This is What it Takes to Reach Your Running Goals
As runners we often push ourselves as hard as we can. Running feels so good that the more we do it the better we feel, until we get get injured and start to feel run down. When we enter this downward spiral we never attribute our love of running to being run down.
Have you ever taken a break from running because of an injury or life event and when you finally started running again you were faster or stronger? What about the the incredible race you had right after a couple weeks of the dreadful taper?
It is because your body needs downtime to get stronger. It's not the miles, the speed work or the strength training that makes you stronger- it is the time right after your workout is complete where your muscles have time to recover and rebuild.
What if we didn't wait to get injured to take a break? What if it was part of your training schedule.
Our bodies cannot tell the difference between emotional, physical, mental, or spiritual stress and because of this, we must find a balance of slowing down amongst each of these individual aspects of our lives. Otherwise, when we place this much stress on ourselves and never allow for rest, we end up sick, injured, and imbalanced.
We have to change our thought process of pushing through only to reach our breaking point, and take a step back so that we can allow ourselves to take several forward. As athletes we are likely aware of the physical stress we are placing on ourselves. We know the easy answer to slowing down in this regard means taking a rest day or taking our runs a bit easier. BUT, the physical stress is only part of the puzzle. It is all of the other stressors in our lives that sneak in and cause us to break down when we least expect it.
There is the constant mental stress from our thoughts, beliefs, and negative self talk plus the emotional stress of identity within and outside of our sport all added on top of our spiritual stress of how we view the world around us. When we combine these stressors with hard workouts, workouts that do not go our way, and cues from our body that we do not always listen to when it is trying to tell us to rest it can be a recipe for disaster. Now we have both a body and mind that is on the verge of injury and imbalance.
We are responsible for shifting our mindset to understand how we can handle these stressors and ways we can seek both help and guidance to find a balance of slowing down amongst these areas.
So how exactly do we address our whole health rather than just one or two areas of our lives that cause us stress? We need to first and foremost focus on our basic needs. Are we sleeping enough? Eating enough? Listening to the cues from our body? The list can go on as we think about minor changes we can focus on that add up to a greater impact.
If we are paying attention to our basic needs, our next step should be working to find a balance amongst our nervous system. There is a constant battle between our peripheral nervous system and our central nervous system and when our body cannot differentiate between where our stress is coming from because we are not addressing these areas, we are not aiding in the regulation process.
One of the biggest ways we as athletes can work to address the different areas of stress in our life in order to be able to slow down is by finding out who we are outside of our sport and becoming comfortable with this person.Your running is a part of you and a part of your life, but it is NOT who you are. Recognize the things and hobbies you enjoy outside of running. Make these a part of your routine and use this as a way to slow down, recharge, and take your mental, physical, and emotional energy off of running when you are not actively engaging in running.
Not only is the physical act of doing something outside of your running key to slowing down, but so is the mental and emotional act of focus outside of running. Shifting our mindset to believe that meditation and visualization as mental and emotional workouts are just as important as our physical workouts is one of the best ways to slow down to get fast. Meditation allows the nervous system to regulate and switch from a fight or flight response to a rest and digest response which is a key practice to implement when under the pressure we feel as athletes. Additionally, meditating can inhibit the amygdala and limbic system to lower both our feelings of fear as well as our stress levels. As an athlete we are constantly under pressure to perform at the level we believe we have been training at and are capable of. This creates the combination of physical stress from training and now the mental and emotional pressure we add to ourselves to meet our expectations as well as the expectations we believe others have of us.
When we only focus on training and slowing down our physical efforts, we are putting ourselves at a disadvantage compared to those who take the time to regulate their nervous system, meditate, visualize, and slow themselves down emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Choosing to slow down and address all of our health needs can increase our performance abilities and help us to build upon the physical aspect of ourselves as athletes.
Let's start the new year off by taking small steps towards a bigger goal down the road. Begin by keeping hydration, sleeping enough, and fueling at the top of your priorities to allow your body to slow down and gain the rest it needs. As you are able to improve in these areas begin trying to work on your self talk, listening to cues from your body, and some breathing exercises.
We know it can be difficult to find ways to slow down or take space to be mindful in our busy lives and this is where our Fast Bananas Mashup Newsletter or Happy Bananas Subscription can be a great resource for you. We have tips, videos, and written content from medical professionals who specialize in working with athletes to walk you through meditations, fueling, yoga and so much more to guide you as you begin to slow down and address all four areas of your health.
The ability to slow down completely was also one of the reasons we created the Fast Bananas Runner's Toolbox. The Runner's Coloring Book takes you through a sensory experience and mindfulness journey allowing you to connect with your sport in a different way. You can visualize the places you run and people you run with while slowing the nervous system down and allowing your body to heal and recover. Candles can stimulate the limbic system and tap into calming memories and emotions, our lacrosse ball can aid in you answering the cues from your body and providing relief to some of your sore muscles, and the Injury Journal can be a great addition to practicing mindfulness and not allowing your injury to define you as a runner or the person you are in general.