I want to start this post by giving a BIG shout out to Jodie for completing her first half marathon this weekend.
She overcame huge hurdles on Sunday to finish 13.1 torturous miles. And her victory, her determination and perseverance in the face of some pretty sucky circumstances inspired me to write this post.
Take a second right now and think about your training, be it training for a race, a sport, life (actually most importantly life) or a powerlifting competition.
How often do you train in pretty comfortable circumstances? In a warm gym. Or on a route you know and may have even run before. With music you like to listen to that motivates you. Following your normal routine surrounded by people and places you are fairly familiar with.
Most of us probably always train in pretty comfortable surroundings following our own basic routine.
I mean why wouldn’t we? I know I generally do.
But guess what…A lot of unexpected crap can pop up when it comes to competition. We all acknowledge this, yet rarely do I really ever hear or read about people TRAINING for the unexpected crap. High level athletes, yes, but weekend warriors, no (and the crazy part is, those of us training for LIFE, for HEALTH, encounter more unexpected stuff than anyone else, yet we train for it the least!).
And when it comes down to competition time, guess what matters more than all the hours you spent strengthening your body?
How strong your mind is.
While training, even under ideal circumstances can still make you mentally tougher, it doesn’t necessarily make you ready to handle crappy situations when they pop up unexpected during competition.
Because unfortunately, they sometimes do. And when those situations arise, it doesn’t matter how strong our body truly is. All it matters is whether or not our mind can carry us through when the going becomes so much worse than we could have foreseen.
This past Sunday, Jodie had the perfect storm. Mid-race, on a course much tougher than expected, Jodie’s ipod died. Just completely shut off.
And when you’ve trained day and in and day out with your music that is a huge blow. Who would ever expect your fully charged, brand new phone to suddenly shut off!?!
Mentally the shock of something like that happening can be a death blow. Especially when you still have 6 more miles to go and the last few are on a hill that people the day before kept complaining and whining about.
But Jodie pushed on.
Then what do you do if your body chooses that day to rebel? You’ve trained hard for months. You are physically strong enough, but your stomach just doesn’t seem to care.
What do you do then when you have no music to distract you (like you’ve had ever run for the past few months while training), your stomach is telling you to stop and your body is fatigued from unexpected hill after hill?
It all comes down to how strong your mind is.
And all I can tell you is, I ran with one strong lady on Sunday. Up a hill that felt like it lasted for an hour, Jodie pushed through finishing her half marathon with no music and a body in rebellion.
She was a bit disappointed when we finished because she wanted a bit more out of the race. And then she turned said to me, “I think I should have trained on more hills.”
While yes, a bit more hill training could have made that last hill feel a little less awful, I don’t think hill training was what was missing from our program.
The hill did deliver a blow, but the real battle started when her music shut off. All she then had were her thoughts and a mind that now had nothing to distract it from the pain building in her body.
It made me realize that what had been missing from our training was a true mental test.
I never once thought of having us run without music. I never once thought of creating a ridiculously, outrageously hard unexpected route.
I never thought of having her train in a way that would mentally make her suffer more than her body was.
I did everything to prepare her for the route we thought we knew we’d be running and the circumstances we thought we’d be running under.
Heck, the only mental training we really did was the few times I forced her to run sore just in case her body didn’t feel perfect the day of the race. That way at least she’d know that she’d done it before feeling worse.
Anyway, the point is, it really doesn’t matter how much you train if your mind isn’t going to be prepared to handle adversity. And while I was so proud of Jodie for the mental strength she displayed, a bit more mental training could have made yesterday a walk (ok maybe a run) in the park for her even with all the crap that popped up.
And just because you aren’t training for a race doesn’t mean you can skip the mental training.
Adversity doesn’t just pop up in competition. It happens in everyday life.
We are truly only as strong as our minds believe we are. It’s as simple as that.
So while I’m not suggesting you force yourself to go outside and deadlift in the snow to prepare for unforeseen circumstances at a powerlifting competition, I am suggesting that you occasionally force yourself to train in circumstances that challenge your mental strength.
What I am suggesting is that, while you may get into a routine and generally train in that routine, you every so often force yourself to deviate from that routine just so you know that you don’t NEED the routine to succeed.
Like maybe if you always run with music, you try a few runs without it just in case your iphone decides to stop functioning mid-race…
Training can’t just strengthen your body, it must also push your mind.
Because as I said before…
YOU ARE ONLY AS STRONG AS YOUR MIND BELIEVES YOU ARE!
Congrats again Jodie. I want to say how proud of you I am for finishing that half-marathon strong!
So today I went for a run since I’m actually committed to doing a half marathon this spring…ICK.
Ryan and I have occasionally done the 4 mile run on the beach boardwalk by our house. And honestly, I never have any trouble with the run even if I haven’t been doing any running of any kind.
We even just did it the other week and I cruised along while talking to him. It was fine…not fun…but fine.
BUT while I can even easily survive running 6 miles alongside Ryan, I never really run over 1 mile by myself.
Unlike any other time that I train, I can’t quiet my thoughts when I run for anything over a mile.
I can completely focus and push myself to my limits when I do circuits or weight training or even sprinting, but when I run for longer distances, all I seem to do are focus on any and all little annoyances.
Oh my shin feels a bit tight. Oh my sock is rubbing a little. Oh the headphones aren’t staying in exactly the right spot.
Seriously, I think I focus on every little thing hoping I can just convince myself to stop running.
And the crazy part is, occasionally I will actually get myself to stop.
I’m not actually in pain. I’m not even actually tired.
Usually I’m actually jogging slower than I need to be, but I convince myself that I’m worn out and need to stop because I continue to focus in harder and harder on the little annoyance.
It’s crazy. I can push myself till I’m bleeding or near passing out when doing my circuit, weight training, sprinting workouts, but when I’m running…If I feel my pant leg or shorts leg even rubbing (even if it doesn’t hurt at all), I will use it as an excuse to stop.
For me running for over a mile by myself is a the BIGGEST mental challenge. I need someone there to distract me from my mental whining.
Rarely is my body actually tired when I run. Rarely do I actually get a cramp or stitch. Rarely should I actually ever need to stop. But more often than not, I will cop out when it comes to running.
I will find any excuse to stop. Seriously…any excuse.
My body is fine…my mind is the weak link.
So today I knew I had to suck it up and go for a 5 mile jog by myself. I began all of my mental whining about say…5 seconds in.
Oh the front of my shin is a little tight. Oh my headphones don’t seem to be staying in that well. Oh I think I may be starting a stitch in my side.
But I kept jogging. On my way down the boardwalk, as my the annoyances kept being repeated over and over in my head, I began to psych myself out.
Crap…maybe I should only do the 4 mile run Ryan and I have done. That would be good enough right?
That is when it hit me…
When have I EVER settled for good ENOUGH!?!
So I kept running past our usual turn around spot and headed for the 5 mile half way point.
As I ran back, the negative thoughts began to creep back in. What if I just stop here? Ugh…I’m getting a crap in my side. Why are my headphones not staying perfectly in my ears?
Then I started counting the streets. As they seemed to drag on, I started getting more and more down.
I literally shook my head at myself. What the heck was I doing!?!
My mind was being weak!
I dragged my eyes off the street signs and said to myself, “I WILL do this.”
I then reminded myself that the faster I run, the sooner I will be done.
So I picked up the pace. As I could see myself getting closer and closer to home…as I could see the Newport Pier coming around the corner, I began to sprint.
Just two more streets…
I’m pretty sure the people walking by my house thought I was crazy as I came charging around the corner, but I didn’t care.
I WAS DONE!
I’d made it.
I’d not let my mind give in.
It really is mind over matter. If your mind tells you that you are tired or hurting or uncomfortable, you will stop EVEN if your body really doesn’t need to. If your mind tells you that you CAN do something, you will do it even if you have to overcome stupid annoyances!
So don’t let your mind hold you back!