I never thought hitting a ‘Submit’ button could cause so much damage to my nervous system – I had just entered my online form for the Bristol half marathon. There was a feeling of relief that I’d finally conquered my decision-making demons followed by a wave of realisation that I had just subjected myself to weeks and months of guilty obligatory runs. Before the dreaded Submit button I was racking up the mileage every Sunday, each time running slightly further, feeling the fatigue and absolutely embracing it…this called for a serious change in attitude to what I was doing…
One lesson learnt: train with a partner or groups.
As a runner, self-talk is possibly the most influential psychological factor on your performance, as a former athlete the feeling of pressure is familiar but it was also the same aspect that drove me to despise and dread athletic competitions and eventually leave the sport altogether. I took up long distance running to rid me off any pressure, a quiet, personal and private sport that no-one sees when you break through the mist early on a Saturday morning. Equally I dreaded running in groups purely because the sound of heavy breathing and any negative thoughts of failure are just reinforced around me, as opposed to running independently I can shrug the negativity off of my shoulders and concentrate on the music. Last week I ran in a group based on a running shop on Whiteladies Road, Bristol, it was free and nearby not to mention that particular day was deliciously summery (perhaps the confession of a seasonal runner there?) we darted up to the Downs and then did sprints and plyometrics. There was alot of flailing limbs, sweaty betties and lazy burpees as we counted number 98… But we all hit a higher plateau of fitness. Alongside another newbie like myself, we realised we would have no way achieved this by ourselves.
Second lesson learnt: Read and indulge on fitness tips and get motivated
I indulge in a massive guilty pleasure…WomensHealth / WomensFitness. Signed up to the newsletters and all. Don’t switch off now because you think this article is female specific – there are plenty of men’s equivalents websites out there which I have even used for some of my workouts. I needed to rewire the motivations and incentives in my mind and to remind myself why I do running in the first place? To be a better, faster, stronger person (thanks Daft Punk for making that phrase sound so natural). These websites indulge in health and fitness tips, nice dinner recipes and good workout exercises for when you hit up the gym. They’re also full of imagery which reinforces the benefits of exercise.
Third lesson learnt: Just go. Don’t think. Just go and do it.
The last week has been a success in terms of fitness and health, by cracking out three early morning gym sessions I tackled cardio, arms, abs and legs. This has lead to a guilt-free Saturday knowing I can do other fairly inactive things like blog writing, painting or baking a cake. To ensure 100% gym attendance, prepare your gym clothes/bag the night before, set your alarm and just get up. Don’t even think about anything else, don’t think about the weather or if you can fit in another session in the evening – just GO! LEAVE NOW! I am a firm believer that sticking around too long, causes doubt and instantly de-motivates.
Fourth Lesson Learnt: Find the music that gets you moving and squash it into one amazing playlist.
I have just updated my running playlists, I have one on iTunes for my Classic iPod and one on Spotify for my Galaxy S3 (Summer Running Playlist). I was getting bored with the old songs, reminding me of particular instances where I’d stopped running and distracting my mind from the goal. Updating a fresh playlist with some good songs that get under your skin, I realise I pick a mixture of Drum’n’bass, fast remixes and classic dance tracks, a good 75% of these songs I wouldn’t be caught dead listening to during the day but when you’re in the zone, a classic Kelly Rowland track gets you running quicker! My top 5 gym songs EVER are –
- Greyhound – Swedish House Mafia
- In for the Kill (Skreams Let Get Ravey remix) – La Roux
- Where Have You Been (Hardwell Club Remix) – Rihanna
- Give Me Love (New Machine Remix) – Ed Sheeran (told you these songs I wouldn’t listen to in any other circumstances!)
- Sandstorm – Darude
Fifth Lesson Learnt: Remember how good you feel after exercise
When I finished 8.6 miles the other day, I have never felt so proud of myself. The reason I was racking up the distance was to see whether I could actually do it – how far can my two legs carry me? The idea of surpassing all of your own and other people’s expectations is thrilling and you need to tie in those feelings when you do exercise. Think, ‘If I do this extra mile, my legs are going to look extra good tonight’ or ‘If I do this extra set of reps, I will be really pleased for the rest of the day’. The endorphins are in full flow post-exercise and this feeling is the one thing that makes me get up first thing or out on a cold and windy day. Remember the feeling of pride, success and achievement when you’ve done a workout or a good run and you’ll soon strengthen the work-achieve bond which, I guarantee will get you addicted to exercise..!
So the half marathon doesn’t seem so daunting now, with it being in September there is more than enough time to prepare. I will forget about any pressure and hold off on guilt if I don’t beat the 8.6 mile training mark. I will remember the reasons why I love running and not let the thoughts of half-marathon success overcloud my attitude towards running for enjoyment.
Next week I will discuss the Top 10 Accessories you need for running – including technology aswell as apparel.