Calling out my own bullshit

Posted: 06/20/2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Intention. Expectation.

Since last week’s post, I’ve been mulling some more about how I’ve been treating this whole running thing I do. What goes on in my thought process. How I feel about it and how I need to feel about it. Intention and expectation, running laps around the track in my head.

Another good run with the group last night – 3.5 miles in 87-degree heat and lots of sun, again on a less-than-favorite route. Conditions under which I would normally tank. Dislike of the route would put me into a negative frame of mind before I even got there, and then the heat would do me in. I would talk to myself about how hard the run was and that I just couldn’t handle it any longer because of heat and fatigue and sun and global warming because we should blame everything on global warming. It’s okay to crash because running is hard! Making excuses for myself, I’d end up walking as much as running and using the extra time it took to finish to alternately beat myself up and then coddle my sad outer inner almost-last-place-finisher. In fact, this is part of how I started intervalling 3:1’s in the first place – to enforce some modicum of discipline over how much negative thought I would entertain and how long I would walk. Oh, and to recover from an injury, there was that too. But the thing is, I don’t think I really knew that my self-talk BEFORE the run was having the HUGE impact that it seems to have. Armed with a boat-load of mantras, I thought my inner running monologue was REALLY GOOD. Intervalling was going very well, though I still wasn’t getting results I wanted. I could finish a run with my dignity intact – that was a plus – but for a long time, something has still felt ‘off’ about my thinking and I didn’t know what it was.

If my running monologue is REALLY THAT GOOD, why am I still crashing on runs? Shouldn’t all those peppy mantras be able to get me to keep running come-what-may? Often times, my will would crash before my body did. Yes, I’d be out of breath – but my legs would feel fine and yet, for some reason, I just couldn’t keep going.

I didn’t realize that while I’d armed myself with mantras, I’d also armed myself with excuses to fail. It’s hot. It’s hard. I don’t like the route. My favorite running peeps didn’t show up. I haven’t worked out in a day or so. I’m not fueled well today. I’m just not feeling it. I’m not built for this. Some reasonable (like the fueling thing), but for the most part just a lot of wussing out before my feet even hit pavement.  All runners know running is more a mental game than physical. Once my brain quit the run, my body followed in short order. I’d think these thoughts before I got started, give them more power as I went into a crash, and then cite them as the reason for failure at the end.

Then I started thinking about intention-setting. I’d had a ‘make a plan, stick the plan’ approach and mantra for running, but that didn’t really work for bootcamp/boxing since I didn’t know what we were going to be doing each morning. I couldn’t make a plan. I had to walk in open to trying anything and sweating for everything. Hitting a breaking point one day, I asked myself ‘WTF did you come here for? If you aren’t going to work hard, you might as well have stayed in bed!‘.

What did I come here for? To be better. stronger. faster. This is, literally, the ridiculous but dead serious answer I gave myself. Apparently I went there to become Lee Majors. I WILL REBUILD ME!

However ridiculous, that response got me moving again in the moment. I started making it a habit to ask myself that as I was getting started before every bootcamp. And it was making a difference. Through the workout, I could revisit that intention statement – check in with myself – am I meeting that intention?  Though not nearly perfect, doing that was making a positive difference in how I felt about my workouts at the very least. I felt better at the end of the session. So a few weeks ago, I started transferring that same intention-setting frame to running. Taking a quiet moment (when I remembered) to ask myself – what’s your point with this? what are you here to do? – before I got out of my car.

Except with running, that statement of intent wasn’t working nearly as well. Why?

Having had that epiphany about my thought process on expectations last week has brought some of the failings of my intention-setting approach to running into a more crystalline view. With boxing, not knowing what the workout was to be in advance, I really couldn’t set much of an expectation for myself. Just state an intent and then do my best to meet it. This lack of expectation is what I think made the difference. With running, even if I didn’t know the exact route planned, I knew where to meet and so could make an educated guess about it. I had plenty of time to think about weather and fuel and how do I feel? Boxing is at 5:30 in the morning – I always feel tired and it is always dark out. And frankly, I’m just not awake long enough to give excuses much thought before we get moving. With running, I have a pace history and a race history, and a mental roadmap of hills I have excelled on and routes that have whomped on me. I have a good expectation as to how a run would go in both a best and worst case scenario before I start running.

With running, I have the ability to overlay expectation onto intention. Hmmm. Now to suck that out of my brain like a rabid zombie…(can zombies get rabies since they’re already dead?)

I went into yesterday’s run with a focus on retaining the FEELING of the past two weeks – to not spend too much time on considering obstacles – yes, there is a hill, I will run the hill –  and instead prepare for success. I made sure I was fueled well for the heat, had time to stretch, and then said once again to not put an expectation on the run. Do the route. Adjust the pace as needed. Don’t worry about the history on that particular route (not good). Keep the intention to respect what my body is saying – but call myself out on the bullshit of expectation/excuses. Don’t give in to it. Get it done.

I am not sure if they were running slower with the heat (probably), or if my restated focus just let up enough pressure to speed me up a bit, but I ended up pacing with a group a little faster than my usual pack. A little faster. I toughed-out some hard parts I’ve failed on previously. Somewhere in there, “soak up the goodness” made it into my run mantras along with my standard 90-counts, 3-counts, thatpinkgirl cheering HARD! and NUTRIA! into my brain and steena telling me to HTFU!!. (No, I don’t know why I adopted the Nutria! mantra, except that it makes me giggle.) In the heat, I reminded myself that this running thing is supposed to feel hard – that means I’m pushing myself. And I pushed myself straight through that whole route, noticing the bitching and moaning of other runners a little more than usual, as well as standing as an observer outside of my own bitching and moaning for a moment.

It’s hot! BULLSHIT – you knew that and you dressed for it. It’s hard! BULLSHIT! If it weren’t hard, everyone would do it! It’s SUPPOSED TO BE HARD! This sun is beating down on me! Oh Good Grief! Just shut-up about it and think about snowcones.

(Sidebar: I’m sorry, but in 87-degree heat, if all you’re doing on a run is complaining about how hot it is, you’re an asshole. We all know it’s hot. Making me think even more about how hot it is is just not nice. I started shouting out ‘cold’ words randomly into the crowd – SNOWFLAKES! GELLATO! LEMON CHILL! MEAT LOCKER! OOOOOOOOOHHH – MEEEAT LOCKKKER!! I’m just saying – when you’re running in the heat, a meat locker is a good mental image to hold onto. Yes, I’m weird. Like you didn’t know. I digress…)

I called myself out on the bullshit that would normally make me drop to a walk and then I pushed myself to run past it. I kept my water stop speedy and ran away from it. I made myself get up the hills. I ran all the way through the stoplights and crosswalks because ‘you don’t walk to the finish line’. And most essentially, I kept my ass moving in a way that I could be proud of.


I could probably spend more than a few nights analyzing why I didn’t expect that ending from myself to begin with, but for now – I think I’ll just let this process sink in and enjoy the outcome. With a beer.


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