Today I finished week five of my half marathon training plan. Five weeks of running four days a week plus strength training. I’m at the point now where I’ve stopped whining about how slow I have to run to hit the <140 heart rate target. It’s not because I’ve made miraculous speed gains, though there have been moments of glory. It’s because I’ve realized that I’m five weeks in, running four days a week and averaging 20 miles per week or more. And the biggest celebration is I’ve been pain free.
Prior to signing on with this plan I was averaging 2-3 days per week for about 6-8 miles a week because I was trying to stay injury free. Then I’d go to a race each weekend and guess what I ended up, right injured. It’s hard to break those habits. I truly miss meeting my friend for a long run on the boardwalk, but right now I’ve got to run my own race. I need to do this for me and one thing I’ve learned from the injury and recovery (times two) is the ego can be your nemesis.
My friends run faster than me and when we do races I generally finish after both of them. Yes, I celebrate finishing and enjoy their company immensely, but inside you often think about why you are always last. Your ego starts talking negative, I train just as hard, I eat right, I’m never gonna be fast, I’m old, I’m fat, and on and on. No matter how positive you are it creeps in and affects your attitude toward continuing to push.
When I started running after my stress fracture, I made the decision to do it right this time and do it for me. That doesn’t mean the ego doesn’t sneak in and chat at me on those slow long runs. It does, but I’m learning ways to talk back. There are other ways to think about progress beyond scales, running pace and even finishes. Data tracking has become my new favorite talk back. Tracking of heart rate, effort, stress on body, recovery time, etc. There are so many new ways for me to celebrate my progress and I’ve only just started to learn. For today’s long run, Strava compared my run to others I’ve done on same route. Today I got, “Trending faster” and that made me smile. It no longer mattered what my pace was as I was trending faster and therefore winning.
I’ve also learned to enjoy the runs more as I’m not killing myself. I look forward to going out and really don’t deviate from my coaches plan. Yesterday I needed to be at my dad’s at 5:30 AM to take him for a medical test. I live an hour away and was actually stressing to figure out how to keep my 60 minute run on the calendar. So at 6:00 AM when he went in for the test, I laced up and went on out and got it done. In the past I probably would’ve been happy to have a reason not to do the run, but now I felt compelled to get it done because I love it.
I can even listen to podcasts when I run now because I don’t need constant rock blaring to motivate me. Yes, I still listen to music, but some days I get to enjoy podcasts where I grow my mind and learn more about healthy habits. I can concentrate enough to hear the podcast now that I’m now gasping for survival out there. Today I enjoyed a podcast in which I learned how to better run downhill sprints and how important mindset is in running. #ThanksCoachMK for the reminder.
These principles of course apply to more than running. How many times have you dieted and not lost, yet your friend hardly tried and lost five pounds? Or, you’re working out steady and your significant other shows up at the gym after five year absence and does better. There’s competition in every life event if you really look for it. It’s nice to feel good and encourage others, but unrealistic to expect that you will never feel bad about yourself as a result of others’ success. Approaching life from the perspective of running your own race could give you a real strategy to push back on those feelings. It gives you concrete opportunities to celebrate yourself when you may not tangibly feel successful.
Here are some simple suggestions for data mining in your life. Keep track of how many times your family eats dinner together at a table as a family per week. Keep track of how many times you prepare dinner vs buying prepared food per week for a month. Keep track of how often your plate is balanced protein/carbs/healthy fat, rather than counting calories. Keep data points for your exercise. Heart rate is one, recovery time another, repetitions, amount of weight used. As you can see, the possibilities are endless. Now, open your mind to the idea that ANY improvement is progress, no matter how small. It truly is! Forward is forward. Celebrate each one and let it fuel you to keep going. This will truly be healthier for you and trust me it helps you tell your ego to sit down and shut up because #I’mwinningatlife.