Mental Toughness

Sometimes I have it and sometimes I don’t.  You have to practice it just like you do your swimming, biking or running.  It’s not automatic.  I’m sure there are people that the mental strength is already there or automatic.  It’s not for me.  I decided to start running because I needed to so something to loose weight, reduce my cholesterol and get fit.  I followed the Couch-to-5k program and that got me to be able to finish 5ks but I wasn’t getting faster or being able to run farther stretches without walking.  That was because I would stop before I really needed to and take a walk break.  I would stop just because I said I was tired.  Well that’s not reason enough.  With the help of friends that are faster and stronger, I did get to where I could run up to 4 ish miles without stopping for a walk break but I was terribly inconsistent.  Fast forward to 2 summers ago when I did the 12-week Triathlon training plan from Multi Sport Performance and well she made me run for longer stretches.  Using heart rate, I have zones and then I would have a run workout that would be something like – Run 30 mins in zone 2.  That means keep your heart rate between 146 to 156 beats per minute.  Doesn’t matter how slow you go, just keep your heart rate in that range.  I found that with slowing down, I got stronger and faster.  Before I knew it she had me running for an entire hour and not stopping.

Last year was very tough on me, with the amount of stress and that took a tole on my body – physical and mental strength included.  Since making some big changes and seriously reducing my stress, I have lost weight, lost inches and I’m slowly getting my fitness back.

I got sick with a pretty nasty sinus infection so I haven’t be out to run since I ran the Run the Reagan 10k.  Feeling like I was behind on my training and just feeling behind in general, last week I got in the pool, did my weight training and pushed myself to go out and run.  I love running with friends but I felt like I needed this alone time.  Just me and my music to go run.   I felt good after my warm-up and I started out.  I ran a 4.6 mile loop that I do all the time.  The route has a big hill in the beginning but then I get a nice long 1-mile downhill as the reward.  I was very proud, I ran all the way up the hill and got to the half way point of my run with out stopping.  My stomach was a little upset from a 1/2 of cupcake I ate to celebrate my hubby’s birthday so I walked for a little bit to get that to calm down.  I then decided that I was going run the rest of the way back to my car with two steep weird hills that I would be allowed to walk.  Well as you can see on my pace and heart rate that’s not what happened.  My mental game fell apart.  This could be because I am still recovering, my food was off from the day before or I hadn’t slept very well and wore myself out on the first half.  For whatever reason even though I said “I will run the rest of the route” I couldn’t do it.  But I did run what I could and finished without walking the rest of the way back.  It’s all good because I did show myself that I can run up that entire stupid hill in the beginning.  Now that I know I can do it, means I don’t get to punk out the next time.

The weather was perfect and absolutely beautiful.  I was a little warm but I can’t complain if I am out in March in a tank top and capri’s.  Though I think it means we will get screwed with some seriously cold weather, oh wait we woke up today and it was 28 degrees.

Fast forward to Sunday and it was cold and raining.  Me and my running buddy decided that unless bad weather happens on race day, we don’t have to purposely torture ourselves.  We waited until 6 pm to hit the paths in Peachtree City.  It was 45 degrees and the warmest it was going to get.  Her mom needed 6 miles so we set out.  We let mom set the pace.  My heart rate stayed mostly in upper zone 2 and slowly got to lower ends of zone 3.  We kept a pretty steady pace of around 13:30 mins per mile.  We just kept going.  There were only a couple tunnels we walked through the puddles and up a couple steep hills coming out of tunnels.  Before we knew it we were less than a 1/2 mile from our car and had not walked for any major length of time.  After one hill, we walked more by accident but then set on back to running.

I could not believe it, we ran the entire 6 miles.  Some of this was mental strength I got from running by myself a few days before but the rest was a slower pace and company. Sometimes friends can help distract you from the “pain or discomfort” just a little.  I felt like I could have kept going and did not feel bad.  This is the first time I have done this in over a year.  Makes me to better believe in myself and know I can do it.  So in theory when I set out on Sunday for my run (6 miles again) I know I ran the whole thing before, so I should be able to do it again.

Physical strength comes from doing something over and over again getting your body used to it and making it be able to take the abuse.  For me adding consistent strength training is starting to pay off in my swimming, biking and running.  So that’s another way to improve your physical strength outside the traditional, go run faster, farther to get stronger.

Mental strength is similar but sometimes you need to pep talk yourself in to keeping going or go faster, farther, etc.  Even if I have done something before, I may have to convince myself I can do it again.  This may be because you didn’t sleep well the day before, didn’t eat right, are sore from your workout, the list goes on for why you may think you can’t do something.  What you have to do is convince yourself that you can do it and not let your body quit.  That’s the hard part.  I struggle with this on a daily basis but you won’t get stronger unless you try.

2 responses to “Mental Toughness

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