Starting a new year is always a good time for reflections on past achievements and goal setting for new ones. Starting a new decade makes it, well, ten times better!!
I was out on my first run of 2020 and it occurred to me that a lot of athletes might be doing the same thing, at the same time, and having the same thoughts. “Why am I so slow? I only took a little time off and it feels like everything is SO HARD!! Lots of my other running friends took time off and it doesn’t seem like it slowed them down at all. Their workouts on Strava look so fast!! What’s wrong with me?”
Nothing is wrong with you.
The problem stems from comparisons. Comparing your workouts to your spouse’s or your friend’s workouts. Comparing yourself to your last year’s self. Comparing yourself to the version of yourself that you hope to be.
Capitalizing on the ten times better reference, let’s talk about ten ways that you can be a better athlete without that pesky comparison problem getting in the way.
- Be realistic. You are never going to be the same as you were last year, 5 years ago, ten years ago. And you don’t know if or when you will get any better in the future. The only thing that you CAN do is to be the best that you can be RIGHT NOW.
- Be honest. Do you really know how much time everyone else took off? Do you know what other things they might have been doing in terms of cross-training, nutrition, recovery? No two people train or recover the same way, so you shouldn’t expect to come out of the gate the same way, either.
- Be present. When you tackle a workout, be an active participant in each moment of it. Don’t zone out to your tunes or worry about that 20-mile run you have planned for next weekend. Pay attention to your breathing, your foot strike, your posture. Take in the nutrition and hydration that you need. Make each workout count.
- Be in the know. Why are you doing a workout? Is it a recovery run? Is it a threshold run? Is it a VO2max workout? Knowing WHY you are doing a workout can be as important as the workout itself. If you don’t know why you are doing a certain workout, ask your coach.
- Be patient. Every run is not going to be a PR, nor should it be. Eighty percent of your workouts should be easy, well below your threshold effort. If you get annoyed because you aren’t getting faster each time you run, refer to #4.
- Be happy. Yes, smile while you run!! If you don’t believe that smiling can make your runs more enjoyable and more effective, ask Eliud Kipchoge.
- Be observant. Feeling particularly fatigued after your long run? Check back over what you did over the past few days. Did you get enough sleep? Did you hydrate well? Did you fuel properly? Or did you binge watch Criminal Minds all night while scarfing ice cream and knocking back Red Bulls? Often the reasons we feel sluggish after (or during) a run have nothing to do with running at all.
- Be encouraging. Instead of getting frustrated at your friend’s pace and thinking snarky thoughts, drop them an encouraging message. Cheerleading for someone else has a sneaky way of making YOU feel better. Spread some joy and watch it come back to you – and it might just make your feet lighter on your next run, too!!
- Be a participant. Seek out your local running club and offer to be a sweeper on their next group run. Not only will you get your miles in, but you’ll most likely be a big help to someone else who is struggling.
- Be kind – TO YOURSELF!! We are our own biggest critics, no secret about that. Make your relationship with yourself a priority and think about the things you say and think about yourself. Would you say those things to your best friend?
Remember, running is supposed to be fun. You may want to get a PR, or a podium spot, or finish that 100 miler, and that’s great!! However, running is about the journey and not the destination, and each of our journeys is different. Stop worrying and enjoy the process. Happy running!