Fight The Bonk: Head Trip

It’s true that a good portion of any race is mental. And, it’s true that our minds are capable of very weird things in a race, as well as very awesome things. Here are a few tips to keep your monkeys in check when the mind starts to fall in a hole:

1. Fake it. Pretend you’re in the Olympics, or some other huge event, and you are so about to win and the whole world is screaming– in the stadium, at the television sets, all over the place– for you to win. And you can, as long as you hold off the guy/gal inches behind you. Push that edge then hold it until you feel yourself getting into a better place.

2. Pick them off. Pick an object like a tree or a stop sign, or a loudly-colored short of a fellow runner if you absolutely must be stone cold like that, and pick ’em off. Just focus on running to the target, or focus on passing your target person.

3. Go someplace else. Go ahead and trip out a little bit. Your body will likely keep doing what it’s doing, so mull over an issue, plan a dinner party, imagine cooking a huge meal upon which you’ll feast at the finish line, whatever. Just don’t zone out so much that you forget where you are, what you’re doing, etc and inadvertantly slow down and run off the road.

4. Have an emergency playlist in the reserves. I have a few songs on this short list. Songs that i’ve run with before that I equate with really outstanding running successes. Just the song is mental cue enough to make me feel better. I do this one a lot. It’s my lucky charm for sure.

5. Make a mantra. I hear these all the time towards the end of a race. Some make sense, some absolutely do not. A friend of mine always chants “you’re going home, let’s go home” to herself towards the end of a race, which is cool, and I’ve heard everything from “do it for Billy” to “tater tots” being mumbled in the final miles. Hey, whatever works. I once ran past a Jamba Juice and got “jumba jumba jumba juice” stuck in my head. Like I said, whatever works. Truly.

Developing Mental and Emotional Endurance

“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.” – Lance Armstrong.

My personal philosophy isn’t far from that of Cerutty’s Startan Philosophy, even when smarting from a ding. Most of us know the difference in an adjustment ding, an ache or minor pain that we can power through and relieve that is something like a mile-marker to let us know our bodies acknowledge we’ve done something different, and an injury, an ache or pain we maybe try to power through but is a sign that, no, sit ye down, something is off and we need to put our bodies in the best condition to let it repair itself.*

One of my very favorite blog posts on the subject of building mental strength is one to which I refer very often, and continually enjoy by Cameron Schafer and covers this topic rather wonderfully:

My high school football coach, John Deti, used to always ask players that limped to the sidelines during a game, are you hurt or injured? This may seem trite to some, but he was keying in on a fundamental issue. Soreness, stiffness, bruises…these are just parts of any game or any physically demanding activity, but they should not keep one from continuing. Injuries on the other hand, like muscle tears, broken bones, etc. are a different thing entirely and should be taken care of. One of the best ways to develop mental toughness is extreme physical exertion…if there is no discomfort , you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough. This is different from causing injury which hinders you rather than helping.

Sometimes, the only way to know if you are hurt or injured is a perfect stew of self-awareness coupled with stubborn trial and error. In that, I mean simply, if it hurts, I try to work it out. If it gets worse and doesn’t seem like I can work though it or shake it off, I wave the white flag. And, it always feels like a personal defeat to me, but I think that’s okay. I let it feel that way and take some solace by reminding myself that feeling disappointed by having to call it a day keeps me motivated down the road, because it makes me want to train smarter to prevent a repeat.

I’m thinking of this because yesterday, I called for a ride home. The night before, I attended an event and wore heels and got a bit off-map and walked rather quickly about a mile in the shoes. I woke up with a sense of stiffness in my right hip, but certainly not discomfort. With a training along Chicago’s Lake Michigan and beautiful, sunny weather ahead of me, I hopped into my New Balances and set out. I was aware of the sensation in my right hip and aimed to shake it off for eight miles with little success, but the ninth mile was slow, unproductive, and painful, so I called it a day and called for a ride. I felt disappointed, but spent the ninth mile with my sciatic nerve making a pinchy feeling in my right butt cheek and my right thigh cramping solidly from the back and side. On the way home, I made light of it, but I was disappointed that I couldn’t shake it off and continue. At home, I drank a lot of water, took my laptop to bed and stayed as still as possible for the rest of the eveing but was struck by the though that I had an opportunity to Pollyanna here. I could either feel disappointed, acknowledge it and let it motivate me to train smarter in the future, or I could see the events of the day and the night before as having revealed an under-trained area and feel the excitement that comes along with discovering a new training activity.

What about you? How do you feel when you have to cut training short? How do you let it inform your training afterwards?

*Statements are not meant to diagnose or treat any serious injury. Holding one blogger responsible for not knowing your own safety limits is daffy. See a doctor, licensed massage therapist or naturopath if you require aid.