When your mind doesn’t help you

We have often told you about the importance of the mind in running and how resistance training can help you in the more difficult phases of running. “When the legs stop spinning, the mind kicks in”-that’s what they say, roughly.

However, the mind can be not only your greatest ally but also an insidious enemy: just as it can persuade you to keep going and hang in there when you feel like you can’t take it anymore, it can do the same by persuading you that what you are doing is wrong and useless.

The cases in which this occurs are many. Let’s look at some of them and see especially how to overcome and solve them.

1. Everything is useless

For some time now you have not been registering progress: your body seems to be unable to perform better, you feel (and you are) struggling more to succeed at what once seemed simple. You don’t lose anymore the weight you used to lose much more easily long ago. You’re stuck and you start to think that what you’re doing is basically meaningless.

Stalemates are at least as inevitable as they are transitory. You have not taken an easy path, and failures are part of the game. After all, there are no linear progressions (indeed: they are the rarest and most unlikely).

What to do: obstacles are part of the path and it is best to make friends with them. In other words, it is better to accept that they exist and must be overcome. How? Considering them challenges and not impassable walls. One trick is to momentarily lower your expectations: if your priority is time but you can’t improve it, move the challenge to a different terrain, such as just running. The purpose of training for example is no longer to improve time but to … just train.

Does that sound like giving up? Instead, evaluate what you really gave up: a time, not the entire training. You had the strength to make it to the end and patience for the time, which was higher than you expected. Instead of running for an outcome, run for the sake of run. Under these conditions the real failure is to give up training, not to do it below your ability.

2. See the big picture

We are not machines, although the body is a wonderful one. Individual performance also depends on environmental performance, just like your mood.

It may happen that your most recent training session or race was particularly disappointing. What is it due to? You will certainly start with yourself in identifying the problem, but never forget that there are conditions beyond your control that can negatively affect your training.
You may have thoughts that don’t allow you to feel free and light, you may have slept poorly for several nights, it could be the weather. You know what’s one of the conditions runners have the hardest time dealing with? That you run slower and struggle more in hot weather. Many people do not accept that higher-than-average temperatures can slow them down, and instead it is physiological: your performance can drop by up to 20 percent in hot weather.
As you will understand, many of these factors are beyond your control. Once again: there is nothing you can do about it except accept them.

How to solve it: always try to see the big picture and not give yourself responsibilities you don’t have. If it’s hot it’s not up to you, if it’s excessively cold it’s not up to you either, if you have thoughts you can’t handle just be lenient. You cannot control everything or shape a reality that is outside your will anyway.

3. Think positive

I already know you are thinking this is a catch phrase, but never underestimate (apparent) platitudes-they contain a lot of truth. This for example has very ancient roots: Buddha said, “We are what we think.” It does not mean that if you think you are a mountain you become a mountain, but it actually says something that psychology has long explained: thought shapes reality. Not in the sense that it creates it but in the sense that it predisposes the mind in a positive or negative way. If you approach a situation with a negative spirit, it is quite unlikely that you will achieve a positive result, just as there are no champions who have won thinking they would never make it. Thinking positively serves to put your mind in a proactive state, able to cope with difficulties instead of being overwhelmed by them.

Such an attitude will not allow you to become the world champion in anything, but it will certainly set you up in a better condition to achieve the best results with respect to your abilities.

You can apply this trick (which then has, as mentioned, solid scientific basis) to different situations: if you don’t feel like working out pushing yourself to do so is already a way of positive thinking. If you’re going through a tough time, being able to follow a training schedule-even without sticking to the times and mileage you thought you could sustain-is a great accomplishment.

In the end it’s always about having your mind as your ally. It is a very powerful tool that can get you through difficult stages but can also push you to think you can’t do it. And when it tries to convince you that it’s time to quit, apply these tricks: lower your expectations, consider the big picture, think positive. And then keep running.

(Main image credits: PheelingsMedia on DepositPhotos.com)


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