Think WAY back or, for some, not too long ago, about when you first started running…that was most likely also your first experience with head games in running. Really. : )
“I’m going to run to the light pole, and then walk…I’m going to run to every other driveway…every other post…to the fire hydrant…to the end of the block….” Mind games. Typically, almost magically, we somehow made our goals (or at least a majority of them).
And maybe, just maybe, there’s something to that beginners’ experience.
First off, let’s look at what made you successful as a beginning runner and how that can translate to today.
– the goal was achievable. The more we run, the more difficult our goals. No problem with that, but approach your goals realistically based on your current condition, your commitment, and probably most importantly, the time you have available to invest in making that goal a reality. So, if you know your job is going to require you to work 60 or 70 hours a week two months out of the year, your goal should conclude before that time period or start up a couple weeks after it.
– the goal had near immediate reward. Within a very short time on those early runs, you experienced achievement (such as making it to the end of the block)! If you choose a goal that has an extended training period before the payoff, build in some “reward” opportunities along the way. Success makes practice more enjoyable. Some ideas of success can be as simple as a training run completed at pace, not missing a single run for 2 weeks, being fit enough to do a ladder workout by a certain date, etc. When progress is observed, it’s easier to keep working at improving.
– as admitted beginners, we had a firm grip on reality. Ever see the former high school or college athlete who hasn’t done much for the past 5 years as far as exercise is concerned, kind of give this “roll of the eyes” when talking about running? Yeah, they REMEMBER how fit they WERE and how EASY it was to run. Well, the reality is, if you haven’t run for 5 years, it’s not going to be a cake walk. If you have never run, well, it may actually be easier for you because YOU have a grip on reality…every added block, every added lap or mile is a new success. You also know better than to say on your first day out, “Yeah, I’ll do a couple miles warm-up, then some quarter-mile repeats, and then warm-down with a mile or so.” Yeah, right. The former athlete often has trouble coming to grips with the fact that he/she isn’t an exercise “machine” any longer…success for them depends on whether or not they can swallow their pride, accept reality, and start over.
So, no matter where you’re starting from or what your condition is now, sometimes playing “mind games” will help you achieve your goals…make your goals relatively small, achievable, and ones you can build on…and in time, you’ll look back and notice your “small goals” of today would have been “huge goals” just a few months ago. : )
However, having said all this, there are also times not to play mind games…such as when you’re feeling light headed/dizzy or you know you’re pushing yourself too hard or in extreme heat…then ditch the mind games and be smart. You have to know your body…, sometimes all it needs is a little distraction to get through a “rough spot.” But if it’s more than just a rough spot — if the weather is playing a factor or you can tell “something” isn’t right, don’t try to force your body to do something that it’s telling you not to do… heat stroke is nothing you want to deal with (and with the late surge in temps — at least in my area of the country — it’s a real consideration).
Know your body, know yourself, but play it smart! : )
Have an awesome run today!
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