This morning, I went out for one of my runs. I felt heavy-legged, sluggish, when I got out of bed at 5.45am. It’s marathon training season, I ran 28km last Friday and 12km on Monday. Today, 8km with 14km coming up on Friday.
An aside, the back story: I’m 53 years old and started running, from exercise/fitness square one, in 2015, aged 48. I wanted – NEEDED – to lose a lot of weight, which I did (down from, at my heaviest, 97kg to 69kg, settling at between 70kg/72kg). I needed to start doing exercise [for my mental, not just physical, health!] but I said I’d do anything except running. My eldest son got me out for a run, 300 metres and I was jiggered – or, more precisely, that’s what:
a) my mind
b) my brain
c) my body
to do to me!!
Although I didn’t know it at the time, I wasn’t REALLY, GENUINELY tired. It was all in my mind.
However, thankfully, I stuck at it and caught the bug.
Back to today…
5.45am alarm, up, tired, running gear and trainers on, sluggish, drink of water, out the door, stretch, ‘starting line’…
As is my norm for a run like today, a relatively short one, I was mentally in it 24 hours before it physically started – I’m in the run days before when it is going to be longer – thinking, focusing, getting my head right.
At 6am this morning, outside the house, I stood still, cleared my mind of everything but the run ahead, breathed deeply, calmed myself, I visualised the route, tunnel vision, I psyched, revved, myself up, over the course of just a minute or so, to a point at which I fired myself into the run. That mental prep is crucial. It’s crucial whatever task or challenge you set yourself. Your head has got to be right!
Now, I will address the main point of this blog:
How, when I was feeling tired, heavy-legged, sluggish, at 5.45am this morning, how did I manage to do the run?
How, feeling lethargic in the first km of the run,
how did I manage to keep going?
How did I manage to shift myself from feeling sluggish to feeling capable
and, from feeling capable, just capable,
how did I manage to get into my stride and then into ‘the zone’?
How did I manage to get from a tough 4m 50s first km to a ‘fire-in-my-belly’, “COME ON!!!”, 4m 27s 8th/last km to achieve an average pace of 4m 39s per km, 8km in 37m 14s?
The key, in the big picture, is discipline.
Discipline encompasses determination, focus, commitment, perseverance, mindset elements which must be present BUT the key, on the day, in the midst of the test, the exam, the challenge, my runs, is this:
there must be NO QUIT OPTION available to you.
I approach my running, you must approach your challenges, with a ‘sink or swim’, a ‘do or die’, mindset.
I run in the sure knowledge, ok, not that I’ll actually die if I quit, but knowing – KNOWING – that quitting will hurt more than I’m hurting in the run: that keeps me running! When it’s tough, when it’s hard-going, I run to keep a greater pain, the pain I’d suffer if I were to quit, away!
The quit option, if it’s there for you, if it’s available, even if you say you’d never use it but it’s available, if it exists,
it will hold you back,
it will cloud your vision,
it will keep you in struggle mode,
it will prevent you from getting into ‘the zone’,
it will force you back,
it will sap your energy, weaken you, weaken your resolve, your fight, even though you won’t be aware that it is that, just the availability, the existence, of the option to quit that is beating you (well, you will know now, of course!).
In my running, in your challenges, it is not a case of ‘mind over matter’, it’s ‘heart and soul over body and mind’.
When I’m running, my mind is not on my side, it’s against me.
My mind tells me to stop and it does that by telling my brain to send signals, by telling my brain to tell my body to hurt me.
So, in today’s first km, when I felt sluggish, tired, when I wondered how I was going to be able to keep going, I wasn’t REALLY tired:
my mind wanted me to stop, it told my brain to tell the rest of my body to hurt me so that I would stop.
BUT when my mind realised that I wasn’t going to stop, that no quit option was available to me, it let up, it told my brain that I wasn’t going to stop and it, my mind, told my brain to send instructions to my body to stop hurting me, to start helping me, and when that penny dropped in my mind, I felt completely different, lighter, the heaviness in my legs lifted and my power arrived.
Also, importantly, I knew, in that first km, that I wasn’t genuinely tired, I knew that my mind was playing tricks. That realisation enabled me to ignore, literally ignore, the pain, the difficulty, the sluggishness. I bulldozed my way through the ‘imaginary’ pain and, suddenly, the power was there. Contrary to what my mind and body was telling me, my power really was there, and that victory over my mind and my body, it felt, it feels, fantastic. It can give rise to a feeling of euphoria (I have experienced it!) and the elation, the sense of achievement, having jumped over the hurdles, it is empowering and liberating, a feeling which genuinely lifts the spirits and feeds the soul.
My fight, my power, is in my heart and soul. When I’m up against it, I have to dig deep into my heart and soul.
On the whole, achievers, people who challenge themselves, who set themselves tough goals, and achieve them, no quit option is available to them. There was no way out for me during today’s run besides the exit situated over, on the other side of, the finishing line. I guess it’s a matter of saying to oneself, and believing, “I am going to do this or I’ll die trying”: that will be my mindset when I’m running my next marathon.
Of course, success is never guaranteed, all we can do is maximise our chances, stack the odds in our favour as best we can and, to do that, we must rid ourselves of that quit option. We may not achieve our goals but there is a chasm between how far we can get if we have the quit option and how far we can get if we don’t have it!
At the end of the day, we must be able to say to ourselves,
“I gave it my all!!”
If we can say that, HONESTLY say that, we can’t reproach ourselves.