I have spent the entire morning in bed as I got back home from Seattle very late last night and I only slept for about 6 hours! Our team raced in the UW Invitational yesterday, and my own performance was anything but great (more about it later!). The events of the weekend made me think about running and training and my situation more, and I felt like writing down my thoughts as a blog post to share with you guys. I have seen several posts and tweets from different runners talking about the obsession over numbers vs. actually listening to your body, and I wanted to share my own experiences about this topic, as I struggle with it a lot.
This is one of my forever-struggles. I gain confidence from the training hours and miles logged, and oftentimes forget why I am running in the first place: of course, because I love it so much, but also because I want to be fast! I don’t train just to train; I train to run fast and push my limits. But it is too easy to become blind and forget what matters. I have gone through several injuries and setbacks during the years I have been running competitively, and my college career has been anything but what I planned it to be the first time I stepped on the U.S. soil. I came here with some good PRs, which predicted success in the NCAA system. Over the years, I have learned that nothing is certain, and things never go as you planned.. I think pretty much all of my problems have been due to overtraining as a result of anxiety of “never making it back there” after coming back from an earlier injury or illness. It is an endless cycle, and I constantly battle with myself and try to break out of it.
This time last year I was healing a stress fracture and could not even run until March. When I finally got back to training, it was all different. I had to build my mileage back up slowly and carefully, and I finally got back to “normal” during summertime. I did a lot of good work over the summer and ran steady 80-85mi weeks for about three months until I needed to start tapering for the important cross-country races. I actually had a decent cross-country season, even though the NCAA Championships race left a bad taste in my mouth. I saw the improvement and felt like I was getting back on the right track. But I have always been a “MORE IS MORE” kind of gal; it is hard for me to sit down and do nothing.
I have always believed in hard work and thought that the more I train the better I will do in races. But too often, this characteristic has turned against me: “tapering” is a curse word for me. Anything less than 70mi/week feels like I am doing nothing.
I’ve been working with a sport psychologist and successfully managed to make changes to my bad habits. But when running is not going well, and I have a bad workout or a poor race performance, my first reaction is “I need to train harder!!” – even when it should be completely opposite.
After being able to do 80-85mi consistently without any bigger issues, I thought I was ready to step it up again and a run a little more over the winter break (because you know, more is more…). I became a little bit too obsessed with the numbers: I felt good about myself when I saw I was working hard, but forgot to focus on the feeling. I flew back to the USA after the break, and felt proud of the mileage I had done. This time, my jet lag was worse than it usually is, but I still wanted to get the miles in, no matter what. I was so tired, but thought I was doing well because I stuck to my plan and did all the training. But then I had a bad workout. And another one… And that made me anxious. “Am I out of shape..?!?! I need to work HARDER!” WRONG. How could I be out of shape after all the miles and strength training I had done over several weeks?
I am an Exercise Science major about to graduate this spring, but somehow I tend to forget all the principles of overreaching/-training, and think that they never apply to me.
Like I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I opened my indoor season with a 3k in UW Invitational yesterday. I did not know what to expect. I had felt sluggish all week (well, like 2-3 weeks to be honest), but I knew the training was there. However, I was nervous. I did not feel sharp. I was sore. I had not raced track for a very long time. It would be so fast! From the gun, I only had one pace, and it was not the same as the other girls’ in the race. I finished the race, and walked away embarrassed. “Am I out of shape?! I need more training!!” Well, I think this is not the case. I probably need less training. I need more rest. I need to get fresh and sharp. I need to focus on the feeling, not on the numbers in my training log. I need to focus on self-care, not on self-hate, meaning that I need not to think I should punish myself by working harder after a bad workout or a flat race, but instead be more gentle to myself and listen to my body and its needs. Changing the habits and thinking-patterns is not easy, it takes a very long time. I think I have improved a lot during the past year, but I still have ways to go. When I feel good about my training, it makes me want more and more.
I am a monster when it comes to training, it’s crazy how much I can put myself through and still feel like I am not doing enough.
Aaaaand that is when my coach needs to be hard on me and tell me to stop add snap out of it. Sometimes it is hurtful to hear the truth from the people you respect, but it is what I need or I keep hurting myself again and again. I am grateful to say I get constant reminders from my coaches, family, and counselor when I start to overdrive things again. Yesterday, I had a good talk with my coach. He thinks I am more than what the result was yesterday, and that I am not far away from the breakthrough. I just need to feel better, relax, and not to worry about it too much. Focus on the feeling and enjoying the process! And find the confidence from somewhere else than the numbers on my training log…