How to resist lying down & taking a nap on the infield when the last thing you want to do is finish the workout

I just signed up for a 4k…this Friday, against college runners, on a gnarly XC course. Which of course means this week’s workout was horrendous.

Ok, so it doesn’t look horrendous on paper – I hit all my goal splits and ran all the reps and even paced it consistently. However, everything from the warmup to the last step of the cool down was eerily reminiscent of the chapter revision work from earlier in the day. Everything felt tedious, miserable, and I just wanted to take a BREAK!!! However, I had made it through the writing at work and, gosh durn it, I was determined to save myself the mental weight of an unfinished workout during a race week. How did I make it through?

1) I broke everything down into itty bitty chunks: Making it through four 200’s is somehow way easier than focusing on the entire half-mile repeat. Just focusing on hitting each split and staying in the “now” saved me from collapsing into a little whimpering puddle on the side of the track. I knew I was really having a rough day when a 300 m repeat seemed so daunting that I ended up mentally breaking it down into 100’s…

2) My mantra became “Just finish the next rep.” If you lie to yourself you can occasionally convince your brain that you will definitely, really let yourself stop after that next repeat. And then the trick is to just jog into the recovery and keep right on jogging til you find yourself on the starting line agin telling yourself the same tricky little fib.

3) I focused on any good details that I noticed. My arms felt relaxed, I wasn’t actually getting winded til the last 50 m of each repeat, and 200 m recoveries mean I can do an out and back on the straightaway! I’m not really sure why this is so exciting – I guess going the wrong way on the track fulfills my little rebellious streak ha ha 😉 Anyhow, even these little positive boosts counteracted the temptation to focus on the smokey air, the heat, the tight muscles, etc. 

I stuck with it and actually managed to (sort of) enjoy the last repeat! Woohoo! And now I only have one little shakeout run left before I get to run my first XC race in 3 years!!!

Any runners out there have some good strategies for surviving tough workouts?

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4 thoughts on “How to resist lying down & taking a nap on the infield when the last thing you want to do is finish the workout

  1. I definitely do the mental “1 mile left, that’s 4 laps around the track, no problem” breakdown, too. But I’m a bit of a headcase so that doesn’t always work 😛 Music tends to fill those gaps but I know there’s a lot of mixed opinions on using music; I’ve tried to train without it as much as I can, so it’s effective for when I really need it.

  2. Ooh, yea music is a good one! Just the right amount of distraction from the misery ha ha. The guys on my college team used to insist on Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” being blasted over the sound system during the mile – apparently it worked!

  3. I’m not sure I have a specific strategy beyond trying to be mentally tough. (Keyword “trying” 😉 )

    I find having a race in the future helps – I’ve had miserable runs where I just want to quit (even less than a mile in) and I just keep telling myself “Hey you’ve got a 10K/Marathon/Whatever in 2 months… how can you finish that if you can’t finish this?”

    I also break down the distance like you – it’s like a lie I know I’m making to myself but I go with it. “I’ll just run until the end of this mile then I’m done.” “Oh well, I made this mile, I’ll just do the next half and quit then instead…” etc. etc.

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