tips! You're a motivator! This is something I always struggle with. I think the only thing I can truly do is get out of my own way and run even if I don't want to or feel like it. There will always be reasons not to run if you want there to be.

  2. Landscape goals after finishing the "required" distance :). "I've made it this far, now I can't stop until after that one long straight away and the
    big oak tree ...". Totally a mental game.

  3. Great post!! I have always been a slow runner until recently when I started really upping my mileage for my first half marathon (I'd never even done a 10k). With my mileage increase, my speed dropped more than a minute-and-a-half per mile. Without even trying!

    Getting up and out of bed is the hardest part for me, but when I'm in the zone, I'm in the zone. My advice: stay in the zone. Don't give yourself even a week off or you'll lapse. . .