Thursday, November 12, 2009

Running Through My Mind

One of the possible setbacks of running is boredom. The thought of running for 30 minutes, 40 minutes, an hour or more even, is enough to turn most people off. What are you going to do for so long, besides run of course? You can't exactly surf the net while running. Talking is difficult too, unless you run with others but you can't do that every day. And you can't really talk on the phone or text or tweet or Facebook.

Running just comes down to you and your thoughts.

And what of those thoughts? My reader TG had a question about thoughts, as in what to think during runs. More specifically, what do I think during runs and how do I encourage myself.

It can be tough sometimes to get out there and run, knowing you will have six miles or eight miles or 10 miles ahead of you and you'll be all by yourself. I believe running is as much about conquering mental obstacles as it is physical ones. Yeah, running can take a toll on your ankles and knees and other body parts, but it can also take a mental toll. It's easy to psyche yourself out before you even step on the course.

So it's always good to go into a run focused. I like to think about the overall run, about all the parts of a run, before I go on it. So if I'm running, say The Hill, which I haven't run in a while, I like to imagine myself at certain landmarks along the way - crossing over the only traffic light on the route, passing by the entrance to the golf course that's along the way, taking my first steps after reaching the top, going down to the bottom of it and turning around. If I visualize the run, it seems to make the run doable.

But once you're on the course and running, that's when your thoughts take over. So, what to think about?

I'll start by saying some of the things I do not like to think about and do my best to avoid.

* Anything stressful. If I have something uneasy pending, like a stressful story I'm working on or a tough weekend of games coming up, I try not to think about it because it will only unsettle me.

* Any thoughts about how much longer I have to go. This one's kind of hard but I try and supress anything along these lines: "I've only got half a mile done? I still have five-and-a-half miles to go??" That just makes me want to stop. The only time I allow myself those kinds of thoughts is once I pass the halfway point. And even then that can be discouraging.

* Something I can't control. If the wind is blowing in my face, I try to not let it bother me too much. I can't change it, so why fret about it? I just try and deal with it as best as possible.

So what are some of my go-to thoughts?

* I like to visualize lots of things. As I mentioned before, I like to picture different parts of the run if I've done it before. If not, then I like to visualize myself finishing the run, to let my legs know that it will be over soon.

* Past races always provide great fodder for thoughts. Sometimes if I'm running a long-distance run, I like to think of other races, or runs even, that I've ran at that distance or longer. It's kind of like proof to myself that I can and have done that before but also the emotions I feel from those achievements still energize me.

* Future races are also as valuable. Lately, I keep picturing myself along the Surf City course. I visualize Mrs. LB and the girls at, say, the Mile 16 marker cheering me on. One of my favorite visualizations right now is reaching the Mile 20 marker and having my brother Danny slap the Ragnar bracelet on my wrist. I ended up with that bracelet and I'm going to use it during the marathon as motivation. I think at the Mile 20 mark is when I'll need it the most, and that would be a fantastic moment for me if I was able to coordinate that exchange.

* My blog. I think about my blog and try and plan what things I can blog about. I'm usually on the hunt for blog topics or things that I'll want to mention in a particular blog post and that helps pass the time.

* I used to be a big sports nut but over the years family and work have minimized my ability to keep up on it like I used to. Still, I follow my teams closely and sometimes I like to think about them. However, this is dangerous if your teams are pathetic and this may cause you to stress out, so this one has an asterisk next to it.

* Probably one of the more important things too is to think about the mechanics of your run. I'm constantly focusing on my stride, my arms and how they are moving, my posture, where my shoulders are (too far forward or back?), my breathing, is there any pain anywhere, etc.

* Also as important is my pace. Am I running at a too-fast pace or do I need to speed up? If I'm in the middle of my run, how has my pace changed? If I'm feeling exhausted earlier than expected, I think about about the first part of the run and try and figure out what I've done that may have caused that. And if I feel like I have energy to burn, I contemplate the positives and negatives about running faster than I'd anticipated and wonder if I can get away with it.

Now overall I'm a bit of a daydreamer and I can easily put together scenarios in my head so to me having such daydreams is comforting. I've always been a daydreamer, ever since I was in grade school. I always had problems focusing on my schoolwork because of it and even now it's a challenge a lot of times to keep my focus on something. So some of these thoughts aren't too difficult for me to conjure up.

It's mostly the negative thoughts that I try to avoid.

Still, the one thought that I used to think and sometimes still tries to crawl into my head is the one I try to avoid:

Oh my God this sucks.

Because while it can seem that way, running really isn't that bad.


tahoegirl said...

that was an awesome post, LB. thank you for that. i am going to use some of your thought suggestions and try to push the Oh, my God this sucks out of my mind. that is pretty much my only thought on long runs. oh, along with how much farther? now do you have any tips for cold weather running? and i mean COLD as in 5 degrees with a wind chill of -10. LOL! winter is approaching fast and i want to still train outside.

tahoegirl said...

perhaps another blog entery for you...if you run around a 9 min. mile like your 10K, why were you placed in the 11 minute pace group with the Lopers? just curious how that works.

Tattoos and Teething Rings said...

Way back in the stone ages when I used to run regularly I used to just kind of space-out. It was a time for me to not think about anything.

Amanda said...

Great post, definitely going to have to work on the neg thoughts. Keep random events on my run from ruining my focus. Like you say, they are out of my control.