Thursday, September 12, 2013

Mind over muscle!

So many people ask:  “How can you possibly run that far…it’s SO boring” followed by: “You do it without listening to music? Are you nuts?” No, I am not nuts, but I did have the same questions for runners and endurance athletes just a few years ago.  Even when I was training for my first half marathon, running without music seemed crazy.  And looking forward to a ten mile run on Saturday morning, yeah…right (I looked forward to having an excuse to eat potato chips guilt free afterwards).  I hadn’t truly fallen in love with running yet. I loved working towards a goal and I wasn’t about to quit, but I didn’t love running long distance, in fact if I didn’t have music on those “long” runs that I struggled to finish (I’m not sure I finished one without walking), I would have HATED them.  

Despite the fact that I had not yet fallen in love with long distance, I continued to run and train for more half marathons.  Why? Because even though I had so many negative thoughts, I “couldn’t” run 10 miles straight, and I hated so much of those runs, there was such a sense of achievement knowing that I was out there running so many miles through all of the elements.  I did have moments when I forgot about all the stresses in my life and some miles I felt good enough that I could visualize myself running a FAST half marathon.  So, I stuck with it, even though I didn’t love it.

Somewhere along the way I fell in love with distance running and endurance sports.  I’m not sure when it won me over, but it did.  I can definitely say I LOVE running. I love that it lets me get to know myself better and I love that it brings me closer to my husband and my friends that run.  No more music, no more walking, no more complaining, no more negative thoughts, just happiness and peace of mind, and when I'm lucky - a really great conversation.

  PERFECT way to catch up visiting my best friend - Central Park Loop (April 2013)

I won’t act like I don’t occasionally have a run full of pain and negative thoughts.  I definitely go out there some days and just want to quit.  The difference is that now I don’t quit.  Now, if I’m having a bad run, instead of focusing on how uncomfortable I am and how “slow” I’m running, I can ignore my watch, get lost in my thoughts and the sounds around me, and finish my run.  I “couldn’t” finish those runs before… I “had” to walk.  I think this quote sums it up pretty well:  

“Mental will is a muscle that needs exercise, just like the muscles of the body.” -Lynn Jennings.  

 When it hurts, I focus on my surroundings..can't help but smile through the pain when this is the view

I think that my mental will needed more training that my legs and I am so glad I stuck it out long enough to change my feelings towards distance running.  It may have taken some time, but now I would be lost without running (& now triathlon!).  I have embraced enduring the suffering that comes with endurance sports.  The feeling that goes along with finishing a 16 mile run or a triathlon is incredible (I can't wait to finish our first marathon in October!).  To know that you were mentally strong enough to keep moving as fast as you could through that suffering is a satisfaction that is beyond compare.  For some of us, it takes time to build that mental will, but once you’ve got it, it is amazing!  Keep pushing.  Mind over muscle!

What makes you love running?
Does your mental will need more training than your legs? 
Do you embrace the suffering?

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