I have learned a lot about myself while pursuing this new running obsession of mine. The most important thing I have figured out is that running is a mental game I play with myself. When I used to think about running, I thought about the physical demands on your body. VO2, body mechanics, force of impact on your feet and joints. All important considerations, but what is the hardest thing about running for me is the mental aspect.
For example, when I get to the gym to do a run and climb up on the treadmill, I am not usually completely thrilled at the prospect. We go to the gym in the evening, usually after a long day at work, and all I really want to be doing is relaxing, watching TV, and getting ready for bed. As I start my run (or walk, on those days) I try to focus on my long term goals, which means thinking about runDisney events of course! I often visualize how it will feel to run down Main Street, or run through Cinderella’s Castle. These thoughts are usually good for several minutes, but, since it is a bit far away (161 days!) and I have never actually experienced the events, the vicarious, pleasant thoughts are hard to maintain. I then start playing the game.
I currently am running intervals where I run for 90 seconds and I walk for 2 minutes. Per my trainer, I am supposed to repeat my intervals 6 times. I have been working on increasing my speed for the running portion (I started at 3.5 MPH, and as of last night, I am up to 4.2 MPH) and on increasing the number of times I repeat the 90/120 second interval (up to 8 since last week). My own personal “running game” goes a little something like this:
- During the 8 minute warm-up, I am pretty content with generally letting my mind ponder whatever topic pops up. My warm up is walking 2.7 with a 1% incline for 2 minutes, 3.0 at a 1% incline for 2 minutes, 3.3 at a 1% incline for 2 minutes, concluding with 3.3 at a 3% incline. This is not terribly difficult, so the mind game has not officially started.
- The first run interval tends to be on the easy side. I am just getting started, and the Main Street/Cinderella’s Castle thoughts get me through this interval easily.
- The second run interval is a little more difficult. I start thinking how much more time I have to go, and I am generally aware of the fact that I am a big woman with jiggly parts jiggling, and I have some discomfort. I tell myself I only have to do 4 more intervals after this one if I want to stop at 6.
- The third interval I am telling myself if I quit at 6 intervals, I will be halfway done if I stop at 6. Halfway done is good, right? Also, if I want to slow my pace down for the rest of the intervals, that would totally be understandable and perfectly okay.
- The fourth interval is usually one of the worst. The game is getting tough, and I start thinking I want to quit. Some of the thoughts for this interval include telling myself I could stop after this interval if I wanted to, at least I did some exercise, right? But then I think, no, I can do 6 intervals, I can, I really really can.
- The fifth interval is often one of the better ones. I am telling myself, hey, I am almost done. One more interval and I can stop. I got this.
- The sixth interval is when pure stubbornness kicks in. I am not going to quit after 6 when I can do 8! As this interval ends, I get a second wind mentally, because I know each interval I do past this one is all me, all extra, and beyond expectations.
- The seventh and eighth intervals are physically more difficult, but mentally, I am drawing energy from the fact that I am going above and beyond, proving to myself that I can not only do what I require of myself, but I can do more. I feel mentally strong and powerful, and I think about how successful I will be at meeting my running goals if I can just maintain long term. I also think about when I want to change my runs for the future. (When do I want to go up to 9 intervals? When do I want to go up on my speed? When can I do these things without raising my risk for injury?)
The moral of this story is my body can do more than it should be able to do on paper. I am middle-aged, overweight, and out of shape. I have learned where the mind goes, the body follows. Granted, I am well aware there are physical limitations. I couldn’t run a marathon tomorrow just because I decided I could. What I can do is work hard, every run, to make small strides towards improving my speed and my distance. I can go on that run even when I am tired and grumpy, and not feeling very princess-like. I can make sure I never lose track of the long term goals, and just keep on keeping on. I have a strong mind and am stubborn, I can use that strength to conquer the weakness in my body until mind and body are both strong and fit.