Friday, October 14, 2011

The Mental Block

As a runner, I think the toughest thing to overcome is the mental block that tells my body, “you can’t do this!”  I’m by no means considered knowledgeable on human physiology; however, I do know that the human body is capable of far more than we ever challenge it to do.  What is that mysterious force that keeps most humans from reaching those limits?

I think it’s a mental block.  For me, I really think it’s that I do not like to be uncomfortable, that pain that kicks in when you really turn up the pace, the stitch in your side that makes it hard to breathe – I HATE THAT.  For those who can find a way to overcome that block, they become world-class athletes.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is something oddly pleasing about really wearing myself out and I feel great after a really tough workout.  Running 20 miles is exhausting sometimes, but knowing that I did that run makes me happy the rest of the day (and it means there’s no guilt about having that extra cookie!).

What works to get past the mental block?

For me, first I find that it is invaluable to have a training partner.  I run/bike/swim with my buddy, Leonie, who is an amazing athlete.  When I have days where I don’t feel like doing anything, she’ll push me to get out there with her.  She tricks me into thinking we’re going to do a somewhat easy workout that turns into an ass-kicker!  She even makes me get out to the track to do speed work!  She’s much faster than me, but it’s never something that gets me down – it’s motivating to me. 

Seriously, she may not have a pro-card yet, but she's on the verge!!!

The second thing that seems to work is to set training goals.  Whether that is to run 25 miles a week or 100 miles a week, setting some goal holds me accountable.  Recently I haven’t been very good about doing this, but in the past it has been a great tool.  The goals must be realistic, but challenging at the same time. 

I’ve never collapsed from running too hard, and that lets me know that my body will continue to function until I find those limits.  Have you found your physical limits yet?