Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Fighting the Brain vs. Body Game

I've only been running for about a month now and while my stamina has increased and I am starting to enjoy what I am doing a bit more, I am now learning that, like any kind of workout, this whole running thing is hugely mental. Obviously running is very physical and your physical fitness and consistency with training will help to determine you ability to go longer and faster when you get out there, but the mental side of it is HUGE! With me being brand spankin' new to the sport, I never really knew about this and just always figured that awesome runners were awesome because they trained hard, they trained regularly and had great discipline.

I don't know why I never thought of it before. Perhaps it's just because I was never a runner and never was put into the mindset of one. But it's not any different for any kind of athlete or person who likes to be physically fit. Like it says on the wall at Performance Fitness, "The hardest part is over. You got here." (Or something like that.) But after many years of going to the gym, it's a quote that I know to be completely true since something just getting your butt into the gym is the most difficult thing to achieve. We live these crazy busy lives full of deadlines, traffic, kids, family, errands, planning, scheduling, meeting, greeting, coordinating and constant stimulation, and sometimes taking the time and effort to spend an hour at a gym is the most mentally painful thing to do knowing about this lifestyle that we have to get back to. But once you get there and bust through your workout, you feel so good and you're happy that you made the commitment to go. You're sore, you're sweaty and you probably stink a little, but you feel freaking great.

I am getting a bit off topic so let's get back to my main point here. Running. It's mental. Very mental.

The first couple of weeks, I'd be out there and my brain didn't think about much else besides my legs and the time on my stopwatch (with the Couck to 5K Program, you're supposed to time yourself to condition yourself and build up some stamina). Then I started to get lazy with the whole stopwatch thing and started going without it. This was mostly because I was using the stopwatch on my iPod and it sucked all of the power out of the poor little thing in no time. But once I got rid of the stopwatch and went solo, I started to notice that my brain was wandering more and my body was running without it and I was covering far more distance. Now that was super cool and made me happy.

But now that I am getting better at running, my brain and body are having battles lately which I do not appreciate. I'll have one day in which I will have a super awesome run. Just the other night I did 9K with not much trouble (of course I still had to take breaks, but it blew my mind that I made it that far considering how much I suck at running), while a few days before I was useless and could never even imagine covering that kind of distance while I puttered along the trail.

My brain kept thinking, "Get the lead out girl and move your feet! You should feel fresh right now! You ran awesome the other night after working a 12 hour shift!"

And my body was thinking, "Shut up brain! At least I'm trying!"

And then my jerk brain replies, "You're not trying hard enough!"

And body retaliates with, "You just worked 36 hours in the past 3 days! Give me a bit of a break."

Brain, "Exactly! You mostly sat at a desk for 36 hours in 3 days. Plus sitting time driving to and from work. Plus that berry and white chocolate scone you devoured like a starving dog. Move it sister!"

Then my body usually shuts up after that and pushes out every last bit of strength and determination. What makes this mental for me is that I am coming from a very active job to a very sedentary job and at the end of the day, my legs are sore from all of the sitting which is something that I am not used to. But I am also coming from a brainless job to a very mentally straining job which makes me mentally drained and even more difficult to achieve a state of mind that gets me to want to get out there and run. It's been shown that people who are mentally tired generally have poorer physical performance, and I am no exception.

I have to keep in mind that there will be fast 9K days and also slow, huffing and puffing 7K days. What I eat, how I sleep, my hydrating status, my personal life, my work life, a stupid song that I can't get out of my head - all of these things will affect how far I go, how fast I do it and if I really want to get out there that day. On days that I am mentally drained, I need to accept that I might not be able to cover as much ground as I would like to, but maybe the next run will be awesome and I'll whip through it like nothing.

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