For this week, I thought I’d dive deeper into the issue of mental toughness when training and also fill you in on my ear situation…
After a quick second of research, I stumbled across an article from Runner’s World online discussing exactly what I struggled with on Monday’s run – the mental aspect of running.
Noakes suggests, “If you want to be competitive, you have to learn how to deal with the discomfort. A lot of the heavy, good physical training is about training the brain to cope with discomfort.”
Coping with discomfort is an idea that I’m interested in. Most behavioral scientists will tell you that humans tend to exert more energy to avoid discomfort that to gain pleasures. Someone who’s starving will work harder to get anything to eat that someone who’s already full will work towards dessert. This makes sense from a biological standpoint — one doesn’t need dessert, but needs a proper meal.
Apparently, the brain has its own type of governor – a mechanism that doesn’t really allow you to work to the point of complete exhaustion. You’ll feel like you’re giving the full 100%, but it’s probably closer to 70%. This is a survival tactic for the body and the brain. After all, if you were able to push to the full level of complete and utter exhaustion every time you hit the gym, your ambulance bill would be sky high!
For each person, this is different – of course — and with training you can push yourself to use up more and more of your energy. One does this by essentially ignoring the body’s “stop it” signals and pushing even more. Ignoring the pain, cramping, or negative talks is easier said (typed) than done. See the brain is smart (duh) and knows ways of making you quit, so it takes serious mental fortitude to make this happen. It also takes lots and lots of practice.
I’ve found that when I’m distracted (by music, a book on tape, or my own thoughts) the runs go by easier and with less noteable exertion. It’s when my head’s all over the place that I really feel I have to force each step.
Runner’s World magazine recommend various tactics to occupy your thoughts while running including; replaying your favorite movie in your head or listening to it play on your ipod and imagine the scenes, do math!!, make up a story, play the alphabet game (or any road trip game really, especially if you don’t run alone), making a to-do list, organizing your day/week/month, or even try meditation — allowing the thoughts to come and go as they please without forcing the issue.
Randomly, I woke up this morning with ear pain and a sore throat — but all on my left side. There are no other signs or symptoms, nor have I had any symptoms in previous days. I’m concerned that it’s an ear infection or something sinister, so I’m up and ready to call my Primary Care physician to hopefully swing by today. I really don’t like this feeling! It is definitely worse when I lay down, so I tossed and turned most of the night away.
I was scheduled to run today, but I definitely feel my body could use an active recovery day (pilates and stretching later) since I’m upping my mileage. This will allow my ear and throat to recover too. I was WIPED OUT yesterday after the 4 mile training run (in the 85 degree heat and 95% humidity), so I’m glad to recover!
For today, I will be happily recovering and hydrating while nursing my sore ear and throat
How do you handle the mental aspect of running/training?
Do you ever have a negative inner voice? How does it affect you? How do you handle it?
What makes you keep going?
Let me know in the comments below ^_^