Running & Fitness

Psyched Out

Matt Orlando
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Today I wanted to talk a little about letting yourself get psyched out. One of the biggest hurdles I feel we face as runners is our own conceptions (or misconceptions) on how much we can (or cannot) achieve in our fitness goals. Whether it is a culmination of negative remarks from our non-running friends and family, or just misplaced discouragement based on what we think the running ideal is, it is easy to get psyched out and prevent yourself from achieving your goals and really reaching your true potential. Rather than just give up completely, sometimes we just need a small adjustment to keep us moving forward.

What got me thinking about this was my current goal of trying to run a sub-6 minute mile by August. Despite some setbacks, things seem to be going well and my fitness seems to continue to improve. That being said, however, if you have followed the blog for a while you know that my training is not exactly consistent. I will often times have a few solid weeks of workouts followed by a week or more of no running at all. This past week was no different. After a very quality 10.5 miler on Saturday, it was not until Thursday that I attempted a run again…and boy was it a struggle. I had told myself that I would try to run at least a sub-6:30 this past week, but after that run I did not think that I could make it happen.

I woke up on Saturday (the next Saturday) feeling like maybe I could make an attempt. After a full day of back and forth in my mind, I decided I would give it a try. I headed down to the beach, which would provide me with a straight and flat mile stretch of pavement. The wind was somewhat high, which meant I would not be able to use it as an “official” time, but I thought I would go for it just to gauge how I was progressing. I ran a very brief warm up, then set myself at a “starting line” and go ready to go.

Off I went. With the wind at my back, my legs were flying. My arms were pumping. I felt like a champ. But then two things happened. First I made the mistake of looking at my Garmin. At 0.18 in, it told me I was running a 4:41 pace. As my mind began to process that, I looked down the road and found that the half way landmark seemed impossibly far away. And just like that, my mind told me that this was impossible and that I needed to stop right away. So instead of doing the reasonable thing and just slowing down a bit to the pace I actually wanted, I dropped out at 0.25. I ran that quarter in 76 seconds – roughly a 5:05 pace. I jogged the next 1+ miles, but then picked it up for the final mile (into the wind) for a time of 7:09.

The lesson learned from this? No matter how physically prepared you may be to do something, if your mind has not been prepared sufficiently you will likely fail, or worse, quit. The mind is a powerful thing, but without the proper training and maintenance no amount of physical preparedness will get you where you want to go. So as you are running your training runs, see yourself running fast and hitting those goals. Over time, your mind will take over when your body starts to give in and take you through to the finish.

And just remember:

“To dream by night is to escape your life. To dream by day is to make it happen.”

 – Stephen Richards

What gets you psyched out, and what are your tricks for overcoming? Share in the comments below!

6 thoughts on “Psyched Out

  1. Like your post. I’m struggling with motivation post-DNF at a 50K about 3 weeks ago. I tweaked my knee and shut it down at 25K. Trying to shake it off and set a new goal. Physically, I’m good again. Mentally (as this was my first DNF), I’m still not in the game.

  2. That for the inspiration. I am training for my first marathon and 2 weeks ago, 8 weeks into 16 week training schedule, had a minor muscle tear under my calf. I took one week off of running and 2 weekends of my Long Slow Distance runs. Finally did a 6 mile run yesterday felt great, but still feeling a bit of discouragement missing 2 of my Long runs due to the injury. Hopefully this weekends 18 miler will feel good and get my mind back on track. Thanks

    1. Glad I could help! And I wouldn’t worry too much about missing those runs. As long as you keep on track with the rest of your training you should be good to go! Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

  3. I saw this post retweeted this morning and just couldn’t believe the timing of it all. I was just speaking of the whole Psych Out stuff myself. I am trying to continually beef up my mental muscle…It’s so hard. The mental doubts creep in. I’ll start making excuses for why i didn’t reach my goal (weather, girl cramps, etc etc) beforehand. Seriously I am my own worst enemy. I’m running the NJ Marathon on Sunday. I ran it last year and had an amazing PR (went from 5:28 in my first marathon to 4:57 in my second to 4:48 when I ran NJ last year). I was flying high and so proud. So the day after the race i registered for this year’s with a goal to shave 8 more minutes and finish in 4:40. Now here I am 4 days away and I’m doubting it will even be possible. But like I said….It’s mental mindset bootcamp. Thanks for your timely post. Hopefully I can come back next week and tell you what tricks worked to overcome my psych out. =)

    1. Good luck with the race! I ran my current half marathon PR at the half marathon there a few years ago. With 64 and sunny forecast, it’ll be a great day to race! Just make sure to remember to have fun, and that it’s more about the journey than the destination!

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