Getting back into running after any kind of break is rough sailing. Be it out of injury, post-season recovery, yes, even some are afflicted by the lazy monster, can we get a collective, “Ouch” from the crowd? That said, battle through those first couple weeks and then soak in the awe of muscle memory.
Runners, once you’ve been at this long enough, have pretty much conditioned our legs to bend to our will. The quads, hamstrings, calf muscles, core, and even those biceps alike, know the motions thanks to the hours of repetition; they can to a degree function on auto-pilot. So we suck it up those first few awkward runs, try to not look at the pace and cringe too much, and eventually slip into a more reasonable state of shape.
Getting to our own ‘casual’ running pace doesn’t take too long but then, as with any other runner out there who wants to race or test themselves, the work is as hard as heck. Training involves the intervals, tempos, repeats and pain. Training involves the mind games; the pendulum between good days and the days when you feel like utter crap are more extreme and the exertion level is felt to a higher degree. Training is far more uncomfortable.
I tend to talk a lot about the mental games, the importance of tenacity; tips and tricks about how to get through tough workouts, talking yourself into a gamer state of mind, how to NOT let your mind hold you back from achieving what you want out of your body. I think the reason I do is that the topic on the whole fascinates me; it isn’t something you can quantify, gauge it like you can a certain pace, there is no formula, you can’t tell by looking at a person or by doing any number of scientific tests just HOW mentally tough a runner is and where they fall on some kind of grit spectrum.
We look to examples of harriers that exude grit and toughness; their pained expressions, their ability to race outside of anything their workouts would predict. Some pass out after they cross the line, others are acknowledged by their own competitors as bada** racers, “They are tougher than anyone I’ve ever seen or raced.”
I, just as other athletes and runners, tend to soak up quotes, advice, stories of epic races and duels, surrounding the topic of mental grit because it is so mysterious. Just as others I’ve finished plenty of races and workouts and wondered, “Did I give everything I had? Was there even a fraction of a second where I may have given in, eased up just a bit to the pain?” Because it’s one thing to feel like you were beaten by your body on a certain day, sometimes it is just not in the legs for whatever reason. But it seems to sting a heck of a lot more to be beaten by the mind. THAT seems to be the worst.
Yet when you know you’ve definitely won the battle of the mind THAT seems to be especially gratifying and even to a degree more admired than the actual time or outcome of the race. Odd how there have been races where the runner who gets the most buzz and acclaim, who we seem to admire the most that day, was the person who had the most guts rather than the actual winner.
No matter what point you are with your running, no matter how many years you’ve been at it, the level you race at, if you even race at all…when you crest the point of ‘comfortable’ running and into ‘training’ running we are all in the same boat. Exertion is exertion. Tons of factors come into determining the paces, times, and titles but we are all uncomfortable together. Thus we ALL gravitates to one variable that is a common place we can improve upon, the variable that fascinates and mystifies us all: mental toughness.
That’s the one that can leave us questioning ourselves almost the most, “Did I get the most out of myself today or was there a point where it was my mind holding me back?”
1) What point are you at with your running; are you running just to run or training? Both are fulfilling in different ways and neither one is necessarily better or worse here.
2) Are you particularly interested in the mental aspect of running? What about it do you think piques your interest the most?
I love hearing recounts of runners telling me about their toughest races or workouts; I could hear ‘beastly’ moments and workout feats from people all day long.
3) Would you like to share one of your own beastly workout or race stories??