I should really work on applying the same amount of discipline I do to my running and health to my writing; that way, a) you’ll have more frequent musings from me, and b) perhaps more importantly, the musings you get won’t be garbage.
Er wait, backing up…
b) they’ll be more effective, rhetorically, and better for you, my reader, since I’ll be chillin’ in the writing groove. When I write more often, more frequently, my writing is sharper and conciser, and that ultimately results in a better piece. My message is more cohesive, my language is more powerful, and it is a more enjoyable read (and write).
See what I did there?
I’m not Catholic–though probably 95% of the folks in my hometown are (somehow, I guess my family missed the Catholic boat)–but for whatever reason, when this Lenten season rolled around, I got inspired to change a habit in the name of self-improvement. I settled on two:
1. Stop weighing myself everyday (that warrants its own post) and
2. Stop doggin’ myself and purge the self-degradation I so often use, even jokingly, because (I’m assuming) it gets old quickly, and it’s killing my mental muscle–in my everyday life and, more relevant here, in my running.
Though I would like to think that my running career will last until the day I’m six feet under, I think I’m already fairly deep in, with over 80 marathons down to 5ks under my belt. I’ve met some awesome people along the way in these past going-on 7 years, I’ve learned some great stuff about everything from eating to chafing to foam rollers to how to avoid having a GI catastrophe when you’re running, and I’ve learned how to maintain fitness in all my other bodily parts that perhaps don’t get as much love from running as, say, my legs.
Despite my experiences, though, and the knowledge I’ve gleaned from others and gained over these thousands of miles, I’m still deficient in one super-critical muscle: the mind.
A cursory Google search will yield a ton of results for “mental training for the marathon,” and the results range from positive visualizations, memorizing and using some mantras, playing mind games with yourself, you name it–someone has probably recommended that you do it during marathon training to make yourself mentally tough.
To be fair, I’ve always been a fan of mantras because they’re concise and easily memorizable, but what good is a mantra when you don’t feel in your heart of hearts that you’re capable of accomplishing that goal that you’ve been chasing for the past X number of weeks in your training? You can tell yourself a million times on race day “I’m a rock star,” but if all you’ve heard during your training is “maybe I just have to settle with being a back-up dancer,” no amount of self-talk is gonna undo that nasty damage.
This is where my Lenten goal of eradicating my self-deprecative habits comes into play.
I’m looking at it in this way: flexing this mental muscle for the rest of my Eugene training will make me that much sharper, and–what it boils down to–that much more confident come race day. I can’t expect to go sub-3:30 if the rest of my training cycle finds me straddling the line of “perhaps, maybe, I could probably do that, but only if the cosmos aligns”; eff that.
That’s a waste of time and energy.
It behooves we runners to believe in ourselves, every step of the way, after every run, good, bad, hard, and easy, and the majority that constitute the “in-betweens,” if we expect to rock our A-game on the day it matters most: race day. (btw, professional American marathoner Kara Goucher has some awesome tweets related to this. Check her out @KaraGoucher).
I’ve gone public with my friends and family about my desire to re-frame my language use in this regard, so seriously, that silly opening paragraph? Where I refer to my writing as “garbage” and then back-track and explain how better writing comes from consistent writing, yadda yadda yadda? Yup, I’m doing that now in my day-to-day conversations.
It is SO much easier for me to dog myself, to sandbag my efforts in comparison to my goals, or to be just generally wishy-washy about how hard I’m working, or how much ass I’m hauling, to become a better runner. SO much easier. Words are powerful, kids. Part of these self-deprecating habits, no doubt, stem from some confidence issues. I’m sincerely working on trusting my training, or more importantly, my body (as much as one can trust her body) because physically, physiologically, my body knows what’s up. She knows why I’ve been training her as I have. My heart knows it, as well. My body and heart (not one in the same) know how to keep calm and rock the fuck out–which is my running mantra of choice, by the way.
It’s just the ladies controlling the command center up top that I have to tell what’s up 🙂
As I come close to finishing up this first mesocycle of Pfitzinger’s 55 mpw plan, I’m finding that my outlook on training has been refreshingly different, my focus sharper, and my mind clearer, even after coming off a PR in January on training that could be described as “maintenance,” at best. I’ve been trying my best to flex this new mental muscle I’m toning on a daily basis, in the hopes that it becomes habit post-Lent (whenever Lent ends…April?). Perhaps like any muscle, it gets sore from time to time, but the more I practice, the more natural it becomes.
Just like it took me time to go from years of not running at all to running and racing marathons for kicks, so, too, do I expect this “linguistic reframing,” if you will, to become something of a journey and process as well.
So, what’s your story? How do you train the ladies or fellas up top that you’re capable when the rest of you knows how to keep calm and rock out already?
PS- Here’s a reading list related to this topic that I’ve been finding particularly insightful and interesting, beyond the usual suspects that comprise mental training for the marathon.