If you've never trained for a race before, essentially your mileage slowly increases each week. Your weekday miles climb a little over the weeks, but not too much. And then you have one long run on the weekend that increases a mile or two a week for a couple weeks, then drops way down for a recovery week, and then continues to climb the next week. (If you're curious, I'm following a Hal Higdon training plan that can be found HERE)…It looks like this (I just finished week 8 and am now on week 9):
I have learned through running, that our brains are remarkable. God wired our brains to power our bodies in a huge way. When our bodies get tired, our brains can take over and push our body to complete a task (in many cases). So when my body is tired on a run…I allow my brain to coach it. I begin telling my body what it needs to hear. Here are a few of the things I tell myself (this, my friends, is about to get embarrassing):
1) "You're not in pain, you're just tired." This is a big one. And a fine line. My knees are usually aching. The gnarly blister on my arch is burning. But I'm not in true pain. My body is just tired. It wants to stop. So I tell myself, over and over, "You're not in pain, you're just tired." This reminder is huge. Being tired isn't a bad thing. Being tired is just a matter of needing to push through. Side note: Sometimes you are actually in PAIN. In those cases, it's advisable to stop. But learning what's pain and what's fatigue is crucial.
2) "You can do this. It's just one foot in front of the other." When I'm tired. I'm tired. But when I make myself feel silly for wanting to stop, by reminding myself I only have to move one leg, and then the next, step, step, step. It helps. I mean, it's just walking, but faster, right?
3) "You have ____ miles left. That's just ____ minutes." I find if I think about how many miles I've covered, it's just depressing and makes me more tired. So I choose to just think about what I have left. I think about it as if I have just started running. "You have 4 miles, that's just 30 minutes." There are a couple keys here. First, I always round down…I won't feel the difference between 32 and 30 minutes. And 30 minutes just sounds better. Second, I never start doing this til I'm within 4 miles of the end. "You have 12 miles left, that's just 1.5 hours," sounds HORRIBLE. I'd call a taxi.
4) "You are so lucky." Cue sappy music. When I start feeling really tired, I decide to flip it and reverse it. I tell myself how lucky I am that I have 2 legs that feel fatigued, 2 legs that have carried me all this way. "Enjoy it," I tell myself, "you are so lucky." I look around at the sites. I breathe in the crisp air. I find whatever I can that is beautiful around me and I admire it. Last weekend, I found 2 trees that were changing colors (there were only 2 the ENTIRE run…we don't get fall here really.). They were yellow. They were beautiful. "You ran far enough, you found fall…well done," I told myself. I saw a horse, "man, horses are incredible creatures," I admired (I also admired his legs. They were pure muscle. "If only I had horse's legs," I thought). I take it in. Soak it up. To run, and to hurt because you are accomplishing something, are both blessings.
….and the most embarrassing one of all….
5) "This is when winners are made." Yes, I do say that. More than once. Yes. I once have said it aloud. Ok, I did twice on Saturday. I know, it's a frightening look into my brain. But seriously, the last couple miles of a run are all that matter, in a way. The last couple miles are what will build a better me. It's the last mile or 2 that are longer than the week before. They are what create progress. They are what break you down and build you up. No one has ever won anything that hasn't pushed themselves farther than they had gone before. And while I will never, ever, ever "win" a race, I can win against myself. I can beat myself. And so I tell myself with embarrassing frequency, "you have to do this. You have to push. This is when winners are made." (Now erase that from your memory…)
If you're out exercising this week…give these little catch phrases a try. Be your own cheerleader and coach. You'll be surprised what your brain can make your body do…however, you may not want to publicly admit any of these thoughts to your friends and family (as I just did), from experience I can tell you, you'll be mocked :)