“This is absolutely stupid. What are you doing? You are too old, you didn’t run back in high school or college. You have spent years sitting at a desk and, now, 8 years into being a runner, you have hired a running coach and are doing VO2Max intervals. Just go home, grab a coffee and embrace your mediocrity.” Sweet little lies.
That’s me at my G-rated, unfiltered best. Talking to myself and saying all kinds of self-sabotaging thoughts. Telling myself sweet little lies. And it took place a few weeks ago in the middle of a VO2Max training run. Before I get too far ahead of myself, I don’t want to lose you, so, what is VO2Max training?
Here is a quick link on VO2Max if you want to read more about it (https://www.verywellfit.com/what-is-vo2-max-3120097).
My Typical VO2Max Session
If you are not familiar with it or are not delving into the nuances of training as a runner, let me give it to you in layman’s terms. In my training, it is primarily a warm-up followed by a block of intervals. For me, 3 minutes of running at 90-95% intensity followed by 3 minutes of recovery. Rinse and repeat for anywhere from 4-6 sets. Now, how do you know if you are hitting 90-95% intensity? Well, you run as hard as you can right up to the point that you can feel the puke rising up inside you.
On the day in question, I had completed 2 of the intervals and was in the middle of interval 3 when my mind decided to wage war on me. Spittle frothing from my mouth, labored breathing, and I started thinking about all the people in their homes that could look out their windows at this old dude running down the street. Red faced and on the verge of a heart attack, I asked myself why. “Why in the @%!$# are you doing this to yourself? You are too @%!$# old. You are going to die and you deserve it. Idiot.”
When the the thoughts began to battle in my mind, I started to slow down. I wanted to quit and to agree with the voice in my head. I wanted to believe it and give myself the reason to stop. More than anything, I wanted to just turn around and go home.
Stay in the Moment
One thing I have come to learn about running is that it is critical to run the mile I am in and not focus on the miles remaining. In the case of intervals, the goal is to stay in the moment. To stay in the interval that I am in. If I start thinking about how tired I am, or how old I am, or how many intervals I have left, or … or… or whatever, it’s over. When I do this, I will allow my mind to wander, I am beginning to foster an environment for self-sabotage. I start talking to myself, and if I am not careful, that conversation doesn’t always end well.
Fortunately, on this day I recognized it within seconds of my brain spiraling downward. I chose to run anyway despite the argument bouncing around my skull. Yes, I still wrestled with the same thoughts. Even though I wanted to, I couldn’t magically make them disappear. I knew if I just pressed on, eventually they would end because my watch would beep again signaling the end.
Train Your Brain
And that is the beauty of training. Training gives you the opportunity to not only improve as a runner but also to strengthen your mind. Many of us will quit or take shortcuts in a workout. We tell ourselves that we have done enough, or perhaps talk negatively about ourselves. If you are like me, you may have a variety of go-to reasons as to why you suck. And, yeah, I said that. Because that is what we think. One of my go-to’s is that I am old. But also, that I started running later in life. Or that I was never an athlete. Or that I am slower than everyone I know. I could go on and on. But this isn’t getting me anywhere, nor is it getting you anywhere.
What I have learned to accept about myself is that I have these go-to lies, these sweet little lies. I have these areas of my brain that will bring me down and I can spiral downward with them if I allow myself to. So when I realize that I am doing it, I have gotten better at blocking out the thoughts and recognizing that they are simply a lie. Now, I can choose to believe the lie and play along with it, or I can kick it in it’s teeth, and put the hammer down. I don’t always win the fight, and have lost more times than necessary, but knowing I do it has kept me stay on the offense when I sense it happening. And, I finally feel as if I may be turning the corner in that fight.
Yeah. Training sucks sometimes. And, yes, I am old. But deep down, my personal hope is that one day, I am running that marathon or that ultramarathon and the people that are along the course watching notice me. My hope is that they think to themselves, “Geez, if that old guy can do it, then what is stopping me?”
What about You?
Your turn! What sweet little lies do you tell yourself? Do you have anything that you regularly say to yourself that sends you spiraling downward? How do you get out of it?