To run or not to run… that is the question

And all too often that little subconscious voice replies – I haven’t got time, it’s too cold/hot/icy/humid/windy* (*delete where applicable).

Or sometimes inexplicable martyrdom kicks in – ‘no I really must clean the oven/ put the bins out/speak to a partner/home-school an offspring/ clean out a pet,’

You name it over the last decade of running – I’ve used the lot.

And if we are truthful there’s not many of us who haven’t… I bet even Paula and Usain (more of those two later) sometimes turn over in bed and hit the snooze button.

The fact is – running is more about your head than your legs or lungs – Runner’s World magazine recently suggested it was 90 percent mental, 10 percent physical. And who are we to argue with the national media?

And just as we can train our body to perform better, we can also train our head. It’s all about the M word – motivation.

Don’t tell all my sports psychology friends, but a lot of it is just common sense.

For example – joining a running club (and I happen to know a good one) demands a level of commitment that takes away the decision process. If you know you’ve signed up – and paid – for a running course which is on at 9.30am on a Monday morning – it’s already in your diary and the oven/bins can wait.  

One thing that this pandemic has shown us – as well as how there really is NOTHING decent on TV and it is possible to make dinner from a pot of yogurt, a carrot and a can of lager – is that running with even one other person is so much easier to commit to.

There’s also the matter of timing – get up in the morning and pull on your running gear (harder for owls than larks admittedly) and you’re halfway there. Or change into your running gear at work, drive home then head for the park before opening the front door. In other word’s minimise those tempting distractions.

And of course, there’s always the fridge door – write out what sessions you are going to do that week, stick it on the fridge then tick them off. Even better put a photo of your sweaty face on JogOn chat and motivate all those who are still pretending to clean out the hamster cage when they know they should be running up a hill for 90 seconds 10 times ….

Once we’ve actually started running, it’s all about staying motivated. Again, that subconscious voice has a habit of trying to tell us to slow down/stop/turn back especially in the first few strides.

This is where visualisation comes in. And there’s two approaches – Association and Disassociation.

Association is according to the text books, “A mental checklist of your technique’ (basically us in your ear but without the bad jokes and whistling) so think to yourself, ‘Am I pulling up tall, Am I lifting my knees, Am I breathing correctly ? ‘

Once that’s done you can turn to Disassociation, ‘Think of anything but running’. Some people have a ‘mantra’ they repeat, others make a shopping list or plan a holiday (virtual of course).

Paula apparently counts to 100 whilst Usain – as he would only get to 6 – visualises the finishing line and how he’ll feel.

And what’s good enough for them is surely worth a try. Imagining a reward or positive outcome is a powerful motivational tool whether we are doing a JogOn session or an organised race.

For some of us, the thought of a PB is enough to make us push ourselves that little bit harder whilst for others it’s a G&T.

So next time you’ve got out of the door for a run, give yourself a motivational pat on the back then remember this simple technique, ‘Tune In then Tune Out’ ….and before you know it you’ll be back home, posted on Facebook and ready to put out the bins….