Thursday, June 21, 2012

How To Dig Deep When You Want To Quit

I’ve got a client, we’ll call her Betty. I am coaching her towards her first marathon. Betty has been running solidly for the past few years, but has never attempted the marathon distance. She is in her 6th week of a 20 week marathon training plan.

Yesterday, Betty sent me this email:

“I have to vent a little  I am so disappointed in myself on today's run. I mentally was not strong today. I set out and was great then my head got inside my brain and all heck broke loose. I was hot, I was stiff. I was this and that. I have been hot and stiff before. But I just could not over power my brain.

I feel so lame. Honestly I sit here writing this and I am like holy cow I was weak! I could have made that run.  But as I was running I seriously talked myself out of running. This has never happened. I have always been able to be stronger and power though it. But today I feel down and weak. Does this sound like I am off my rocker?? “

Off your rocker? No way! My response (by the way, it was 98 degrees here yesterday):

“If you only knew how ‘normal’ and expected this type of run is! First of all, the heat is degrading. It sets you up to want to give up. Secondly, there will be some runs during this training cycle that you will feel this way. Not many, but some. Expect them and don't be hard on yourself about it. If this was happening all of the time, that would be one thing. But, every once in a while is very normal, especially as your mileage increases and it gets hotter outside.

On the flip side, you will also have some runs that are so amazing and energizing, but this will not be every run either. You will be somewhere in the middle on most runs and you will probably find that your mind-set fluctuates a ton throughout your runs, especially the long ones.

Do not beat yourself up. Next time you go out, don't go out with today's run weighing on you. Make your next one fresh and new. I bet it will be much, much better. I actually like that it bothered you so much. I think this shows how much fire and motivation you really have!!

Later, I saw these pop up on Betty’s Facebook page. Spot on!

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Betty’s experience got me to thinking about how we can dig deep when all we really want to do is give up. Here are seven ways:

  1. Have a mantra. Like I said above, pick one or two simple and short phrases that motivate you and keep you in the game. It may sound hokey, but when you are desperate, it gives you something to hold on to.
  2. If it’s hot, slow your pace. Nothing is more discouraging than trying to keep a certain pace when you are about to pass out from the heat.
  3. Think back. Remember a time when you were so mentally and physically done that you wanted to quit but kept going. Squeeze your fist as hard as you can. Then squeeze it harder. See? You had more to give than you thought you did.
  4. Remember the big picture. Training can be mundane and boring. Runs can seem routine, almost purposeless. Keep the big goal in mind. Imagine running your marathon or big race. Imagine crossing the finish line. Know that each step of your “mundane and boring” run is getting you closer to that big goal.
  5. Stay present. Don’t think about the fact hat you still have 5, 10 or 15 miles to go. Get to the next corner or stop sign then re-assess how you feel.
  6. Keep perspective. Remember it is not supposed to be easy. If is was, everyone would be doing it. Instead of breaking yourself down with negative thinking, boost yourself up with encouragement. You are out there. You are doing it.
  7. Get bigger than yourself. You are tired, you want to quit. Shift your thinking. Remember that you can run, when many people cannot. Think of Sherry Arnold or Sarah Hart. Think of someone close to you who has trouble even walking. Remember a friend or family member who has passed away. Be grateful and just keep moving forward.

Any other tips on how to keep going when all you want to do is quit?

SUAR

73 comments:

  1. I can totally identify with and claim #6 as my new mantra! Love it!

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  2. Awesome advice for running ... and life.

    Winks & Smiles,
    Wifey

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  3. This is a good thing to read in the morning. The morning of a tired day, when the coffee hasn't kicked in. When I feel like stopping, I often think of the people that would give everything they have just to be able to walk across a room and hug their kid. I can keep going after that.

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  4. Wow this was just what I needed...thank you. I've been feelin the same way lately and have been so down on myself that now every run seems like a bad run.

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  5. Days I want to quit I just break the run into baby steps. Sometimes that even means quarters. I think "3 miles to go...only 12 quarters!" Then I just turn my brain into focus mode to get it done.

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  6. I needed this! At my last marathon, I met up with a lady that said "I can do anything for 10 minutes". Even though I had an hour left, it helped me by shifting distracting my thoughts.

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  7. I really needed this today - thanks for posting!

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  8. I use my favorite Henry Ford quote to get me through runs like this : "Whether you think you can or think you cannot, you are right"

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  9. Sometimes giving myself permission to quit helps. I know it sounds strange, but sometimes giving myself permission to take a walk break, or to cut a run short, or to run slower actually gets me over that "hump" of wanting to quit. Seems odd, but sometimes as soon as I tell myself it is ok to quit, I don't want to anymore.

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    1. So funny, I am the same way! I guess at that point it turns into "I had a choice, and I chose to keep going" instead of feeling like it's something you have to do! Or I give myself permission to walk if I can just get to the top of the hill.. and by that point, I no longer need to walk. Stupid brain...

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  10. Yes! Yes yes yes! Thank you for sharing this today. I definitely needed it. :-)

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  11. running gives healthy for us. therefore keep running.

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  12. I actually turn off my Garmin when the going gets tough - no need to keep track (although I might make a note of street signs to track the mileage later :-)) I just remind myself that nothing matters as long as I am putting one foot in front of the other.

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  13. "It doesn't get easier - you get better."

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  14. Thank you so much for everything you write, I look forward to reading daily and It just amazes me how much everything you say helps me. You really ae a great inspiration and apparently to many others as well. THANK YOU!

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  15. I think I feel a lot like that in training! I'm a weak trainer and that's ok. I pull it all together on race day. I would tell your friend that those runs have the most value as they keep you honest. They prepare you for that which is the marathon. All runs can't be good runs and I don't think we want them to be! Wish her luck, I'm sure she's going to do great.

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  16. Amazing post. Simply... "Thank you" :-D

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  17. Thank you Beth..and Betty!! I so needed to hear this today!!

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  18. Thanks for all your words of wisdom. I don't comment often, but the combination of your wise-ass humor & your wise words is fantastic. No wonder you're a good coach.

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  19. I think this lesson can be applied to SO many aspects of life, not just running. Anyone who is struggling with a new diet, exercise routine, giving up smoking, or any lifestyle change for that matter goes through similar battles with mind over matter. Thank you for being so inspiring!

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  20. Perfect timing on this one. Last night I went on my last run before my half in Saturday and it sucked. I felt winded and heavy-legged, not to mention my stomach didn't feel great. It wasn't a real confidence boosting run. I'm trying to shake it off today and acknowledge that the weather (warm) and the time of day (evening) probably had a lot to do with it. This was great to read and reassuring that it happens to all if us.

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  21. Perfect timing on this one. Last night I went on my last run before my half in Saturday and it sucked. I felt winded and heavy-legged, not to mention my stomach didn't feel great. It wasn't a real confidence boosting run. I'm trying to shake it off today and acknowledge that the weather (warm) and the time of day (evening) probably had a lot to do with it. This was great to read and reassuring that it happens to all if us.

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  22. Perfect timing on this one. Last night I went on my last run before my half in Saturday and it sucked. I felt winded and heavy-legged, not to mention my stomach didn't feel great. It wasn't a real confidence boosting run. I'm trying to shake it off today and acknowledge that the weather (warm) and the time of day (evening) probably had a lot to do with it. This was great to read and reassuring that it happens to all if us.

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  23. I also have trouble staying motivated when it's hot out. My face is on fire, I'm sweating like no tomorrow, and my brain is a drama queen screaming at me to stop, that I can't possibly keep going (like yesterday afternoon). So I tell myself that I can at least get to the next driveway, mailbox, tree, or whatever. That no matter how bad I feel I can at least get that far and then I can quit. The second I get there I shift my laser, please let this be done, focus to the next driveway, etc. And I keep this up until I actually do quit. I can go much further doing this and it tends to shut down the queen.

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  24. so true, i think every runner has been there and until you can learn to embrace those crappy runs you'll spend a lot of time beating yourself up which won't get you anywhere. Sometimes those bad runs can help you to DIG next time it counts

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  25. While I am disappointed in the lack of the word "fart" in this post, I would like to say that I am absolutely 100% needed to read this this morning. Today's run sucked ass.

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    1. FART!!!!!!!!!!!!! Now do you feel complete!?

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    2. Yes thank you. Farting and running are my favorites. Some chicks don't admit that. This blog is perfect for me.

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  26. Sharing this immediately with all my fb peeps! THANK YOU! I do have a mantra... "If you can dream it you can do it" ~ Walt Disney. I'm a new(er) runner training for my first half.

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  27. When I get like this - I tell myself that I can stop at the end of whatever song is on my ipod. Then, when it ends, I tell myself to keep going for one more song repeating in my head "The song is three or four minutes, I can go that far." Usually before I know it, I home.
    I also like to remember all the people in my life who aren't living to complain about running or working out, or playing an especially difficult tennis match - whatever it is. These people would love to be complaining about it. They cannot. I imagine they are with me on my run, pulling me home, cheering me on to dig deeper, focus and shift my thinking.

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  28. I make bargains with myself--two more minutes, I can go two more minutes. Or to that light pole, or the end of the block, or the end of the song. Then I do it again, and again, and again, until I get to the finish or past that mental block. Running really is a mental sport; the body is often much more ready to go than the mind believes, so sometimes I just have to lie to myself until I start believing it. It's like a friend told me about hills; keep telling yourself "hills are fun, hills, are fun" when you hit them, eventually they will be, or at least more tolerable.

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  29. On the mentally hard runs, I remind myself over and over that these hard runs are what will make me stronger. I tell myself that I will make it through because I am strong. (Then my head might tell me that no, I am not that strong right now...but my heart will retaliate telling my head that to keep going is making me stronger with every step.) Usually my internal arguement ends with me feeling motivated to make it through it. However, one time when my head was winning, my husband was driving by, I asked him if he would take me home. He said no, said I would thank him later, locked the door and drove away. I thought that was a bit harsh, but he was right and I did thank him later.

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    1. Awesome story, Brandi! That sounds like something my husband would do. :)

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    2. My husband would not only not let me in the car, he'd drive up a little way, slow down, let me get there, and shoot off again.

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  30. Great post! I relate to #7 the most -- just thinking about how lucky I am to be able to run keeps me going most of the time. I credit that to having had 2 leg surgeries, which kept me temporarily immobilized but eternally grateful (cheesy but true).

    One more thought for Betty -- the crappy runs are actually the most valuable ones! As are the worst races. There's so much value in training your mental suffering to persevere against all odds.

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  31. That's a post that should be saved by all of us runners. This summer seems to be especially challenging because it has been hot for the majority so early and it's continuing. Good, sound post Beth. I'm saving it and I'm also saving "Betty's" first pop up on Facebook.

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  32. Not sure what I'd do with out my mantra. Seriously.

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  33. Yes! Usually my worst run is the last run before a big race (don't know why that is), then I end up killing it in the actual race. :)

    When I want to quit I think of people who would love to get up and run but can't. I feel grateful for two working legs, even if they feel heavy today. Even if they are going at a slow pace today. They move, they work!

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  34. I count my steps. When I run, 100 steps = 1/10 mile. I tell myself to count 500 more steps, then I can walk. Usually end up NOT walking...

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  35. "That voice in your head that says you can't do this? She's a LIAR!" My mantra...

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  36. I read an Ultrarunning book called Relentless Forward Progress. And that title was his mantra. I keep that in my head when the run or hike I was on just sucks.

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  37. Love this post! "If running were easy, everyone would be doing it." The only things in this world worth doing, are the hardest things to do.

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  38. I needed to read that. As someone who is just starting to run, it's been so frustrating putting mind over matter lately- mostly because it's been so hot and muggy. I get overheated...and then into my head and in my own way, quite frankly...

    One step at a time!

    Sarah
    www.thinfluenced.com

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  39. You are soo inspirational!! I wish I lived in CO so I could run with you and have you as my running coach/partner/motivation! :-)

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  40. I have two things I repeat to myself. "when you're going through hell keep going" - Winston Churchill and "pain is temporary ..... quitting is forever" - Lance Armstrong

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  41. This is perfect for me today! I have a LR on Saturday that will be a PDR for me of 14 miles. I'm pretty darn terrified so this was much needed. Thanks!

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  42. Great Blog,, I think with the heat spanning across the country,, we are all in the same boat. get out there early and get it done,, but that is still tough.embrace the beautiful morning and enjoy the day !

    :-)

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  43. This was perfect timing for me today. Thank you so much! :)

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  44. The bad runs make us appreciate the good ones. I know that there will be bad run days, it's part of the process.

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  45. 8. Wear a sports bra. Run on sand.

    Oh, 1-7 were pretty solid too.

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    1. How about running in a wet, white tshirt?

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    2. But, not a cotton one, right? hee hee :)

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  46. You wrote this for me, didn't you? I'm still trying to regain my ground after the stress fracture and plantar fasciitis. My legs feel like lead. I feel like I've been going backwards.

    I needed this post. That and a good slap in the head. I want to get back to loving running. I have to keep pushing myself.

    Thanks.

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    1. Oh, and I bought a really cute running skort today--cost way more than I should have spent, but WTH? I might as well look good while I'm walking.... ;P

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  47. The thinking back tip is awesome...will remember this for my next hard run!

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  48. All very true and great points to remember when trying to reach those elusive running goals!

    I always tell my spin classes something that I think can translate to all sports: "This workout is not about yesterday's workout or tomorrow's. This is the only workout that exists- right NOW."

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  49. Quite an inspirational post. My mantra is simply, "strong mind" [over and over again for as long as it takes for it to sink in].

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  50. I adopted my mantra from swimbike mom's blog. It is "Embrace the suck". Everytime I start up the huge hill in my neighborhood, I repeat that and know that it's going to be bad.

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  51. I saw a poster several months ago that has become my mantra. "it's simple, either you do it or you don't." That seems to shut up the negative voices in my head.

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  52. Good post!

    Every time the weather is awful I try to remember at some point I will have to run in weather I don't love. So if I'm out running the heat? How do I know my next race won't be hot and gross? Plus, almost every time I finish a run, I am glad I did it. And I'll admit that to a certain extent there are bragging rights on the line - that I can say at my next running group that yes, I did go out in the crazy heat, or in the cold.

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  53. I needed this too. Had a rough run early this week and have avoided heading back out. I'm in training. I WILL.

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  54. Oh thank you for this! I had one of those days yesterday and needed a pep talk. Perfect! <3

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  55. Great post. Had a bad run yesterday. Wish I had seen this then.

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  56. Whenever I'm getting too tired the little blue fish appears and sings, "just keep running, just keep running, just keep running running"

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  57. San Francisco is 65 degrees all the time which is the most fabulous running weather ever, right? I really don't know how people live there and NOT be runners. It's gorgeous and you can run all the time in whatever you want, no problem. I just started seriously running around the time you wrote this blog post in fall 2012 and I've only run in 80-90 degree heat a couple of times. I kept my pace and felt super light headed (tho I hydrated well and dumped water on/wet toweled myself plenty) something I've never felt before. THIS JUST MADE ME FEEL SO MUCH BETTER! Keeping the pace in heat is a bullet train to nausea. I will tell myself this in the future.

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  58. My mantra: "Strong lungs, strong heart." Over and over, until it sinks in....love it.

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