'Do it and deal with it'
Do it and deal with it’. A motto my mum and I developed to get through the hard times. You have to do what needs to be done, and deal with it. It may sound harsh, but it’s true. Everybody goes through hard times in life, some are harder than others, but in the end, we all have to get through it. We can spend a long time dwelling over the difficulties and the downs, but ultimately that’s not going to help us. Potentially, it may only make us struggle more. The key thing to remember is: it’s the hard times that make us stronger as individuals, and as athletes. Without the difficult lows, I for one, would be nowhere near as strong mentally and physically as I am now. I have learnt to pick myself up when my mind pushes me down, and work hard to achieve your goals, no matter what they may be.
This is an amazing quote. And is helpful to think about when you may be struggling with running, or life in general. This quote was written on the front of a card my boyfriend gave to me whilst I was injured. It genuinely is true. Although at the early stages of my injury I couldn’t think of anything other than being injured, which meant I couldn’t run, once I had told myself to ‘do it and deal with it’ (multiple times), I looked at my injury in a different light. Rather than seeing it as something to dwell on and constantly ruminate over what I couldn’t do, I began to look at what I could do, and move forward. I focused on aqua jogging, getting my core stronger, and improving my arm strength. Whilst none of these were what I ultimately loved to do, I knew that if I dealt with my injury in a constructive way, it would in fact benefit me when it came to my return to running. And, surprise surprise, it did!
Sometimes all you need to do is tell yourself to toughen up! It sounds harsh, especially in an age where we are so conscious about what we say, but you can say it to yourself, and you need to. If we can pick ourselves up and move onwards through the tough times, we will become stronger for it. This doesn’t have to just relate to injuries, and running, it can relate to every aspect of life. When I was struggling to manage stress and constantly denying myself the food my body was shouting at me for, the tough love approach helped me! I will not deny that the journey was long, and extremely turbulent, but if you are able to turn your powerfully destructive thoughts into powerfully positive ones, you will be amazed at what you are capable of. I surprised myself, so you can too!
I constantly tell myself to toughen up and get on with it. In tough sessions and in life, because life is to be enjoyed and I put myself through the pain of running because I love it, therefore I always enjoy it! If it’s hard, which it undoubtedly is, I always remember my passion and determination to succeed and prove my strength, and I just ‘do it and deal with it’.
We’ve been spoilt with the weather so far this winter; wearing shorts and vest tops in sessions during November is usually unheard of. Normally, as soon as October hits, the gloves come out, as do the thermal tops for cold days of training. We may have had unseasonably warm weather so far, but this appears to be changing. The temperature is definitely dropping, and the usual cold, wet and windy runs are returning. So, how do I stay motivated when the British winter hits?
Positivity. This is one of the most important things that keeps me motivated throughout the winter. I always remind myself, I am doing what I love, and no matter what the weather I am still moving one step closer to achieving my goals. Every run is beneficial and productive no matter what the weather. My coach always told me that training in the worst weather prepares you for any race, as you will never go into a race unprepared if you have trained in every weather. This is something to look at positively. If you get out there and train, no matter how cold or wet the weather, you will be in a stronger position physically and mentally if you have to race in it later on. Throughout the run, I also constantly remind myself how lucky I am to be out there running. Over the summer, when the weather was glistening I was stuck inside on crutches, or in the pool. Every run, even in the harshest weather is a run I should cherish and feel privileged to be experiencing. Any run injury free, is a positive one and I never let myself adopt a negative mindset going into a run or session.
I find it extremely important to have the right gear. If you haven’t already, invest in some warm gloves, a hat, a running snood, and definitely a good waterproof running jacket. Having the right attire suddenly makes those cold morning runs not seem so bad. Before you know it, you’ll be complaining you’re too hot whilst running. This is also vital to help reduce the risk of getting ill. Something I, along with many other runner’s dread, is the constant susceptibility we are faced with in the winter to getting colds. If you make sure you are wrapped up nice and warm, you are less likely to make yourself ill when the cold weather hits.
If you struggle to get yourself out for a run on your own, link up with a friend. Find people to run with to keep you motivated. If you have someone to go with you won’t want to let them down. If you are shying away from the idea of hitting the roads, you won’t want to wimp out if they are eager to go. Team up with other people and enjoy every run. Laugh about the weather, laugh about the nutty mentality you both possess, and enjoy running. Sometimes just having someone there, even if you aren’t talking, makes the run a whole lot easier.
A simple extra touch I like to do is, prepare a steaming hot drink for myself for when I get back from a session. Whether it’s a hot chocolate, a milky coffee or tea, or a herbal tea, that comforting warmth provided by a hot drink will instantly bring your mood up after a chilly run. I frequently opt for a glass of warm milk (even though I detest milk!) as it provides you with some warmth, whilst offering calcium and protein to help kickstart the repairing process.
Always remember: Winter miles=summer smiles. All winter miles are productive miles. I am driven throughout the winter thinking about the summer. If I work hard throughout the winter to get in the tough sessions and miles, I will be faced with the rewards in the summer. All those freezing wet runs, and muddy cross-country races are so worth it for the mental and physical strength they give you in the long run.
'It's only cold if you're standing still'
Pre-race mentality is an extremely important factor when it comes to racing. If I go into a race with a negative mindset (as I frequently used to), I would not do myself justice. Starting off with a negative thought process did not do any favours for me when it came to races, as I had already psyched myself out before the race had begun.
Why was this? At the time I was going through lots of issues with my iron levels and finding running extremely difficult. I was running over 6 minutes slower over 10k before my levels had been rectified compared to my more recent PB. Therefore, due to my performance not being where it used to be I grew scared of racing. I knew my race wouldn’t go well, but at the time I didn’t know why, therefore I went into a race already telling myself I was going to struggle before it had even happened. This is not the way to be. I race because I choose to, and I love it, I should never have feared it! Even if a race doesn’t go well, it shouldn’t be feared thereafter, you can learn from every race you do.
I have finally learnt the most important things to me that help ensure I have the best race I am capable of having.
Firstly, I find it important to look forward to every race I do, and there is no reason why I shouldn’t. I was always one to be nervous the entire week leading up to a race. I basically had to write the week off from doing any constructive work as my mind was preoccupied with race nerves. I awaited race day with a slight sense of fear. Fear for how badly it may go. A completely destructive outlook to have. Now I always look forward to racing, and so should you! Racing is a celebration of all the training you have done. It is a chance for you to put all that hard work into action and see how you are progressing. Being excited to race can only be constructive and benefit your performance, not hinder it. Not every race may go well, and I will not always PB, but I am always excited by the lessons I can take away from every race.
Why are you so nervous? You’ll be fine! I get told this a lot on race day. People assume nerves are purely because you are worried about how you will do. This is not the case. I find nerves a positive influence. It is all the spent-up energy I have been storing in the build-up to the race waiting to be released. I get nervous before a race because I care about how I do, and I always hope the hard work will be shown for. Nerves are no such bad thing, they give you that extra boost of adrenaline you need to remind yourself you are going into a race and it’s time to give it everything. If it came to race day and I wasn’t nervous I would be worried! I don’t want to be too nervous as this can be channelled into negativity, but a little bit of nerves is always good for me.
Another important thing that helps me get into race mode is my trainers. I bet you’re thinking, how? When it comes to racing whether its cross country or track and I’m putting on my spikes, or a road race and I’m changing into my Mizuno Hitogami racing flats, this signals the start of a race. As soon as I change my shoes, I know I am about to race, and something feels different. I never race in the shoes I train in, therefore when my racing shoes come on I feel ready to race and immediately go into my pre-race mindset. It’s a feeling different to any other time I put my trainers on.
In essence, as I have stated throughout this post, positivity is the most important factor surrounding pre-race mentality. I have always found I race best when I believe in myself and trust my body and the training I have done. I never go into a race telling myself it is going to go badly, because if I did this, I know the race would go badly. I try and focus on all the positives and see how lucky I am to be injury free and lining up on the start line again. We won’t be able to do this forever, so we should cherish every race and approach it in a positive way. A positive pre-race mentality is something that you will gain through experience of racing, so the more you get out there and race the easier it will be going in to races. Always be positive, you can do it, don’t ever think you can’t.
Meaning behind the words...
As you may have seen, the video for the Mizuno shoot I did has finally been released! It’s crazy to think all the discussion about this began in February!
When watching the video and listening to the narration I am giving, you may think I am simply saying lines that have been put in front of me. This is 100% incorrect. On two occasions, the film maker came to meet me and we sat for hours, both with microphones on, talking about my running, what it meant to me, and why I did it. He asked me questions that would push me in the direction he wanted, but every word I say is 100% the truth, and 100% spoken in the moment. I was however told that if you record someone speaking for more than 20 minutes you can twist what they say, so I better hope he doesn’t make a spoof youtube video of me!
So, what do I mean by what I say?
‘My focus in life is running, it occupies my thoughts all the time, and it governs everything that I do’
This may seem a bit excessive, but it is true. I am always thinking about running. Whether I’m sitting doing work, wishing I was out running, or simply sitting in an awkward position and worrying it may make my legs cramp up in my session later, my mind is always governed by running. Each decision I make, what time I do things, it’s all running motivated. Yes I do think about other things, and I’m not so simplistic only running is on my mind, but it plays a major part in my life and is my drive to succeed each day.
‘You’re not going to be good at anything if you are not obsessed by it’
I have previously done a post on being obsessed by running, as I believe the word obsessed has negative connotations, however I personally feel obsession can be a good thing. If you care enough about something and are dedicated to it, you are going to be obsessed by it. You need to be obsessed by whatever your goal is, or you are less likely to achieve it. You want to be able to do whatever you can to achieve it, show as much dedication to it as you can, and if this is classified as obsessed, then I believe I am obsessed, and I need to be to succeed.
‘I guess I do sacrifice a social life, but to me it’s not a sacrifice, it’s just a choice’
I frequently get asked how much I have to sacrifice as a result of giving so much of my time to running, and my usual answer is, nothing. To me, I feel I don’t sacrifice anything for running. Everything that other people may consider to be a sacrifice, to me is not, because I choose not to do it. I choose not to go out clubbing, and not to stay up late because that is how I am, and I don’t enjoy those things. Yes, part of the reason I don’t enjoy going clubbing is because I don’t want to be tired for my next day of training, but if I did not run, I am very confident I still would not like clubbing! I don’t sacrifice much in life, because I would much rather be running anyway. I love what I do.
‘You’re always thinking about what little thing can make you faster, whether that’s training, resting, or nutrition.
As is the same with any competitive sports person, you are always thinking about what you can do differently, or add, that will make you faster, or better at your sport. Whether I need to sleep more, and spend more time resting, or if there are certain foods I am missing that I need to include, or certain times I need to eat at that I currently don’t, I am always wondering what I can do to become a better runner. As a runner, you are constantly having to reassess training depending on how racing is going, and how you are feeling.
'It isn’t one rule works for everybody’
I am a strong believer in this. I believe, what works for one person, may not work for another, and may not work for me. Personally, I don’t feel I need to be running hundreds of miles a week to become the best runner I can be, for me its about balance and restraint. Balance is definitely something I am still working on. I always use Eilish McColgan as an example, as she runs about 40 miles a week and does the rest on the cross trainer, and she is an Olympic athlete, that only goes to show, it isn’t one rule for everyone.
‘You have to stay focused on yourself rather than everybody else’
I feel this partly links to my previous statement, as if you are too focused on everybody else and what other runners are doing, you believe you should be doing what they are doing, and this is not the case. If you focus on yourself and your goals you will feel happier and much more focused, whereas if you are preoccupied with what everyone else is doing, you will only end up comparing yourself, and may subsequently become demotivated. Focus on what you are doing, and what works for you, don’t waste time worrying about everybody else and their training.
‘Injuries make you reassess your training and you come out of it as a stronger athlete and a stronger individual’
Injury to me has been one of the biggest learn curves in my running career so far. Although no athlete wishes to get injury, I do believe my injury taught me more lessons than I ever would have thought. It taught me to reassess my trainng and make adjustments, it taught me running was something I wanted to continue to pursue into the future, and it taught me to trust the process. No path to success is ever straight, and it’s the obstacles and bends you learn from. I came out of my injury much more level headed, and with a healthier perspective about training and life in general. It made me even more determined than I already was (months of relentless aqua jogging does this) and it strengthened me as an individual as I saw I was able to cope with difficulties in a sensible way.
‘It’s just persistence’
This is such an important point. You don’t achieve your goals overnight, and you don’t succeed after one good training session. It’s all about persistence. I have been running since I was 6- years old, and training properly since I was 13. I only started increasing training in when I came to university. It all takes time, as long as you stick with it and stay motivated day in and day out, you will begin to see results. This doesn’t matter whether you are competitively training or hoping to see fitness benefits, persistence is key.
‘You’ve just got to trust your body and the training you’ve done, taking one step at a time, not everything has to happen now or in the immediate future’
I always find it so important to remind myself of all the hard work I put in, especially when going in to races. It is easy to let your nerves carry you away, but if you constantly remind yourself all the hard training you have put in, you will relax and realise racing is the moment you are able to see how training is going and put all your hard work to use. Trust your body. The next point I make links to my final statement discussed below. I truly believe time and hard work does pay off. If you stay committed and dedicated, you don’t know when you may achieve your goals, but one day they will be achieved. It all takes time.
‘long distance runners are still in their peak in their 30’s, and I’ve only just turned 20’
I always get so held up on how old I am. Saying that there are girls out there my age and younger who have achieved so much, and I haven’t got to where I want to be yet. But it really doesn’t matter. Every athlete reaches their peak and comes into their own at different stages in their lives. Luckily for us long-distance runners we have time on our side. There are marathon runners breaking world records, who are in their late 30’s. Paula Radcliffe broke the world record when she was 30. There is no rush to achieve everything now, and my body is still developing, so there is no point getting held up on your age. It doesn’t matter, you will achieve your goals if you are driven and when the time is right for you.
thank you @mizuno
It's all just a balancing act
It’s all just a balancing act. Being a full-time student, aspiring to be an inter-national athlete, having a social life, getting enough sleep, and having to do my own cooking, shopping, and washing, I bet you’re wondering how I manage it?! It’s all about getting a balance and figuring out what is most important. Yes, there are lots of people out there studying a degree whilst playing a sport. But I am pretty certain they are not training daily, and frequently, twice a day. If you want to pursue a sport properly you have to dedicate your time to it. Whether you be at Uni or at work, or simply at home.
A blessing that comes with being a motivated athlete is my tendency to stick to and follow time schedules. I am not someone who can go into a day with no plan of what I want to achieve, or get done. I need to know as soon as I wake up what I am doing that day and when it is being done. I know, if this is done, I will be able to fit everything in. It does mean there is little time for pondering or flexibility, because if something has to change, something else has to give. Some people may not work well when up against time constraints and deadlines, but luckily, I do. I know if I have 4 hours to work before training, then those 4 hours have to be spent doing work. There is little time to be dismissing and postponing work, as training also has to be done. I would never consider missing a training session because I had too much work, therefore, in order to stay on top of it, I have to do my university work in the given time I have free. This year I am very lucky as I don’t have many contact hours, therefore I am able to plan my day of training and working myself, and manage my time to my advantage.
Balancing training and university can mean there is little time to sit around and watch the TV, but I don’t mind that. TV can be watched over lunch or dinner, the rest of the time I spend doing work. Being an athlete and a full-time student does come with what some people may call, sacrifices. Personally, they do not seem like sacrifices to me, as I don’t enjoy them anyway, but to a lot of people, I sacrifice the ‘university life’, but to me it's a choice I choose. If you are serious about your running, or sport, there is not much time for a social life. If you enjoy going out clubbing twice a week, balancing training and uni work may become a struggle, and they don't exactly work hand in hand together. Fortunately, I couldn’t think of anything worse than going out until three in the morning twice a week, when I could be tucked up in bed, recovering for a day of training and working the next day. You don’t have to sacrifice every ounce of a social life, I do stretch myself and go out clubbing once a year, you can go more than that if you wish!! I still go out for dinner with my friends on occasion, and have movie nights with my housemates, I just have to be wary of managing my time around training and university work, and ensuring I'm not tired.
I have found running whilst at university extremely positive. It has allowed me to focus on running and give my all to the sport I love. University is the perfect time to see how far you can go. I have also found it a perfect way to meet like-minded people with similar interests. I have met so many amazing friends through the university running club, it’s even how I met my boyfriend! ;).
However, once I decided running was something I wanted to take seriously, I realised all the extra activities I did had to go. No more netball, no more hockey, it’s all about focusing on running. When I decided running was something I wanted to take to a higher level, I had to reduce the other extra activities I did.
If you are an athlete considering going to university, but slightly sceptical about balancing the work alongside your training, do not worry. University is the ideal place to focus on the sport you love and pursue it to where you can take it.
Take a look at the final video I did for Mizuno...gives an insight into how dedicated I am, and how much I love this sport.
I love to run and I love to write, so I write about running!