Saturday, October 19, 2013

Fight or Flight

My apologies for labeling this post incorrectly. This isn't a medical breakdown of the actual fight or flight response. I actually probably shouldn't have even titled this post "fight or flight," but as I was thinking about my problems with running, this came to mind.

My problem with running comes down to this: I don't really have a problem with running. I love it. As a matter of fact, my last post was a list of why I love running. So, why is this the problem? Because I'm not pushing myself hard enough on my runs. I've fallen into the "plodding along" pace. On nearly all my runs. I once read that most people make the mistake of doing training runs too fast. I can officially state that running too fast is NOT my problem. I'm an expert on NOT doing training runs too fast. So, now I do them all too slow.

This is why I thought of "fight or flight." Our bodies have been incredibly designed to preserve themselves. We avoid pain. I've even caught my brain making up fake pain on very long runs. How do I know the pain is fake? Because it travels. First my right foot will begin to be uncomfortable. Soon I'm convinced that it's broken, and I must stop running. Then something distracts me. And then it's my left knee. It begins hurting. No, wait. Is that throbbing? A dull or sharp pain? (Sharp pain is the sign of injury.) And so the internal dialogue continues. On a single run, I've had everything from a broken foot, to stress fractures in my shins, to a torn ACL, to a blood clot in my brain. All imagined, of course. But I'm digressing a little.

Most of us will never be elite athletes because of our affinity for avoiding pain (and I'm not talking injury, I'm talking about discomfort). The moment my brain starts to register the lactic acid build up in the muscles-- pain, I back down. Let up. "Flee" the pain. The really good athletes don't choose the path of flight. They fight-- they stay with the discomfort instead of backing down and avoiding. The discomfort comes and they push deeper into it. It takes some serious mental toughness to overcome that "flight" reaction. 

So, what's the plan to fight? How do we train mentally to overcome? I wish it were easy. (*frowns and shakes head at self*) I think it just comes down to training. Hard. Of course it's not a matter of going 100%, as hard as possible in every training session. But it's doing what makes you uncomfortable, regularly. (For the record, that would be speed work every week. And something like Fran every week.) Jillian Michaels says it best, I think: "Get comfortable with being uncomfortable."

Any mental training tips? Please share them!

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