My current running schedule has me waking up at 6am, riding my bike down to the gym and then heading out (or treadkilling it, dependent upon the weather) for a preparation run or full on workout. The weather is just beginning to turn and this should mean that the enthusiasm to get out there and go should also get better, but right now it’s not always so effortless. In the deep of winter, when the biting cold has taken its toll on your psyche, it’s not so easy to find the drive to face the conditions for a run, knowing you’ll always be in some relative state of discomfort, moving groggy-eyed through the darkened morning sky as if you are still half-asleep, extremities stabbing with increasing pain towards numbness, and to then add a structured, hard effort on top of all this is…well…almost paralyzing.
A fear grows. Or builds on the accumulation of fatigue, some physical, but mostly mental, that resides in the deep, deep winter. It is a fear of fatigue, of not performing to your abilities, of comparing your winter times to your summer times, of knowing where you want to be, but sure you won’t be there.
It is, again, that fatigue. The fatigue that resides in your head, your spirit, more than your body. It snuffs the flame of your enthusiasm, throws icy water on warming muscles, and compromises your workout before you even get a chance to start.
I know this well…right now, I know this VERY well. Too well. But all is not lost. There are ways to combat this paralyzing accumulation, but for me, it resides in yet another mantra.
“Embarrass the other.”
There are two runners in me. There is the runner before the workout and there is the runner during the workout. They couldn’t be more polarized.
One is unmotivated, filled with doubts of performing well, fearful of quick, shortened breaths, increasingly heavy legs, and the mental strength needed to push when shoved. That runner doesn’t want to start the workout. That runner has a novel of excuses, justifications and downright lies to prevent me from running, putting in the necessary effort, and overcoming the barriers that turn goals into accomplishments.
The other runner, well…he’s awesome. He’s also determined, a bit angry, and fully willing to shame that other runner into a cowering heap of quivering, sniveling regret. His main goal, above all else, is to embarrass that other runner. His goal is to start the workout, no matter what, conquer those previous fears, and finish the run with an unparalleled sense of relief and accomplishment, where he can look back at the pre-workout runner and laugh at him mockingly, in effect, shaming and embarrassing him for being who he is.
These are my personas.
And when the first runner has awoken, has pulled on his running shoes and starts talking to me, telling me to rest, to just put in the miles, to shorten the workout, to scale back…I repeat this….
“Embarrass the other. Embarrass the other. Embarrass the other.”
I hate that runner. I want to embarrass him. I want him to feel ashamed for the thoughts that consumed him before the run. And there is really only one way to do that, to prove that he is wrong, by running him into the ground. By starting the run and building those quick, shortened breaths, fatiguing the legs, reading off the splits, and continuing on until that other runner is lying on the side of the road crying for mercy.
So that when the workout is completed, and the better runner stands there accomplished, alone, on top of the world, knowing they are infinitely better for the struggle they just overcame, they can look back at the other runner, now fully embarrassed and ashamed, and say,
“What the hell were you worried about?”