It's ok to feel how you feel.
During this unique and crazy time, we will all be feeling different. Some of us may be extremely motivated to grab the situation by the hands and use it to our advantage. You may feel more motivated than ever to get out for a run everyday, be it an easy run or a session, and you may be working on all those 1%’s as and when you can. However, others may not feel like this. You may be struggling to find the motivation you need to get out and hit the rep times your coach has set. You may find the prospect of training alone and not knowing when the next race is, difficult to come to terms with. This is ok. We don't have to feel motivated and driven all of the time. It is only natural to feel like this. We are in such a unique time and we will all respond to this differently.
For me, I am used to feeling motivated all the time and I know my motivation has taken a hit. Yes, I am enjoying being able to give time to the things I wouldn’t usually, but without any date of a race ahead, it is difficult at times to push myself to the limit in sessions. I am used to training on my own as it is something I have done for a while, but that doesn’t mean this time hasn't come with its own challenges. There are different things I am having to work with, but here are a few tips I know have helped begin to build that motivation back up.
The most important thing to try and remember during this time is that it is ok to feel whatever way you are feeling. We all respond differently to uncertainty, so however you naturally deal with it, that’s ok. Just don’t be hard on yourself for feeling such a way. You feel how you feel for a reason, please don’t beat yourself up.
It's the little things...
With a lot going on in the world at such a large scale, it can be easy to feel daunted and overwhelmed by the situation. Something so significant is happening, and whilst we are all doing our bit, you can’t help but feel slightly helpless. Not only do you feel helpless, you also feel hopeless, as you’re unsure when normality will return. There are people in much worse situations, but when the things you looked forward to so much, such as races and holidays, have been cancelled, you are bound to feel slightly down. When we are surrounded by a lot of negativity, it is important to look for the positivity that does surround us. Whether that’s embracing the things we now have time to do, or by taking the time to cherish nature’s presence, there is still plenty to be grateful for.
Something I have found myself becoming more aware of, especially as I live in the countryside, is the increasing amount of wildlife and the beauty of the nature that surrounds us. The little things I never took the time to notice, such as the twittering of birds on my run, now bring a smile to my face. It is amazing how loud they can be, singing to each other. I have also taken the time to notice the harvesting of the crops and all the different phase that are involved in this. I am lucky that my house backs out onto fields, so I can take in all of nature’s beauty from my house.
Among all the chaos, there has been the arrival of new life to make me smile. Not babies, but foals. A friend of ours breeds horses, so we were able to walk there on our daily dose of outdoor activity to see them. Two of them have arrived and there are two more to come. Spending time with animals, be it your dog or just looking at a sheep, can have a very calming effect on you. It takes you away from the current situation and you find yourself forgetting about everything for a while. The animals don’t have a clue what is going on, which is quite nice. As you don’t have to talk or think about coronavirus for a while.
The little things seem big.
We are all so used to having big plans in our lives to look forward to, like I said previously, either a holiday, a race, or a party with friends and family, there is always something happening for us to be excited about. Currently, there is very little, if anything, in the diary as no one knows when normality will return. However, there is no point getting down and gloomy about this because there is nothing we can do to change it. Instead, other things in our daily life become the ‘big plans’ that we look forward to. Things you may have taken for granted and seen as the ‘small things’ aren't so small any longer. These big plans to look forward to are anything from watching a movie with your family, walking the dogs, and baking!!
Dedicating time to the little things.
It isn’t just about appreciating the little things in your day, but also giving time to the little things you may neglect on a daily basis in normal busy life. When you are rushed off your feet with work, training, cooking, and everything else that goes with it, the other things that aid your running are given little to no attention. Now is the time to be positive and embrace having the time on your hands to stretch, strengthen, sleep and recover. You may neglect these things during your normal week and be happy to sacrifice time spent sleeping to get up early and fit your training in, which may not always be a beneficial choice. However now, without the need to commute, travel to training, or go to lectures at university, we are able to get in a full nights sleep. Our bodies need time to repair and we may finally be able to actually give them that. We are able to factor in time off of our feet resting, time for stretching, which I know seems to take forever, and time strengthening our weak areas. These areas are more important that we actually think they are when we are stretched for time. Whilst this situation is far from ideal, it is important to take the positives that we can from it.
Accepting the need to slow down.
One thing I am not very good at is accepting when I need to take my foot off the pedal. I am very guilty of knowing I feel tired but continuing to trudge on through without listening to my body. In my head I know it may be good for me to have an easy week, but I don’t like making that decision myself. I need to be told. Quite frequently I also decide I think I need a week to refresh, then wakeup the following day convinced I feel amazing and I get straight back to doing sessions. Yes this completely defeats the point and is irrational, but it’s how my brain works.
However, I have made the decision that I do need to take a week to refresh, run for as little or as much as want, but keep it all easy. I need to give my body and mind the chance to reenergise so I am eager to go again.
No time like the present.
For the type of person I am, if I am thinking that I might need a week to refresh, I probably do. I enjoy training hard and working towards my goals, so when my brain tells me it really wants a down week, I should probably listen to it. In the current, it is very uncertain as to when racing will restart. No one knows. Therefore, to make sure I am as strong as I can be when the time to race arrives, I need to slow down a bit now. This isn’t just relevant to running. Whilst a lot of is our staying at home, it is very easy to feel like you always need to be doing something. Whether that is baking a new recipe, learning a new skill, or exercising, we are still always on the go even when we don’t think we are. The stress of all the uncertainty is going to be affecting everyone. If you are feeling tired and overly stressed, don’t be afraid to let yourself spend the whole day watching movies on the sofa. Sometimes that is what you need to feel refreshed to go again.
There’s no denying it, training works your body to its limits. If it doesn’t, you are not trying hard enough. And racing, whilst it is so fun, it too pushes your body harder than you ever do in training. Whilst we all love the feeling working your body hard gives you, it takes a lot out of you. The cross country season is always a long one and with the amount of rain we had over the winter, this year’s was a very muddy one. The last time I had a week easy would have to be at the end of August after the track season finished. Therefore, when you think about it, it has been 7 months of pure training and racing, no doubt my body is feeling tired.
Sometimes doing less is actually more. I am confident that having an easy week will do more to my performance than continuing to train with a tired body would. Well, lets hope it does.
A week of easy running is not only to benefit my body, but also my mind. Training is tough and it can be difficult to keep your motivation high at all times; it is ok to admit this. Yes I want to work hard to achieve my goals and progress, but as much as the next person, a time does come where you need a week to remember what it is you love so much about running. So, I am using this week to get my mind back to full motivation so I am raring to go again.
I am actually so excited to have a week to just run. Enjoy the weather without any pressure on hitting times or targets. That will come next week, and already, a day in, I can’t wait for the hard work to return!
With the current difficulties we are being faced with, running temporarily sits at the bottom of the list of what is important. When the health of the nation is at stake, you realise that sport plays such a small part in the world, even if it is a large part of our individual lives. Whilst it is frustrating when all our immediate goals suddenly disappear, thinking about the larger picture will help relieve this and prevent you from feeling frustrated with the current situation.
When the races we were imminently preparing for have been cancelled, and the ones slightly further away than them have too, it can be helpful to change your goals and focuses. Rather than focusing on short-term goals, such as the summer racing season, it is worth switching your focus to your long-term goals. You can adjust what it is you are working towards and what you are focusing on to help keep your motivation up.
For me, my imminent goals have changed dramatically. Whilst racing often acted as my drive for weekly sessions, with no races currently in my race calendar, I have changed what it is I want to get out of my sessions. My new goal is to enjoy every run and session that I do. Of course, I still want to keep up the quality of my sessions, but I want enjoyment to be present at all times. Rather than getting nervous about big sessions ahead of me, which I do at times, I want to focus on looking forward to them and appreciating my daily dose of outdoor activity. I always feel that I run my best when I enjoy what I am doing, therefore this has become my current goal. I had been feeling recently as though my love for running was being overshadowed by the pressure I was putting on myself which was in turn reducing the enjoyment I got out of it. I don’t want this to happen as running brings me so much happiness. So, I’m working on bringing this joy back.
It may also help to look ahead. I know this has helped me. Rather than focusing on the goals that are in the near future, think about those that are further away. For example, think about what it is about running that makes you stick with it and continue training week on week. I am thinking about what it is I want to achieve in years to come and using this to motivate me. This can be anything from a time you want to achieve in the future or focusing on what your values are. (For more on values, read this blog.)
This current period can be seen as a time to work on the little things you usually neglect due to lack of time, as well as getting some quality training in, as quantity may not be quite so easy. This may include stretching or strengthening exercises such as core and mobility. You could even get your family to join in to make it more enjoyable! You may also have to adapt your training, and do cross training activities that you never thought of doing.
It is also worth remembering that what is going on in the world away from running is much larger. However, the beauty and power of running is truly coming to the fore.
So, what are your goals for now and how are you dealing with all the changes?
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!