Shutting it in a box.
As athletes we have to learn to be able to shut some things in a box and move past them. Sometimes this is harder said than done, but we have to work to do this, so we don’t affect our current state of training. Being stuck in the past, whether it’s from a session or race that didn’t go as we hoped, there is no point dwelling on it.
Racing as a runner is a bit like horse riding, if you fall off, or in our case have a bad race or training session, the best thing to do is get back on, aka get back out there.
Following on from British Champs I was very nervous about going back to racing. Whilst I know what happened had nothing to do with my fitness or current training state, it still got to me more than it probably should have. I felt as though I wasn’t good enough, yet I had outdone anything I thought possible this year by just getting to the start line. After a few days feeling sorry for myself, and some frank chats with my boyfriend, I got on with it. Over thinking what had already happened in the past would not help me into the future, so I needed to move on, and ASAP, before it affected my training.
With my England Debut looming, I was desperate to get back out racing and get rid of the negative racing memories of the past I had stuck in my head. For me, and I’m sure for many people, the best way to get past a race that didn’t go as I wanted, is to race again. My love for racing always seems to just come flooding back, and all I want to do is race. In the end, racing is what we train for. It’s a time to prove our strength and for all the hard work of training to accumulate in to one result.
My nerves were a lot higher than I thought in the morning of the race, but as soon as the start gun went off, the nerves disappeared, and I was ready to race. I felt so strong, I knew I had no reason to be nervous anymore and I just went with it. As soon as I was doing what I love, I knew I just needed to shut any negative memories in a box and put the past behind me.
Something I did learn, was how important it is to be able to go with the ups and downs and use them constructively, not destructively. Everything is all part of our ongoing journey, so we should use everything we go through to build upon ourselves as athletes into the future.
I keep telling myself, don’t dwell on things more than you need to. Acknowledge their presence and move on. Do you find it easy to put the past behind you and move on, or are you a dweller like me?
When I am at home over the holiday months, the majority of my training is done solo. I frequently have company for my track sessions, but the rest of my training, including sessions, easy runs, and cross training/ gym work, are all done alone. Whilst some people may think the idea of always training alone to be very dull, I love it. Don’t get me wrong there are times when I would love to have company for a session, but I get on with it and get the job done. I am very grateful to have amazing people to train with at uni the rest of the time.
For those of you who may believe training alone to be very dull and boring, I feel it is the opposite. I find running on my own to be very mindful. A lot of people ask me what goes through my head, and quite frankly, a lot of the time, nothing does. This is my version of mindfulness. I don’t necessarily consciously decide not to think about much, because if I need to, I will, but my brain tends to switch off and focus on my surroundings and what I am doing. As a result, this alone time spent outside is one of the most relaxing times of my day. Whether I am running hard or easy, my mind can switch off to the chaos and stress of life around me for a short period of tjme.
Don’t get me wrong, some days, it does seem a struggle. Some days my mind doesn’t just switch off to the things stressing me and the distraction of another person would help millions, but it isn’t possible. This is when I have just learnt to get used to it. Whilst it may take a while to get going, once you’ve started it is ok to be on your own. This is because running is something I love, so once the struggle of getting going has gone, I am happy running alone.
Also, not having others around me all the time when I am training, means when it comes to racing, I love being surrounded by lots of other runners. The adrenaline of having other people to work off and chase down drives me, but I also know if I end up isolated, racing on my own, I can do it! I know I have mentally prepared for this in training.
It may seem bizarre, but at times I actually feel as though I get more out of a session when working against myself, rather than other people. I feel I am able to push myself harder as I have no one else to compare myself to and I run to feel rather than where I think I ‘should’ be within a group.
However, when I am at university I love running in a group and learn to adapt back to this way of training. When training with others, I am constantly pushed by their drive to work harder. There is definitely no better way to complete a beastly track session than when working alongside others throughout. You can all work together to keep one another going strong.
We all train in different circumstances and have to train using what is around us, but whatever you do, make sure you enjoy it. Whether it be on your own or with others, love your training.
Coping with change...
Something I am not good at dealing with, is change. I hate going into the unknown and not knowing exactly what is going to happen and how. Whilst I feel comfortable and happy at university, even the concept of starting my masters and going back after such a long and lovely time at home with my parents, is a scary thought.
When changes occur, I begin to feel anxious and stressed. In the past this would’ve resulted in me controlling what I ate, simply starting a much more destructive spiral of events. Whilst this wasn’t the best way to control how I felt, it was the only thing I could control at a time when I felt my life was out of control.
So, what do I do now to try and cope with the anxiety I experience at times of change?
There is no denying that you never completely get rid of the intrusive thoughts that once controlled you, but you do learn how to deal with them and control how they affect you. I can confidently say I will never let them control my behaviour, especially my eating, again. Whilst the thoughts may attempt to take control and try to lead me down a restrictive path, I am too strong to allow this to happen anymore, and I am too passionate about my running to let it hinder that again.
Instead, I focus on the things that are going well and I do have control over. I try to focus on the present moment. Although the concept of going back to university may be overwhelming, there is no benefit in spending the next 2 weeks dwelling over it. I will be love it once I am there, so for now I need to enjoy every minute spent at home. I can’t control what will happen in the future today, so I need to enjoy today for today, and be thankful for what I do have.
For me, writing is one of the most effective ways of expressing my emotions. When there are emotions and nervous thoughts trapped inside my mind, transcribing them into a poem allows me to free my thoughts. This way I have been able to release all the commotion held inside my head in a positive and constructive way. It is as though I am putting all my chaotic thoughts onto the page and permanently fixing them there. They are out of my head and on paper, so they can’t run riot in my mind anymore.
I personally feel, this is why it is so important to have a passion outside of running. One that allows you to escape the world and your thoughts momentarily, and also makes you happy. I have always found writing to be my form of therapy, and without it I really don’t know how I would be able to express how it feel. I find writing a lot more accurate in conveying how I feel than speaking.
So, how do you cope with times of stress, and what do you do to distract your mind?
Rest and recovery
It can be hard for us runners to accept, but sometimes rest is a lot more beneficial to our performance than training. We all, myself included, have this belief that unless we are training as hard as we can, we don’t feel as though we are progressing or improving. However, this isn’t completely true. Our body needs to recover in order to be able to adapt and build, and consequently become stronger. Therefore, rest is essential and very productive.
Having just finished my end of season recovery break, it seemed only fitting to do a post about it. Rest and recovery are hard for any runner, and I can completely vouch for that. I find myself with energy I didn’t even know I had and I don’t know what to do with it. Energy that I don’t seem to have in the middle of a tough training block, but I only wish I did! I find myself annoying the rest of my family without even trying! (Although I usually do that anyway, just to a lesser degree!)
Following British Champs, I could’ve quite easily listened to my over bearing mindset and continued with full training, however, I did what the coach ordered and had some complete rest before reintroducing easy exercise. I didn't realise how important this time of recovery was until I'd had it. Without it, I would’ve carried on feeling tired and lethargic, and not have gained anything from the sessions I would’ve done. So instead, I took the much needed end of season break and reset my mind and body before getting back to training. I am now slowly starting to build it all back up again and I feel more refreshed and energised than I thought I would!
I also feel it is important to remind myself that rest and recovery is not always set in stone. Whilst I do always have consistent and frequent rest days to avoid hitting a point of absolute exhaustion and tiredness, I have learnt to accept that at times, I may need to take an unplanned rest day. Who knows when this may be, but it is all part of the important concept of listening to your body. Rest days can’t always be planned, as we can’t always predict when we will need them, but if we truly listen to our own bodies we can usually tell.
In order to avoid hitting this point of unproductive training, I am always conscious of using alternative methods of training. For example, aqua jogging is a great way to actively recover my legs, whilst still getting some training benefit from it. Whilst I am still working my body, I am not putting my legs under the same stressful impact as running. This way my body is able to recover between runs and avoid the destructive spiral of not enough recovery. Following some complete rest, I allowed myself to slowly start doing some easy swimming. To make sure it was easy and that I made the most of my time with my family, I went for some swims with my mum in the sea. Lovely, but cold!
Last, but definitely the opposite of least, is making sure you eat lots of good food. When recovering, I make sure I enjoy eating all the food I want! The best part of making sure I recover well, is fuelling the engine with lots of nutritous and tatsy food. This is exactly what recovery is for. It can be very easy to eat less when you aren’t training fully because you don’t feel as hungry. However, we need to eat lots of good food to give our body's the fuel they need to repair the damage of summer racing. Holidays are always filled with lots of food, and I have definitely enjoyed eating plenty of fresh, delicious food with my family.
So, have you allowed yourself an end of season recovery period and what have you spent it doing?
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!