Monday, February 27, 2012

Mental Roadblocks

February 17, 2012

     I made a New Year’s Resolution for the first time that I can remember – run a 5K. I scheduled myself for a St. Patrick’s Day run. I just finished week 5 of the Couch to 5K program, and I have one month left until I’m running in public.

     Last night was my first long run with no breaks – 20 minutes. I had a hard time wrapping my mind around even starting that run. Prior to last night, the longest run in the training program was 8 minutes. So this was a big step for me.

     I made it to 14 minutes before I had to slow down. I took about a 30 second break and then bumped the treadmill speed down. Even still, I could feel it getting harder. Usually when I run, I can fight through the last few minutes by telling myself how far I’ve already come. This was different though. I could feel my chest and the middle of my back tightening. I couldn’t get a good, deep breath in. At 19 minutes, I couldn’t take it anymore. I stopped the treadmill and sat down on the back of it. A staff member and my boyfriend (and training partner) both came over to check on me – apparently my face was purple and I was hyperventilating. I still couldn’t get a deep breath in.

     About five or ten minutes later, after I managed to catch my breath again, we got up and left the gym. Physically, I was feeling better, although I will fully admit that I was incredibly embarrassed. I can’t say that I was very keen on jumping back in. I started doubting that I would be able to finish the training program in time for the 5K. Honestly, I’m still questioning it. We’ll see what happens when I go to the gym and start week 6.

February 21, 2012

     After taking a road trip where my only exercise was a 30-minute hike, it was time to get back to the gym last night. I was nervous. Even though the run was only a total of 18 minutes, broken up into two five-minute runs and one eight-minute run, I was terrified. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to finish, and I was scared of what that meant for my 5K in less than a month.

     But it ended up being a great run. I was “in the zone,” so to speak. I had a good playlist, the women-only section of the gym was pretty empty, and for the first time, instead of pushing myself over the top, I allowed myself to slow down. It may not have been my fastest run ever, but I didn’t stop running and I didn’t get overwhelmed, so I’m counting it as a win. Plus, that feeling of accomplishment will allow me to go back to the gym tonight for my next run. If I hadn’t listened to my body, there’s a good chance that I would have pushed myself too hard, and ended up right where I was after the last run.

So, what have I learned?

Listen to your body. Even if it’s not your fastest run, or your longest run, do your best and push yourself, but don’t push yourself to the point where you can’t physically maintain it. You’ll hurt your psyche and you’ll feel less inclined to go back and run again.

Talk about it. I frequently share my accomplishments (and bad days) on Facebook, with my mom, and with my best friend. You’d be surprised how many of your friends are going to support you in your goals. I have some pretty active friends – a triathlete, a few long-distance runners, and a former Division 1 runner – and their words of encouragement have gotten me through. No matter where you are in your training, at one point, every other athlete was there too. And to quote one friend, “If running was so easy we'd all be running marathons every weekend. It’s not easy! But the fact that you are putting your feet on the treadmill is being more successful than most people. Whether you walk, run, or crawl across that finish line, you finished!”

Realize that you’re not going to be an amazing athlete right away. It’s okay to bump the speed down when you’re getting exhausted– just don’t let yourself stop. There will always be someone, somewhere, who is faster, stronger, or better than you. Compete with yourself, not others. Eventually you’ll get to where you want to be.

Have a good playlist. Or magazine. Or TV show. Working out to upbeat music helps keep your spirits up and you moving at a certain speed. Reading or watching TV can help you focus on something other than the sound of your feet on the ground.

Take some days off. You can’t work out every day. Your body needs time to rest. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was an exercise routine; it won’t be destroyed in one day.

Workout with someone. Having my training partner to encourage me to get off of the couch and go to the gym has been so, so vital. There are just days I don’t feel like going, but his encouragement gets me there. Plus, I know that if I don’t go, he probably won’t go, and then I’m hurting his training routine. There’s probably some psychological issue with that logic, but hey, it works!

Be happy with small improvements. When I started Couch to 5K, the first week consisted of six one-minute runs, and I struggled with them. Now, I can say that I ran for 19 minutes straight. That’s a big deal!

I really hope that if you’re facing issues with your exercise program, my story can help you. It’s not easy, but I have a feeling that it will be worth it when I can say that I've completed a 5K.

P.S. On Saturday, February 25, I ran for 25 continuous minutes! 

By Kayla Murphy

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