Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Putting the Fun back in the Run

Looking back over the last few weeks of training, it is abundantly clear to me that I lost the fun in my running. Track workouts became chores. I dreaded tempos. Long runs were slogs. I had anxiety about when I could get my miles in. I had to treat myself to breaks to get through easy runs with the kids. Basically, I had to grit my teeth and get through these past few weeks when usually I can't wait to hit the road, track, treadmill, etc.

What happened?

As the temps increased and the goal paces decreased I simultaneously put more and more pressure on myself to nail my workouts. I was training with E for our track workouts and as she gained her strength back and had an easier time on the track, I had a harder time. When she pushed the pace, I felt like there was something wrong with me that I couldn't keep up and I would get frustrated and berate myself or give up. I did this even when I was actually meeting or even sometimes exceeding the goal paces, just because it felt like I was sucking when I couldn't keep up. Craziness!

It's easy in group track workouts to feel the need to a) keep up with everyone else and b) give in to the temptation to race a little. I wasn't doing this for the first few weeks, but before I knew it there I was doing everything I knew I shouldn't. I have a tendency to internalize everything and make mountains out of molehills and despite my best efforts I got sucked down that rabbit hole once again.

But, the Johnnycake race was a wake up call. It was a gift in disguise. I realize that running was not fun for a few weeks there and instead of focusing on nailing workouts and keeping up with E or anyone else for that matter, my goal right now is to put the fun back in the run. It seems counter-intuitive, but my problem is not a lack of hard work or passion. I have all the physical tools and most of the mental tools I need to race well and set big prs. What I'm missing is the lightness and joy that allows me to run free. When I put pressure on myself and high expectations it's like running under a heavy dark cloud that holds me back. So expectations are out the window. Goal times are just aspirational. I am going to focus on fun and joy and freedom and the escape that running provides me.


Susan said...

I think the joy in competitive running is when we achieve those goals and have those races where everything works. It is tough not to compare yourself to others--that's the competitive part and it's part of the joy, when you beat someone you know is fit and fast. Obviously you are training and don't expect to be in exactly the same place at the same time as someone else. Have you ever trained with a heart rate monitor? I think using a heart rate monitor for tempo runs and long runs helped keep me honest with myself about my effort (and not focus on a number for pace OR trying to keep up with others) when I was coming back into training. Sometimes it helped me pick it up (because I wasn't even close to my zone) and other times it helped me hold back and stay in the appropriate zones and not overtrain (ie: stay aerobic in long runs). You are an impressive runner and clearly on the come-back! Try not to be discouraged.

E-Speed said...

I like this post :) It is hard to remember sometimes that we do this because we like it when we are struggling with the process. We should both bookmark this one for the days when we feel frustrated in the future and remember we do this because we want to be faster and because we enjoy the process as well as the results.