Training season is a challenge by itself for us. We start in April and go for 29 weeks. We worry about shoes, hydration and clothing, oversleeping for the very early starts and then…we have a run or walk during the season that is beyond awful. If you’ve had a bad run or walk this season, to that I say, CONGRATULATIONS!
Congratulations for a bad workout? Absolutely! The bad workout gives you the opportunity to review all of the things that didn’t go as planned, examine contributing factors and have a plan to manage similar issues should they ever happen again. Case in point – I received texts and emails from several of you who ran the Revenge of the Penguin 20 miler on Sunday. When the first person came to me, I thought it was just her experience, and then I heard from a few other people, who had very similar difficulties. The most interesting thing is that when I asked what was so awful, not one of them mentioned the distance as a problem. They listed boredom, lack of on course support, difficult surface and that is was a mentally tough event.
The biggest issue I heard about was a mental hurdle. The Penguin race is an out and back course along the Towpath. It’s crushed gravel, trees on either side of the canal, and that’s about it – BORING. As you’ve read in Jeff Galloway’s books, blogs and tweets, the mental part of distance running and walking is very taxing, and you need to find ways to combat it. When you come up against a course that isn’t entertaining, what do you do? You can only talk so much, and if you’re listening to music, sometimes it’s still not enough. Consider visualization. Think about some of the great runs or walks you’ve had and imagine you are there. Have a prayer, song or mantra to repeat. Have one that is encouraging, amusing or calming – cover all of your bases.
Your bad run or walk may not have a mental component, but it will have something that crops up that you weren’t prepared to deal with, that throws you off your game. That surprise is now your teacher. Go over the undesirable experience, share it with others and talk your way through scenarios that would have helped pull you out of the pit. Dissect it so that you can understand how it works against you and how you can recover from it. For some issues you may tackle them head on, for others you need to find a way around them or a tunnel under them. Your goal is to think about options and to learn to be very flexible and adaptable. Like I’ve said to some of you, fill your tool kit.
Every step you take this season is a lesson learned. Running in the thick air, the rain, the Magic Mile, the blisters and black toenails – each experience makes you a more knowledgeable distance runner and walker. More knowledgeable because you will always seek out ways to improve your situation as it happens rather than wallow in the yuck du jour. Your training, good and bad, means that each race should be concerned that it can’t take you down. Each race will have to work hard to stop you because you know how to be better, smarter and craftier in tackling each mile, even if that means just going with the flow. When a run or walk gives you lemons…