Getting my running mojo back
These last few months, my running’s been in trouble. (Check out here and here. Oh, and here and here and here). I’m going to discuss how my fears, procrastination and the need for control led me to self-sabotage. This hard-to-learn bit of self-knowledge has been helpful. I’m learning to get out of my own way and get my running mojo back.
When life feels out of control
This has been an incredibly difficult and frustrating year for me. Changing jobs and countries hasn’t worked out as I expected. It’s not about the fantasy of a great new life in a new country. I’ve moved around enough times to understand that’s not a complete cure for what ails you .This meant I had very low and manageable expectations i.e. not many.
Even those really really really low expectations weren’t met! Long story short, the deal I made hasn’t been honoured. And likely won’t either. In the past, I’ve always known that – if my job got unbearable – I could change jobs easily. Knowing this was enough to act like an escape valve. It kept me sane no matter how bad things got and, generally, I would cope.
This time, with work falling apart around me, I didn’t have that escape valve. This was because I am flat broke after moving round the world, have a restricted visa and a poorly developed work network.
I was not in control of my life (or so I felt). And that led me to find some control in my life, however small. And that’s where self-sabotage comes in.
Self-sabotage: a corrupted form of life control
Self-sabotage has been with me my whole life. When emotions get on top of me, when life is looking dark, when it feels like I’ve got no agency and my life seems out of my control, I feel like I can get some control by self-sabotage. I might not be able to control what’s happening to me, but I found ways to feel I had some control. By using self-sabotage such as:
With great effort these past few years, I’ve gotten the eating, drinking and smoking under control. In the past, those behaviours gave me a form of relief. Like scratching an itch but without removing the hair-shirt, they made me feel better for a little while. These small choices I made gave me a feeling of relief; of feeling in control over some parts of my circumstances. But, in the long run, they were killing me and that’s why I worked to eliminate them from my life.
But then I found myself in a bad situation. Without over-eating, drinking or smoking to turn to, I felt I needed to do something to feel better.
And that’s what led me to procrastinate my running. So much so I was on the verge of packing it all in. As discussed here, I messed up my last marathon pretty badly. Why was I not training? Why – when I’ve got this big, ambitious dream – was I not taking the steps needed to achieve it?
The Procrastination Monster
[I was going to draw a picture of it but I’ll do it tomorrow…]
As discussed here, I like planning things. It makes me feel in control of things. I was planning my training down to the day and workout. However, this was where I had sown the seeds of my downfall, although I didn’t know it.
When my life got busy or, emotionally, difficult, I would look at the plan and decide I couldn’t do it. I’d say to myself, well it’s too late now. I can’t make time to do this 8k run. I haven’t got time to follow that plan exactly today, so I’ll move it to tomorrow. I’m sure I’ll have time then. It’s only skipping one day and I’ll get it right then.
Tomorrow would come, and something else would make me think I’ll move it to tomorrow.
And so on. I used my need for control – to follow a perfect plan perfectly – as an excuse not to run. My fear – of failure, of success or not being in control – fed the Procrastination Monster inside me. I let perfection become the enemy of the good enough. And this fed the Procrastination Monster so that I didn’t do anything!
I had killed my motivation to run.
How I got my running mojo back
I was being too rigid in my expectations of myself and, when I couldn’t meet them, I gave up. Someone pointed out how my previous sabotaging behaviours were there to give me some psychological relief and a sense of control. This was when I started searching for help with my motivation.
Serendipitously, I came across two articles, one in Mark’s Daily Apple and the other at Nerd Fitness. These guys gave me enough food for thought to get out of the slump. What Mark’s Daily Apple taught me is I was forgetting to enjoy the journey. My goal means I have a big mountain to climb – and I was looking straight at the peak, wondering how the hell I will ever do it. Forgetting, of course, that it’s a journey – one step at a time.
Then, later that week, what really flicked the switch was the Nerd Fitness article. Essentially, Steve talks about how his external focus on getting fit to look good and replaced it with an internal focus of loving the process of being fit. He stopped worrying about the external and worked to make fitness an internal part of his being.
That’s when I decided to change my approach: I was going to go and run for the helluva it. That’s when I got the idea for my seven days/ seven runs challenge.
It does not matter what I run, only that I run
Since the 7D/7R challenge, I’ve put the fun into my run. Not every day, not every run, but generally I’m enjoying the process again for the first time in at least 12 months. I’ve ditched the minutely detailed plans for:
- Overall total weekly mileage but NOT broken down day-by-day
- Specifying one long run a week to build endurance but NOT when
- Occasional and just-for-the-hell-of-it challenges, such as running to work
Some days, I just run around the block in the spare time between coming home from work and heading to an evening event. Other days, I clock up 6 to 8km, if I fancy it. Today, I headed out the door intending heading for a run in the park and decided to do intervals (which I HATE) instead. And it was a blast!
What’s the secret? Well, because I don’t have a very detailed plan I don’t get discouraged when I fail to hit it. After all, life gets in the way of everyone’s plans. All I must do is run – it doesn’t matter what I run, only that I run. Like brushing my teeth or shaving, it’s now an habitual part of my daily routine.
I’ve stopped getting in my own way because I’ve become more flexible in how I hit my weekly goals.
And it’s the most run fun I’ve had in ages!
Losing the will to run can have many causes. In my case, emotional burdens forced me to rely on an old coping mechanism. Procrastination made me self-sabotage my running. Understanding this blocker and allowing myself to be more flexible means I have gotten out of my own way. Ditching the structured plan ironically means I’m running more and am getting into better shape.
I’m going to work it this way till Sydney in September. I’ve got a sneaky suspicion Sydney will be my best marathon yet!
Keep on going