I have a total of five runs left before I toe the line at the American Red Cross Pocono Mountains Run For The Red Marathon. FIVE. Only two that aren’t labeled as “easy” runs. And I’ve also calculated that I have less miles to do in training than I do for the marathon itself.
It just so happens that you have a lot of time and energy to think about these things, and plenty of other things, when you’re tapering for a race.
The past several months have been packed with early morning runs, cycling sessions in my basement, yoga classes, long walks, and strength training. During the last two weeks before a marathon, however, those things start to slow down. Your body needs rest and recovery before a race so you can go into it with fresh legs and a stronger yearning to run your heart out.
Often times the weeks leading up to a race are filled with thoughts of anxiety, phantom feelings of injuries, restlessness from not logging as many miles, and general self-doubt about achieving your race goals. Luckily thus far, this taper has gone well for me. And I realized something last night during a yoga class. Maybe this taper is going well because through it, I’ve learned to trust myself.
Self-trust and agency are, in my opinion, two things that many people lack in at least one area of their life. Whether it be in training for a race, dieting, work, social interactions, etc., the notion of trusting yourself and your body is compromised when you’re going through any type of challenge.
Throughout training I’ve done a lot of easy runs. And all of a sudden, I’ve had this voice in my head that’s been telling me. “You’re a slower runner.” – Then what happened? I was erratic with my pacing – I wanted to push myself, but I knew I needed to keep it easy. I fought with myself on many runs. I went into harder workouts without confidence because I thought I was “slow.”
But “slow” is just a story I was telling myself. Because I’m not slow – I am purposefully taking minutes off my natural pace to allow my body to recover. Not to mention, “slow” is a relative term. Yes, I’m slower than many marathoners, but I’m also faster than a lot of them, too. But I was putting pressure on myself because I have a time goal for my race next week.
Finally this week, it clicked. I trusted my body. I trusted I could keep the pace I was aiming for on my workout. And it felt effortless. And I felt good and strong and powerful, and it gave me even more confidence to go into this marathon with quick legs and a new drive for success.
I did this by listening to the negative voice in my head. That might seem counter-intuitive, but ignoring the voice that called me “slow” wasn’t working anymore. The thoughts kept creeping in anyway. So, instead of fighting it, I acknowledged that voice. I thanked it for coming to me. I realized it is serving me, motivating me to dig deep and find my inner-strength to prove it wrong. I replaced it with thoughts of positivity. I said those words out loud because it made them more real.
You are all the voices inside your head, negative and positive. Your negative voices ARE real, but you do not have to make them your reality. You can choose to either accept their messages or prove them wrong.
As “Girl Boss” Sophia Amoruso says: “Don’t compare your hustle to their highlight reel.” That means remembering that you are who you are on your best day. When you make great decisions for yourself, when you have positive thoughts, when you have your best days, those are based on your mindset and the choices you have made. You made the decision to make it a great day.
Maybe it’s that you made the choice to choose an apple with peanut butter over the bag of chips that will make you feel “guilty” and “bad” in an hour and over the next day. This was always my problem: I used to binge eat when I got anxious or bored, and I used to joke about being a “big girl”. And then I realized I was reinforcing my actions with negative self-talk. Now, when I’m anxious or bored, I take a breath. I tell myself that I choose how I handle this situation. I choose what goes into my body or not. It is up to me to make the changes I want to make in my life.
And it’s not always about dieting or exercising. Maybe it’s working up the courage to have a conversation you’ve been meaning to have that has been building up your anxiety. Or it’s finally asking for the raise you know deserve at work (because the worst that can happen is that your boss says “no”, right?). Or it could even be trusting that you DON’T need to do that hard workout today, and your body could use a day of rest.
And yes, it might be hard to start these things. But just trust yourself. Trust that you can make choices to have “good days” every single day. Trust the processes you know will lead you to your goals. You have the agency to take the negative thoughts you have and turn them into fuel that will fire your passions and your life.