Friday, March 6, 2009

Mind Over Matter

Liking running changes everything. Now I can't moan and groan when I get out of bed to go for a run. I can't want to give up after the first three minute interval. I can't think, well, forty degrees is warmer than it has been, but it could be better and doesn't my cozy bed look good?

Well, I can think those things, but it turns out that I do it less and they don't kill my motivation like they used to.

Take this morning's run for example. I've been eating more protein for the past two days (not as terrible as I thought), had a good yoga class last night, made sure to stretch and massage my legs, and it was forty degrees and sunny when my alarm went off. So, dare I say it, I was actually *looking forward* to getting outside and running this morning. Gasp. But the run today was tough and I have no idea why. My body felt very heavy and blah, it was still windy as it is EVERY day, and I was still a bit tired. The best part though? I actually still liked running. I liked pushing myself through the intervals and finding my best pace. I love the feeling I get at the end of a run when I've accomplished the morning's goal. I've felt so much stronger this week and that's really exciting. When I stretched my legs this morning as I got out of bed, I saw some muscle that hadn't been there before - all that in just three and a half weeks?? It was enough to make me sing during my post-run shower! Let's hope I feel this good after a back-to-back run tomorrow!

After my run, I read a blog post by Elizabeth Waterstraat about "finding your faith." Since she puts it much better than I would:
"Find your faith. You’re sitting at the end of a hard workout wondering if you can do it. Can you? Find your faith. Believe you can. Why not? Really - what is the risk? If you give it a try and blow up, you found your answer = not yet. Keep working. If you give it a try and succeed then you have yet another personal success story to store in your files. Neither lesson can be learned until you have the faith to try. The faith that just maybe you can do it so it is worth a try. If you try and fail, then find your faith that the next time you’ll do the right thing or the better thing. Faith in yourself that the next time you’ll try. Faith that all of these experiences day to day, both good and bad, will add up to an improvement in the future. Faith that what I do will count. That even when I struggle it serves a purpose. Or that when I make the wrong choice that serves a purpose too."

That's what I've been doing all along - finding my faith. Just putting one foot in front of the other, and believing that each run, I will improve, even if it's just a little bit. Knowing that even days when I have a tough run, it serves a purpose. Pushing myself to eke out the last minute of each interval (especially those five minute ones), believing that I just might be able to do it, and then achieving that. In my last couple of runs, during the last fifteen seconds of each interval, I've opened up from my snail's pace to a speed that human runners normally run at, and it feels GREAT. I almost don't recognize myself!

Fortunately, my body is still holding me back from having any crazy thoughts of jumping right through my training schedule. Because, I think this feeling could make you want to skip ahead, be ready for the next thing, the first race. Liz calls this "itchiness:"

"For most of us, our big races are months away. It’s easy to get sucked into the sexyness of going fast and doing a lot now because we see it all around us. The guy blowing out 800s on the track who never comes near us during a race but he’s passing us at the track? Yeah, he makes us itchy. The person that has been doing killer all out 3 hour bike workouts at their threshold 2 times a week? Yeah, that makes us itchy. Races are starting up again, the energy is building and all of it is creating this itch itch itch that maybe we are not moving along quickly enough, doing the right thing or on the right track.

"Rather than itching the skin right off yourself, relax. Find your faith. Keep working. Nothing replaces the lessons you learn in training. Those are the things that make you faster on race day. Sure, track workouts and all that other stuff is really effective too – at the right time. But when it all comes down to it the building block of success is faith combined with work. Trust combined with training. If you don’t trust you can do it, you never will. And if you don’t have faith in yourself and your training then…what ARE you doing?"

Okay, so she's a professional triathlete, and I've been running for 3 1/2 weeks, so our goals and competition are a bit different! But the idea is the same, and the advice is great. Trust in my training program and stick with it. As she said a few weeks ago "Do the work. It will pay off." And I need to believe in myself - as the saying goes "Whether you believe you can or you believe you can't, you're right." I've seen that a lot in my running, especially this week. Towards the end of the five minute intervals, especially the second one, I can hear the little voice in the back of my head saying "You're never going to make it." As soon as I start to listen to that, my legs slow and my breathing is much more labored. But when I replace that thinking with "You CAN do it and you will do it," I finish strong and feel good about it all day. Positive thinking really does have a lot of power!

With that in mind, it's going to be a gorgeous weekend here at the Jersey shore, with temperatures well into the sixties. That should make any run, even a bad one, delightful, especially since the smell of the sea is so strong lately!

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