Showing posts with label psychology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label psychology. Show all posts

Monday, January 6, 2014

Happy Blue Monday

I heard on the news that today is "Blue Monday", supposedly the most depressing day of the year. A combination of post-holiday reality (back to work and school, less daylight, gray skies, cold weather) all contribute to feelings of sadness.

Despite all that, I tend to look at the new year hopefully. Bad weather will pass, the days start getting longer after December 22nd and just because the holidays are over, it doesn't mean that you can't spend time with people who make you happy.

A good friend called me today and mentioned that he was feeling especially low. I told him about Blue Monday and he felt better. The fact that Blue Monday is a real thing may help depersonalize the sadness. Either way, I was glad that he felt more optimistic after we'd spoken. I told him that whenever I feel low, a good run all but guarantees a change of mindset. I'll bet if more people ran, Blue Monday would be far less blue.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Transcendental treadmillism

Be the treadmill
Today's run (treadmill): 3.2 miles

Rainy weather put me on the treadmill this morning, but I was fine with that. I'm way behind in my magazine reading (I blame the lack of a daily commute) and have been catching up on recent Runner's World issues. I came across an article about meditation and running, and was curious to learn how the two might be linked. Were they suggesting that runners should meditate during a run? If that's the same as zoning out, I guess it could make sense.

Much of the article covered mental preparation for a run, but the writer also suggested some specific meditative running techniques. One example was taking a breath every three steps and exhaling for two. I tried that on the treadmill this morning with mixed results. Just like when I tried to calculate cadence by tracking my steps per minute during a run, I found it extremely hard to keep my counts. The challenge was maintaining synchronization between my steps and my breathing. I gave up fairly quickly. 

The one idea in the article that proved viable was simply acknowledging the tedium of the run and the pain and fatigue that may come with it. Instead of relying on TV or music, the meditative approach is to understand the discomfort and appreciate what's good about the experience. As I ran today, I thought about how I felt (strong, mentally energized), how the floor fan was keeping me cool, and how nice it was to have a schedule that didn't involve 4:00 AM workouts. I may not have reached the highest mode of consciousness today, but meditation did do a fine job of distracting me from the damn treadmill.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Sunday's biggest challenge

Today's run (treadmill): 25 minutes

I planned to conclude my half marathon training with a run around the neighborhood this morning, but the weather didn't cooperate. No problem really, I just wanted the pavement experience when I worked on my stride. Instead, I went for a fast run on the treadmill, pacing about 15 seconds per mile slower than 5K race pace for 20 minutes, and then stepping up to full race pace for the last five.

I didn't love starting as fast as I did this morning. My methodology for early morning treadmill runs has been to run slowly for the first five minutes, and then step up my speed every few minutes until the end. Today I just went for it, and after three minutes I wondered if I could sustain that pace for 22 more. I told myself that I run faster in races over longer distances and I'd get used to the speed. That's exactly what happened.

My experience last Saturday, when I began to feel negative about the run, was eventually corrected by the acknowledgement that most running difficulties (not counting injuries) are more mental than physical. I need to keep that in mind on Sunday when the going gets rough. And it will. I ran this course last year and I'm aware of certain mistakes I made. I hope to correct them this time. Nothing left to do now but rest and stretch. Three days and counting...

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Psychological struggles on the Bethpage trail

Six down and six up
Today's run (Bethpage State Park): 12 miles

Unless you are an elite runner, or someone who covers 70 training miles a week, 12 miles is a long distance to run. It's 92% of a half marathon and it felt very much like a full marathon this morning. I know a good number of people who run marathons and half marathons, and I am privately amazed by their confident view of these races. To me, a half marathon is an "Event" that takes many weeks of tough training and still guarantees to beat me to a pulp. My friends certainly give their training its due, but they don't seem as intimidated by the challenge.

It was a chilly 34 degrees when I started this morning's run at Bethpage and I decided to start with a lap around the large parking lot before reaching the main trail. I thought that front loading some distance would give me a psychological edge, making my long miles on the trail seem a little shorter. Unfortunately I miscalculated a little and paid for it at the end.

I ran without water because my Amphipod bottle is not usable and my Ultimate Direction bottle had not arrived. I could have run with bottled water but I decided to go without, rather than deal with the need to carry a bottle without a hand grip. I took along a GU gel in case I needed a boost later in my run. I ultimately chose not to take it because I didn't want to consume it without water.

My extra distance at the beginning of my run provided the surprise of reaching the 4 mile point earlier than I expected. My milestone for that distance is a point just south of the Southern State overpass near the Linden Street crossing. Before long, I was running in the Massapequa Preserve where I planned my turnaround after six miles. That was a mistake.

Bethpage is a rolling trail that does a good job of torturing me at certain points in my run. There are some hills to manage during the first few miles, but it isn't until I reach the Southern State overpass where it becomes hard. The section is steep, but not too long, and I get over it fine. The problem is knowing that I'll soon face it coming back, the northbound section being longer, with two difficult inclines.

I like the Massapequa Preserve because the path is macadam, not concrete, and everyone on that section of the trail seems to be friendly and smiling. I cruised along well but I did begin to feel fatigue as I approached the six mile mark. I considered having the GU, but I didn't want to deal with the stickiness without water to wash it down. That won't be the case for the Half where I'll run with water or take GU at a water station.

Once I cleared the Southern State I tried to feel good that I wouldn't have to deal with big hills for a couple of miles. For some reason I began feeling down and was questioning why I was subjecting myself to this long boring run. I knew even then that much of running is psychological and that I needed to get my head straight if I was to cover the next five miles without going insane.

I did recover from that malaise, but my boredom was soon replaced by dread. I was facing the two big hills near the end and wasn't feeling very strong. I again considered taking my gel but decided that I'd almost be finished with my run by the time I felt any effect from it. As I approached the Quaker Meetinghouse Rd. crossing, I seriously considered taking a break. The wooden bench looked tempting but, when I reached it, I just kept going.

The first of the two dreaded hills was easier to handle than I'd expected, though I knew I was running pretty slowly. Another runner passed me and disappeared into the distance and I cringed before looking at my Garmin to check my pace. The last big hill was harder than expected, but I knew once I passed it I'd soon be done.


In my decision to turn around at six miles, I failed to consider that I'd run about half a mile prior to starting on the bike trail. That meant that, by the time I reached the parking lot, I'd only covered 11.5 miles. In order to reach my 12 mile goal I needed to circle the entire lot. While the parking lot is flat, my mind was set to come off the trail and trot over to my car, stop the Garmin and rest. Instead I had to make that last loop, trudging through final half mile as I wistfully viewed my waiting car.

I was beat up pretty badly, but I succeeded in reaching all my training goals for next weekend's race. I will definitely take gels when I fatigue and stop at the water stations or carry my own hydration. Next Sunday will be 1.1 miles more than I covered today. I know it will be hard, but at least the LI Half race course doesn't have Bethpage's hills. That's what I kept telling myself this morning.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The value of a single workout

Today's workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

What is the value of a single workout? Can one exercise session make a difference? As I wait for Sunday, holding off from my daily runs to protect my knee, I'm thinking about the marginal value of a workout. Whether I ran Mon-Wed this week as planned or rested (as I did), it's unclear which choice would have prepared me best for my race.

My knee is still sore but the pain is abstract. It doesn't hurt to put pressure on my leg but there's enough soreness to remind me that recent damage was done. Earlier in the week I ran through some core exercises to keep active even if I couldn't run. Those sessions were useful but they didn't provide the same satisfaction that I get after a hard workout.

This morning I decided that I'd waited long enough. I spent 25 minutes on the elliptical using one of the lowest resistance settings but I worked up a good sweat and reinforced my aerobic conditioning. Today's session probably did little in terms of helping my fitness but psychologically it was a highly effective workout.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Defining a good run

Today's run (street): 2.3 miles at 9:19/mile

By now I've done enough running to know that some runs just go better than others. I don't get upset when I struggle through a run because I know it's circumstance, not ability, that is making the going tough on that particular day. I've done long runs that seemed effortless a day after I ran a particularly difficult shorter run. What defines a good run? Is it how you feel when running or how fast you covered the distance? Or is it the way you feel at the end that matters?

I didn't feel particularly energized this morning when I went out and I started off slower than usual. I know this because my Garmin kept chirping to indicate that I was drifting out of my defined pace range. It was cold at 4 AM and with the wind, even colder. I dressed for the weather but it took me a few minutes to warm up. I usually start my runs on cold days by going north on roads that have slight elevations. This makes me work a little more and helps get my body temperature regulated. The extra work needed for the hill plus that first few minutes transitioning to aerobic breathing sometimes makes it feel hard. That was the case today and it didn't feel much better ten minutes into the run.

It was probably fatigue but my legs felt heavy and though it seemed like I was running at a brisk pace I could see that I really wasn't. I can't say that I enjoyed today's run as much as other recent workouts but when I finally reached home I had the same feeling of accomplishment that I get every time I complete a run. It's a great feeling and I didn't care about the numbers. I got through a tough one today and as I cooled down I knew I'd soon be rewarded with a hot cup of coffee. That was enough to call it a good run.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Impatience and apprehension about my return to running

Another morning without a run. How long can I go without my daily workout? I've reached the point where my impatience to run is beginning to compete with my need to support a full recovery. Earlier in the week I had designs on running on the treadmill and working out on the elliptical while incorporating rest days in between. My return to work, with the early commute and a challenging schedule has been exhausting and I've done none of that so far. While I've been tempted to push through the fatigue and exercise I keep thinking that it may do more harm than good.

The question on my mind is whether I'm being smart about resisting this temptation or whether I'm just apprehensive about facing the fact that I need to rebuild everything I've worked for over the last 16 months. I really want to run outdoors, ideally on a trail. Trail running inspires me and I miss the experience a lot. I also miss my neighborhood runs and as I drive the streets I think about how I used to own them at 4:00 AM - my streets, my playground. I know that the first time I go back out  it will be tough. Those early, 20-25 minute maintenance runs that I would do 3-4 times during the work week will present a very different challenge to me today.

I know I'll get to where I need to be, and soon. I have a 5K scheduled for April and there's another 5K in March that's tempting me. It would be nice to have a short term goal like a race to help frame my expectations for getting back to peak conditioning. I'm conflicted about whether to run tomorrow on the treadmill or just wait for the weekend. I'll see what my body says, I'm ready to listen.

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