Training

Keeping On

January 30, 2018

As far as cold mornings go, this morning was nothing to write home about, but still the onslaught of arctic temps and winter weather during the past month have started to make the dark mornings feel especially dark and especially cold, even if they are no longer elemental extremes. The cumulative effect of cold cheeks and numb fingers has intensified my longing for spring, though anything above 30 degrees feels surprisingly encouraging. 40 makes me feel borderline giddy, or really anything that allows my gloves and hat to say at home. Someone mentioned earlier this week that we are officially halfway through winter, so here’s hoping that we’re embarking on downhill sprint to warmth and light.

Despite the pull of my very warm and comfortable bed, I made it up and out into the dark for some hill repeats, which are not hard to come by in my neck of the woods. Short, long, rolling; we’ve got them all. I prefer to think of this as my secret training weapon, the fact that I can not avoid powering up them on any given day, and the fact that they are waiting for me right outside my door when I am ready to run up them with more intention. (This post is not sponsored by hills.)

My task this morning was to run two sets of hill repeats. Total workout: 3 mile warm-up, 6 x 200M (or 50-60 seconds) hard with jog back recoveries, 3 minutes of easy jogging, another round of those same 6 repeats, then a 3 mile cool down. I scrolled through my mental catalog of inclines and selected a short, steep(ish) hill that I knew would be approximately my goal length. I shuffled through my warm-up and landed myself at the bottom of the hill for my first set. The stars aligned to pump the Black Eyes Peas’ I Gotta Feeling through my headphones. Hey, no shame. I will not deny the power of a good party anthem for some extra oomph.

I run up this hill every day, though usually in the context of a first slow mile. Changing my relationship with it in terms of speed and effort made it feel completely foreign. Who knew that it gets progressively steeper, or that those 200m could feel so much longer than yesterday? The first effort upwards felt surprisingly hard, and the reality of doing it times 12 started to sink in, though I tried not to get too far ahead of myself. Doing 4 repeats with an extra 2 feels more manageable than doing 6. Right? A half marathon isn’t a countdown to 13 miles, it’s making it through 10K, then making it to 10 miles, then pushing for those final 3. Us running type people are the kings and queens of mental games.

Somewhere during that first set I found myself doing what I normally do, which is to say that the internal self-coaching dialogue turned on and said something like “Damn it, Sarah. Don’t slow down!” But then a curious thing happened; I turned on my own internal voice. The hill was hard, and slowing down is kind of irrelevant when you’re pushing by perceived effort. Besides, having someone, even yourself, yell at you to not slow down is kind of self-defeating. Who wants to listen to that? (Not me.) I knew I was working hard and that any effort up the hill was going what it was supposed to do, i.e. help me gain strength and power, so I started to tell myself to keep working hard to build strength. It was a small shift to change my internal dialogue, and it wasn’t really even a conscious effort to do so, but it made me much happier with my effort. The pain required to do the work felt more purposeful, something I was working at, and not an elusive goal I was letting slip through my fingers. Why do I tend to frame this kind of hard work as something I’m failing at, or something that is too easily out of my reach? I know, and plenty of others have preached, that consistency and effort are king.

I don’t think this mental shift was completely of my own volition, and I am very grateful for everyone else helping to create this new dialogue, everyone else out there spreading positive messages daily in their own writing. I have started to consider my mental training as a valuable component of my physical work. So, keep on keeping on. Keep working to build strength. In the end, any effort is good effort (note to self).

Thanks for reading,

Sarah

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