Triathlon — Overcoming the “I’m Scared to Death” Syndrome

running-advice-bugLast weekend I was walking into a transition at a local race and I overheard a common exchange. One athlete asked the other how she was feeling and the other answered her back, “I’m scared to death!” So many times I have heard this expressed — and often in exactly those words. I can almost feel the pounding heart and the sweaty skin.

courage-is-being-scared-to-deathThese words “I’m scared to death” have real power. Of course, when we say them we’re not actually scared “to death.” It’s not as if Jaws is about to surface beneath us and bite our legs off or Jason is going to jump out from behind a tree with an ax and end our races with a mortal blow. (Although these days with the Zombie runs and other themed races, it could happen!) But the power of these words tells a lot about what’s going on in the mind.

“Scared to death” is an expression of fear. If you look it up in the dictionary the definition is “extremely scared.” The word “scared” itself means, “thrown into or being in a state of fear, fright, or panic.” The question is not whether we are actually scared before a race — as many people actually are — but rather do we really want to be in a “state of panic or fright” before a race? The answer, of course, is no.

What we want to be is control of our emotions, thinking clearly, and ready to do what we have trained to do. Achieving a clear head is not so easy when we’re seeing spots with fright.
Read more…

Share

Mental Games — Finding Your Focus On the Edge

running-advice-bugCoach Dean Hebert and I have both been writing over the past week about the discomfort of pushing hard and pushing through new boundaries. I wrote last week about the difficulty of pushing hard when we are already in a weakened state. I want to build on that today to talk about another aspect of this discussion: finding focus within or over the edge of your limits.

As I wrote last week, there may be times when you are in a weakened state and can’t get yourself to push hard in workouts. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that there aren’t types of workouts or situations that will bring you to a point of focus and allow you to move beyond the pain. What I mean here is that some people may find that situations like races or group workouts will focus them so much that they are able to intently concentrate and this allows them to go hard without that pain.

In my personal situation I noted that track workouts have been the bane of my existence over the past two years. I go to the track. I do short speed workouts, but anything beyond about 1,000 meters kind of makes my heart sink. This is, as Coach Dean points out, likely a fear response — a fear of failure or a fear of feeling even more pain than I already have going on in my world. But during this time I have felt completely at home during races. The particular focus that it brings to me allows me to shut out the fears and pain and push hard like I normally would on the track. What I’ve done is to race more during this time and use these races as intense speed workouts. For me this has been an answer to help me get in my workouts in a time when I might not have been able to mentally stomach the tough workouts on the track.

How this may apply to you is to think about the types of workouts that are blocking you, whether they are long speed workouts, tempo runs, sprint workouts or perhaps strength workouts. Think about them and then think of things that might sound a little more palatable to you. If running on the track doesn’t sound good, how about playing a speed game on a wooded trail. If you hills sound terrible, how about running up and down the stadium bleachers like “Rocky.” If tempo runs sound terrible, how about having a faster runner join you for 15 minutes and tying to keep up with them. There are many ways to skin these cats, you just need to find the types of workouts that will produce the results you are looking for but in ways that feel “doable” to you.
Read more…

Share

Mental Games — No Risk, No Reward

running-advice-bugThere have been a number of runners over the course of my career that I have wanted to call cowards. I’ve only actually done it once and it didn’t have the result that I’d hoped. It ended up with the runner crying hysterical tears and that isn’t a good thing. But there are times that I hear runners saying, “I can’t do that coach” or “I don’t know if I can” that I want to get in their faces and tell them that they are just being a wus. “Get in the game or go the fuck home,” as my dad used to tell me.

Why do we want to push people? Because in training, as in life, you will only get to new places by taking risks. There is an expression that I hate, which I know that you’ve heard: “no pain, no gain.” There is a bit of truth in that phrase. Trying new things is indeed painful. But the important phrase to unpack here is “no risk, no reward.”

Typically when I have a runner that is getting close to the coward zone, they are thinking about something that a) I know they can do and 2) they think that they can’t. It’s in those moments that we want to explain that unless we take chances, we don’t know how far we can go. We will never know the future. We don’t know what things are going to feel like until we do them. But unless we try, then we will never know. We are, in fact, safe when we don’t take risks. Because we can hide behind the safety of our self-imposed walls. Nothing can hurt you when you hunker down behind those walls. But you won’t get anywhere either.

The ugly side of risk is two-fold. First, there is the fear of the future that is inherent in risk. We don’t KNOW what is going to happen. The fear is that we anticipate the negative, the bad, or the harm that may come to us. What will it feel like when you fail? It will feel icky. But what if you succeed? The risk is in taking the chance that we will succeed or fail. We can’t know which one will happen ahead of time, so that’s where the fear comes in. As someone very important to me once wrote on a piece of paper that is now stuck to my computer, we can write F.E.A.R as an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real.
Read more…

Share

Mental Games — Stick With Your Decisions

running-advice-bugI was talking with a friend that other day that had made a big life decision. It was early on and she had no new information yet with which to judge whether she’d made the right choice. I had given her some advice that she needed to slow down and trust her decisions. I told her to trust the process and let things play out. With time she would know if she made the right decision.

I was racing this weekend and I was thinking about how the many smaller decisions we make can add up to a particular result and how we need to both acknowledge those decisions and embrace them when we stick to them. Even if it means a result that we hadn’t predicted. Here’s what I mean. In the race this weekend, I came in second overall by about 30 seconds. It was a small margin to come up without the win. In my head, of course, I immediately went into the cycle of “I could have won this IF ONLY. . .” but then I needed to review the decisions that I made before the race.

Decision one — “this was intended to be a training race for me.” I am currently training for Duathlon Worlds. This particular race was a triathlon. To underscore this point, I haven’t swam in six weeks since my last Ironman race. The choices in my training are to focus on Duathlon right now. This shouldn’t have been a race I was trying to win. Hindsight aside, this decision still makes sense.

Decision two — “I want to work on my bike segment time.” I went into the race with the desire to hammer the bike, at the expense of anything else. I did that. In fact, I was more than two minutes faster than the overall winner. Success, right? Well, of course it is easy to think “if I hadn’t gone so hard on the bike, I would have had more for the run.” But the point was to kill the bike (I did), even if it killed me (it did). Good training workout. Good decision.
Read more…

Share

Mental Games — Dealing With the Middle Miles

running-advice-bugThe middle miles are always the toughest. You’ll be working through a race or workout and get to the half-way point and feel a real sense of relief. And then a few minutes later you start to have this sinking feeling of despair, “I’m only half-way done!” I’ve personally always hated this feeling and I know that whether you’re an Ironman, marathon runner or even training for shorter races, it has happened to you too. Don’t worry, I can help you fix this one.

Middle MilesThe Middle Miles syndrome crops up primarily for the the same reasons that we’ve been talking all year here on the blog. Our thoughts shape our feelings. Our reactions to the physical stimuli around us are shaped by those feelings. So whether you are normally a “glass-is-half-full” type or a not, if you’re feeling dread around those middle miles you’ve moved your thoughts into the “glass-is-half-empty” zone. Once we begin to think about how far we have left to go, then everything we experience, from a little pain or a rain-shower, starts to make us feel bad.

Remember that we always craft our experience and our journey through our thought processes, so when you thought-space moves to “I have so far to go” then the natural reaction to difficulties is “I can’t go on” or “this is hard.” We need to move our thoughts back into a positive space and think “these miles are no longer than the ones I have done,” or “it’s just a little rain,” or “I’ll work through this pain in legs and feel better in a while.” We control our thoughts and thus we control the feelings that we experience.

But there are two other ways that can impact the way the Middle Miles feel in addition to moving our thoughts into a more positive space. The other two are 1) pacing and 2) nutrition. If you take all three of these items together, they form a three sided solution to that sinking feeling in that tough middle portion of the race.
Read more…

Share

Mental Games — Balancing ‘Should’ Versus ‘Want’

running-advice-bugI’ve told the story countless times about how I ended up a runner. My mom had put me in sport after sport, so the story goes, and my soccer coach pulled her aside. “Ms. English,” he said, “your son is a terrible soccer player, but outruns everyone on the field. Perhaps he is a runner.”

About the time I started running (Circa 1972)

About the time I started running (Circa 1972)

I always tell this story to get the chuckle that invariably comes when the coach says that I was a terrible player. This is likely true. I’m one of the least coordinated people that I know. In fact, I often refer to myself as a “big dumb engine” — turn me on and I just go. But there is another side to that story that I’ve never really talked about. Another response my mom could have had was, “well, is he having fun?”

It occurs to me that we are often so focused on being “good” at things like sports that we forget that we can do them just for the sake of having fun. At the young age of six years old, should it have mattered that I was terrible at playing soccer? Should it have mattered that I might excel at running? What if I loved the game of soccer and hated running? Should we always be in search of the things in which we are most competitive?

I’ve noticed a bit of language that I key in to related to this these days. When I’m talking to runners and triathletes, they often use the word “should” — as in “should I run another marathon?”, “should I try to qualify for Boston?” “should I do another Ironman?” What underlies these questions is a sort of obligation. ‘Should’ implies there is a some reason or duty there. ‘Should’ could be interchanged with “must” pretty easily.
Read more…

Share

Training — Keeping Your Eyes on the Prize

running-advice-bugIt seems like I’ve been hitting some familiar and related topics over the last few weeks: keeping yourself focused on the end goal; staying with it when it gets tough; and, understanding how to you keep your workouts from becoming work. Today I want to give you a reminder that when you do put in the time and the “work” you’ll get there. There is a prize at the end of the road. That’s why you do all of this work.

Coach Joe at the Hagg Lake 50K 2013

Coach Joe at the Hagg Lake 50K 2013

Yesterday was my first ultra-marathon in a number of years. I’ve been training for an Ironman-distance Triathlon that’s coming up in a couple of months. In preparation for that race, I’ve been doing some very long workouts and I wanted to get out and log some long miles on my legs to see how that would feel. The race that I was doing was a trail race on single-track with a moderate amount of climbing in it. I know that it was going to be a bit of a grinder and would be muddy and very slippery in sections.

In the early miles of the race I kept reminding myself that the point of the exercise was not to race to win, but to race to train. I wanted a good, high-quality effort, that would contribute to my overall training plan for my upcoming “important” race. And I had to keep this present in my thoughts throughout the day. This was an element in my training plan and I needed to keep my eyes on the prize out there a couple of months ago.

Almost from the start of the race I found myself chatting with other runners. By relaxing and knowing that this was supposed to be something that I was doing “for fun”, I kept it light and kept my mood upbeat. I admit I was a bit of a chatty Kathy through most of the first 25 miles or so. I ended up running in a train with three other runners (two of the top three women and one other male runner). We chatted about our kids, upcoming races, and our training. And they all laughed every time I fell going across bridges.
Read more…

Share

Video — Season 2 – Episode 26 — Solitude, Introspection & Meditation

running-advice-bugThis week on the show, Coaches Joe and Dean sit down by Runner’s Lake and take on a more relaxed tone. They might even be sort of zen-like dudes and dudettes.

Join us as gurus Joe and Dean take a look at how running might contribute to your sense of inner-peace in the world. Our topic: solitude, introspection and meditation while running.

On this episode:
— How can running contribute to a sense of calmness and peace?
— Can time spent running be time of reflection and meditation?
— How can we make the running experience more peaceful?

To visit our video pages with links to all of the episodes in the series, go to:
Season 1 Video Page

Season 2 Video Page

Running Advice and News
www.running-advice.com

Share

Video – Season 2 – Episode 22 — Pre-race Freak Outs and Anxiety

running-advice-bugWe’re now 22 episodes into season 2 and on today’s show: our first guest! While filming our current series, one of Coach Dean’s athletes named Jan Lockett joined us to talk about her feelings on the eve of a very big race. Our topic this week: the pre-race freak out and dealing with pre-race anxiety.

On this week’s episode:
— Dealing with pre-race anxiety
— Strategies to focus before a race
— Envisioning your performance
— Relaxing to help performance

Jan did great in her race and we thank her for joining us on the show. Perhaps you will be next!

To visit our video pages with links to all of the episodes in the series, go to:
Season 1 Video Page

Season 2 Video Page

Running Advice and News
www.running-advice.com

Share

Video — Season 2 – Episode 5 — The Control Episode

running-advice-bugWe’re back and its time for Season 2 – Episode 5 — The control Episode.

Coaches Joe English and Dean Hebert sit down for another chat about running, racing and marathon preparation. We’re continuing to talk about the mental game. This week we look at control and competition.

On this episode:
— What kinds of things are within our control when it comes to our running and racing?
— What kinds of things are out of our control?
— Where should we place our focus when preparing for a race?
— What is the impact of focusing on things that we don’t control?
— How can we be more focused on what’s important when racing?
To watch the video, just click the play button in the video window below.

Season 2 will bring you 30 more episodes so stay tuned every Thursday on Vimeo, Facebook (our FanPage is located at Running Advice and News) and on www.running-advice.com.

To visit our video pages with links to all of the episodes in the series, go to:
Season 1 Video Page

Season 2 Video Page

Running Advice and News
www.running-advice.com

www.running-advice.com
Subscribe in a reader

Share