Mind Games

For much of my 8-month running stint I haven't enjoyed the running much. I'm not good at pushing myself, I don't like hurting, and running does not come easy for me. I've spent so many runs practically counting down the miles (or half miles) from the first step.  I'm motivated not by a love of running but by a love of challenge:  can I do this? 

It's definitely gotten better since I started.  I have runs that have gone better than others, and I've had portions of runs where it actually felt good.  Those are the best: when I enjoy running and feel strong and smooth.  For all the other times, I have a short repertoire of strategies to keep me from obsessing over every remain inch:
  • Trail running-too busy watching my footing and the scenery to think about how long I've been running
  • Making my laps "bigger", i.e. (3) 2-mile laps instead of (6) 1-mile laps on my 1-mile route
  • Mentally composing my blog as I run
  • Running with my iPod
  • Letting my mind wander
Yesterday I read The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer (my husband had picked it up for me at a thrift store...my vice is the internet, his is thrift stores).  I am just crossing over from considering myself a non-runner; in fact, I think I stepped over the line when he handed me the book and I thought, "Hey, I AM a runner!" But I know he picked it not for the "non-runner" part but the "marathon" part.  The book, which I reviewed on my other blog, is basically designed to take someone who can jog for 30 minutes to a point where they are able to complete a marathon. 

I'm pretty comfortable with the plan I have (and, as already established, I'm not a non-runner, lol), but I was interested to see how the book stacked up against what I know/have heard.  The most interesting parts for me were the mental techniques discussed.  The book is strong on positive visualizations ("see yourself as a marathoner...imagine yourself crossing the finish line...", but it also covered two different types of techniques used during long runs: associative and dissociative.  Dissociative is what I do, tune out; associative is the opposite, really focusing on what you're doing as you run. 

The authors write "...if your objective is to make the runs go by quickly [bingo!] dissociating is probably the way to do that.  However, if you enjoy running or even succeed in achieving flow while running, then [your runs] may be one of the highlights of your day and you do not want to "miss" them by dissociating."  They add that using dissociation results in only training your body, not your mind.  I can definitely see that.  My "mental game" is definitely weak.  Turns out maybe I'm just doing the wrong kind of thinking (I guess "10 miles to go...9.8 miles to go...9.7 miles to go....9.5 mile to go...." isn't productive? Who knew?)  Some of their recommendations:
  • "focus on the running itself"
  • focus on form
  • "develop the feeling that you are an inexhaustible machine" (that makes me snicker a little)
  • focus on the movements of your body and the sensations you're feeling (unfortunately, for me this would sound like, "I'm going to die. I can't breathe. My knee hurts.  Now my shin hurts.  Knee again.")
  • try to think of 25 reasons for running as you run
  • go through the alphabet naming adjectives for yourself for each letter (Amazing...Bold...Cheerful...)
  • concentrate on your breathing
I tend to think that my runs will be more pleasant as I get "better" at running, more in shape, but that's probably not true because there's always some new level to try to reach.  I may try some of the book's suggestions and see how they work out.  I'd love to feel that flow in my running more often; maybe some of these will help.  And if not, there's always the iPod, the trails, and a new blog post!

My question: what do you do to pass the time while you're on those long runs?  Do you tune in or tune out?  Is there something specific that you do?


  1. Thanks for the interesting post. I definitely disassociate most of the time - wanting time to move quickly. I find that when running with friends, we chat most of the way, time flies and I'm feeling happy afterward. The times when I run alone or with my husband, there is no chatting and i do tend to focus on my running and then I don't always enjoy the run.

  2. A hip flask of whisky is good technique, you either lose track of time and before you know it its over or you lose track of milage and think you have finished about half way through, you leave your run and head home quite content that you have finished it and with a lovely warm glow in your cheeks.

  3. One of my friends once told me "for someone who complains about running as much as you do you sure do a lot of it." I am a complete disassociator (if that is a word) and will look for anything to occupy my mind elsewhere.

  4. You may want to try audiobooks on the iPod. I'm listening to "Once a Runner" (which I saw was on your wish list) right now during my runs, and I really like it. I have several other audiobooks ready to go once this one is finished. For an avid reader such as yourself, this is just another way to "read" more books. Just a thought.

  5. lately I've been focusing on my form, stride and pace. But sometimes I pray, sometimes I think of all the things I have to do or sometimes I write a blog in my head. ha ha, and yes, you officially left the shortest message ever!!! I tagged you in a stylish blogger award the other day. enjoy! :)

  6. I am not a runner, more a walker, but I have often wondered what people are thinking about. If it were me, my pace would match the music I was listening to so that could get a littl dangerous... However, my brother gave me a copy of The Power (2nd to The Secret) and now when I am doing something that takes time, I spend that time envisioning what I want, or sending positive thoughts out there and it really helps!

  7. Lol, Simon. Luke, I forgot I had posted that list, and I lost a whole list of books I wanted when my phone had to be restored. Thanks for the reminder...and idea.

  8. When I started training for my first half marathon, I did the tune out thing. I figured how many minutes I had to run and thought the average tune was 4 minute, so I counted the number of songs. For my second one, I did the same thing for the most part but I don't like listening to anything while I bike so I started getting use to no tunes. Now I mix it up, some long runs with music, some without, or x miles with and x miles without alternating so there is something to look forward to.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts