Regaining the love...
I know I absolutely love running, but sometimes you forget the deep love that got you into it that keeps you going at all times. Lockdown was the true test for this passion. Many, including myself, found that the initial prospect of having no definite races in the diary had a significant impact on our motivation levels. We have never before, except when injured, been unable to race when we wanted to. Whilst frustrating, you wonder what is going to keep you going with no races in the diary. However, through this brief period of wondering what the point is, you don’t stop training hard and working towards your goals, even if it is with less determination for a little while. So, what is it that keeps us going? Even when we don’t have the drive of racing.
Something I used to know, and have rediscovered during lockdown, is that I love training. Even without imminent races to work towards, I love the feeling of working hard to achieve my long-term goals. I love the way I have purpose to everyday, which running provides, and even if I just have a short easy run, I feel like I am getting one small step closer to my dreams. It sounds cheesy, but the ability wake up and do something each day to get to where you want to be, makes you feel like you are always being productive. Every day, even on rest days, I know I am doing everything I can to work towards being the best version of myself.
It isn’t only this, but also the mere act of running. It is such a simple sport that can be performed anywhere, even from our own home, and lockdown has proven how easy it is to do. Lots of people won’t understand, but to every runner out there, they will know how easy it is to love the sport. I can’t even explain what it is about running that I enjoy, but the sport makes you feel happy in your own skin. I love how I can go for a run and have had loads of worries in my mind throughout the day, but as soon as I get running, my mind goes blank and suddenly they don’t seem like problems anymore.
Before lockdown, I had begun to majorly overthink everything. I was getting so worried and nervous before, during and after all my training, that I had lost the enjoyment for it. I would work myself up so much and put way too much pressure on myself that I had forgotten the true reason I run, because I love it. Yes, we want to work towards our goals and yes, we want to achieve, but none of it is worth it if we don’t enjoy the journey. I am also a firm believer that we do our best when we enjoy what we our doing.
So, there is no point worry away our joy for the sport, or there is no point in doing it. More important than all our goals, both long and short term, is the passion for it. Don’t lose sight of this. When training or racing isn’t going as we hope, it is this that keeps us going.
Ditch the scales...
In my opinion, scales are a silly thing. Yes, they do serve a purpose at times, for some people, but for me personally, I don’t feel the need to go near them.
Many of us feel that scales define us. Whatever number flashes up at our feet, that calculates our worth, or so we think it does, but it couldn’t be more incorrect. I used to weigh myself before every meal, believing that if the number was higher than what I wanted, I would eat restrictively, and if it was lower than I wanted, I would allow myself to eat a bit more freely.
To the person I am today, this makes absolutely no sense. Why did I let a digit on a machine tell me what I should I do. These numbers meant so much to me. So much so, that it would govern my mood for the entire day. I craved the feeling I got when the numbers were dropping. It was almost as though I had detached the number from my body. I didn’t equate that the lower the number the more weight I was losing, I just wanted to see this digit drop. It was such an irrational way of thinking.
Today, I can hand on heart say, I haven’t stepped on a set of scales for over 3 years! I could if I wanted to, but I really don’t want to. It doesn’t offer anything beneficial to me. I eat when I am hungry and stop when I am full. I feel strong when I am training, and I am healthy. Why does it matter what number this equates to? However I look and whatever I weigh is irrelevant, how I am is naturally taken care of by having a good relationship with food.
If you start weighing yourself, all I would say is, set yourself a strict guideline of only doing it once a week. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself doing it every day. The fact I would do it before each meal to see how much I was ‘allowed’ to eat is ridiculous. I didn’t have to earn my food according to what number was on the scales in front of me, but this is what I believed. Once you start weighing yourself, it can be difficult to control how often you step on the scales, so be careful not to let yourself get carried away.
In the current climate.
In the current climate, when we are all at home, there can be an increased temptation to step on the scales. We are not sure how we are performing as there are no races and we can convince ourselves our weight is affecting how we are running. We may find ourselves worrying more about our weight because we are more sedentary. We might feel an increased sense of anxiety and uncertainty, which might cause us to fall into bad habits. Plus, ultimately, the scales are just up the stairs. However, try to be strong and avoid getting on the scales unnecessarily. The majority of us athletes won’t need or want to step on the scales. If you don’t want to but find yourself struggling to control the urge to check your weight, I suggest locking the scales away somewhere out of reach. Whether that be in the garage or at the back of a cupboard. It won’t benefit you to know what you weigh, so don’t sanction yourself to doing something that will only make you unhappy.
So, if you find yourself about to step on the scales, think, do you really need to? Is it truly serving a purpose? And when did you last step on them? We aren’t defined by the number on the scales.
I thought this week I would write about something that I’m sure has been occupying most of our running minds! When will we get back racing? I have no clue as to when and how this may happen, but I have been thinking about it a lot. In all honesty, my thoughts about it are very split. Part of me is desperate to get back racing, but the other part is nervous and anxious as to how it may all happen.
With the gradual easing of lockdown, things are starting to change and certain aspects of society and life are being reintroduced, so I can’t help but wonder at what point will running races return. Whilst it is lovely to finally be able to see friends from a distance, and other sectors of society are starting to open again, racing is very much on a lot of our minds and little has been said. Ultimately, it is the reason a lot of us train as hard as we do. However, I can’t help but feel anxious and apprehensive about the prospect of things returning ‘to normal’ (whatever that means now).
Can’t wait to race.
I am desperate to get back racing, for so many reasons. Racing is ultimately the reason a lot of us put ourselves through such pain in training; to become the best version of ourselves and prove this in races. Racing allows us to see where we’re at, so we know whether our training is heading in the right direction. Having goal races in mind, means we constantly have something to work towards. Whether it is qualifying for another race, running a set time, or just being able to give our all, every race acts as a big stepping stone. Not only is this sense of achievement and progression something we work for, but it is the excitement and buzz of the entire race experience. Running amongst other like minded competitors and friends, doing something we all love, and pushing ourselves to our limits, creates such an incredible feeling. You can never run quite as fast as you can when you put on your racing shoes and you are surrounded by others, either racing or cheering you on. I can’t wait to do it all again soon!
Scared to race.
However, I am also very nervous about the prospect of lining up with lots (sometimes hundreds) of people on a start line. The fact that coronavirus sanctioned us all to staying at home as much as possible, I find it difficult to believe that it can just magically disappear and feel surely restarting normal life will bring about another wave of the virus. Therefore, I find it hard to believe that reintroducing lots of races won’t just bring about a breeding pit for the virus. It is fair to say, lockdown has made me extremely paranoid about it all!
So, if and when they do reintroduce racing, what will it be like? If social distancing is here to stay, how do we race? Will the winner be decided before the race has even begun? Surely it will be very different from what we knew racing to be, at least for the first few months of racing anyway! Maybe numbers will be limited in races? Maybe we’ll have to race in face masks? (Now that would be intense!). We might even have to do time trials one at a time!
I have so many questions and so many wonders, but none of us know what will happen. At least for now, we will all continue training, hard but sensibly, so we can be ready and in one piece when the time to race comes. Whenever that is, I can’t wait!
Taking it easy weeks...
Before Coronavirus hit, I had never really had many rest/easy weeks. I had your typical period at the end of the summer season before returning to training for cross country and I had regular rest days, but I didn’t tend to incorporate many easy weeks into my training. This was mostly because I had easier weeks leading into races and races occurred relatively regularly, so I didn’t really have the need to incorporate easy weeks into my training. However, with the arrival or coronavirus meaning there weren’t going to be any races for a while, I was forced to slightly reassess my training. If we weren’t going to race at least 4 months, I couldn’t realistically train at my best week in and week out without any down time.
Therefore, I decided to schedule in rest weeks at intervals I felt necessary, in order to keep me both physically and mentally strong. Some people find it best to have a rest week whenever their body tells them they need one, but I would just tell myself I never needed one, so for me, it is best to incorporate one at a set time, whether I think I need it or not.
I hate easy weeks. To half of my brain they make absolutely no sense. If I want to get better at something why would doing less help me improve? If I’m not working hard, I can’t help but feel what I’m doing isn’t allowing me to progress. I even manage to convince myself that within a week I will drastically lose all of my fitness. For a long time, my whole brain followed this ignorant approach. However, I realise that no one can train at their maximum potential without ever giving their body time to recover. Now, the other half of my brain, the rational side, knows I need to have easy weeks even if I don’t want them. Taking it easy for a little while is vital to progression. Easy weeks are important to allowing your body to refresh, build and repair, so you can return to training, being able to hit those sessions harder and faster. And, once you’ve sucked it up that you’ve got an easy week, you’ll realise there are some upsides to them.
Whilst it may not seem like it at the time, easy weeks can be very rewarding. A lot of us runners hate taking it easy and it can be more of an effort not to run fast than it can be to give our all in a session. Therefore, getting through an easy week, whether that be having a rest or just running easily, can be quite rewarding and great sense of achievement. I initially thought I wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation to do a session but doing so made me feel quite proud of myself afterwards. It also means, come the end of your easy week your legs will feel refreshed and ready to work hard again when you do get back to doing sessions.
Something I have learnt, is that easy weeks should be enjoyed. They don’t happen very often so we should at least try to cherish them. It isn’t very often that, as athletes, we allow ourselves to just run without having a strict session plan to stick to. This is the perfect chance to just enjoy running for what it is. Explore new places, try new routes, run for as little or as long as you want to, and just enjoy getting out in the fresh air to clear your head.
It is also a great chance to enjoy doing a few other things with your time. Sessions take up quite a lot of your day, more than you realise, so enjoy using that extra time to do other jobs you have been meaning to do for a while. It is only an easy WEEK, so don’t waste your time.
It’s only a week.
Ultimately, it is only a week. Even if you don’t enjoy it, try to make the most of it. Strava may tell you within only a couple of a days that you are losing your fitness, and you may think you have got slightly slower, but let me tell you, you won’t have lost anything, maybe potentially only made gains.
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!