What should the voice in my head say?
February 26, 2012 5:10 PM   Subscribe

Help me be ok with not giving 100% to running every day.

What are your tips for feeling good after a solid effort at recreational sports (in my case, training for a marathon) even if you couldn't give 100% in a workout? I understand and honor the importance of the rest day and I know, on an intellectual level, that laying it all out every day is unreasonable. The question refers to things I could tell myself or other techniques for general self-forgiveness with regards to workouts that just don't feel like I gave it *everything*.

Please nothing that sounds like "You already lapped everyone on the couch." Comparing my workouts to others doesn't interest me.
posted by thewestinggame to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
You don't train every day like it's race day because then you'll have nothing left for race day. Back-off days aren't just a physical necessity, they're a mental necessity as well.
posted by schroedinger at 5:15 PM on February 26, 2012

I try to remember to trust my body when this happens. Today I went for the worst run ever - I'm not sure what happened, but I could barely keep it together and ended up walking two miles back home. And it's okay. My body just wasn't feeling it, and I'd hate to force myself and make running into a chore.

One bad workout won't make or break you, I promise. Allowing that bad workout to discourage you from getting back out there for the rest of the week could.

It also helps me to remember that on the day of the race, I could be feeling great - or not. If you can look at bad workouts as psychological training, it feels better.
posted by punchtothehead at 5:18 PM on February 26, 2012

Also: great athletes are not built solely on going 110% every day or great genetics. The former burns out and the latter goes nowhere if they don't train. Overwhelmingly the mark of a great athlete is one who goes and trains even when they feel like crap, even if it is not the best session ever, because they understand that the largest mountain was once a grain of sand.
posted by schroedinger at 5:18 PM on February 26, 2012

The only way to get better at running is to let your muscles repair themselves.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:22 PM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Ah, the eternal running struggle. There are two things I find help me.

1) Have a deadset plan. So I can say to myself "if I do this much and no more, that will be more than enough for EVENT. I don't have to go faster, and I don't have to go further. Just follow the recipe, smokey, and you'll get the delicious metaphorical souffle."

2) As a corollary to this, I always try to remind myself, where I'm going be in six months. Will going an extra km make me faster in six months? Will running till I'm nearly puking making me faster in six months? Unlikely. Will hurting myself (as I have currently, damn it!) and having to take 2 weeks to three months off effect my speed/distance in six months. Yes, it definitely will. You have done enough, today, my friend.

I know few runners interested in PBs and the like that have 100% successfully conquered these feelings. It's a constant battle that for me, requires considerably more discipline than running fast and hard.
posted by smoke at 5:23 PM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can you add something like injury protection exercises / core work to lighter days? Knowing you are doing something to contribute to success, something other than just going balls-out may help.
posted by dame at 5:28 PM on February 26, 2012

Can you redefine "100%" to mean "as much as I can do this time" instead of "as much as I could do theoretically"?
posted by bleep at 5:34 PM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Don't confuse giving 100% with performing at 100%. Sometimes you'll have a shitty run because you're tired or sore or getting over a cold or your mind's not into it, but you did the best you could in that specific moment. There will be other, better runs, and you don't need to do your personal best every time as long as you're averaging the same as or better than you were a few months ago.

I tell myself that if my run was challenging at all, it means it was good for me.

If you have room for it in your schedule, try taking a yoga class once a week. Nearly every yoga teacher I've had emphasizes the importance of doing what you can do right now, and not comparing yourself to what others are doing or what you did last week or what you think you should do.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:34 PM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

You could try using the feedback your body is giving you (i.e. "I can't go that hard today") as simple information, rather than judgement (easier said than done, I know).

(You may already do all this, but just in case:)
I obsessively journal all my runs for precisely this reason. Looking at the feedback my body is giving me on any given day (whether it's positive or negative) and comparing that data to the numerous factors that might be influencing my outcome (i.e. how much did I sleep? What did I eat and when? What's the weather like? How much external/unrelated stress do I have? etc.) helps me to recognize in a very tangible way that my performance is the result of a combination of factors and interactions, and is therefore NOT a judgement of my effort/worth/ability/drive/ambition/etc. Not being able to give "everything" doesn't mean I'm a bad person, and being able to track over time the causes that can contribute to this effect helps remind me of this.

Your capacity to perform is different every single day because your body is different every single day. In all physical activity, 100% is not an absolute value. Or, as a wonderful mentor from my dance past used to say to us all the time: "I don't care if you give me 100% of what you gave yesterday, so long as you give 100% of what you're capable of TODAY".
Wise words.
posted by Dorinda at 5:45 PM on February 26, 2012

I know you don't want to compare yourself to others, so maybe this is out too, but I compare myself to the ME of (missed) workouts past. There are plenty of times in my life where I just skipped working out because I was feeling lazy, so when I do work out but it doesn't go so well or I quit early, I just remind myself that I did a lot better than the me of [last Wednesday/last month/last year] who probably wouldn't have bothered at all. And then I can be proud of myself.
posted by lollusc at 5:54 PM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

For some reason, running, more than a lot of forms of exercise, lends itself to obsession. The important thing to remember with a marathon in particular is that you need to stick to the plan you came up with. The plan, I'm sure, includes days where you don't give 110%. During and before the marathon, stick to the plan. It's going to be hard to stick to the plan during the marathon in particular so practicing now will help you down the road.
posted by kat518 at 6:52 PM on February 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

Dropped in to say the same thing Dorinda did: have a plan, measure results, then assess whether you gave it 100% or not. You want to get away from the attitude of punishing yourself for a less than stellar effort and start figuring out *why* it was less than stellar. For me that means:

1. Journalling all of my runs (time, distance, what I was trying to accomplish)

2 Having a specific plan for each run (e.g. 3.6 mi run as a time trial; 8 miles at my half marathon race pace)

3. Wearing a heart rate monitor and including average HR in the journal entry

4. Also tracking my rate of perceived exertion for the run

5. Evaluating what happened and whether i got the expected result.

I'm a believer in the saying, "there is no such thing as over-training, there is only under-recovery." When I'm not making progress, I'm trying to figure out if I'm not recovering or if something else is going on (e.g. daydreaming on a hard mile split and falling off the pace). Understanding the cause really takes the emotion out of a disappointing performance.
posted by kovacs at 8:26 PM on February 26, 2012

Just remember you will have good days and bad days when it comes to running. I have some days where getting through 3 miles at a 10 minute mile pace felt like death, but come next workout, breeze through it at around a 8.5 minute mile pace. I find that the more you punish yourself for a bad workout, the worse the subsequent ones will get because you're pushing for 150% to make up for the 80% effort, but your body physically can't respond that much and you end up feeling worse about not making the effort you thought you lost.
posted by astapasta24 at 9:13 PM on February 26, 2012

Ahh, training for a marathon. This summer when I was training for my one and only marathon, I was supposed to do 22 miles and barely made it to 17, with so much stopping that it was just ridiculous. That sucked. But I knew that even running "only" 17 miles, even with lots of breaks, still made my legs 17 miles stronger, so that the next time I attempted to do a long run, my legs would be ready for it (after recovery, of course). I pushed myself to my limit that day, which means, in a way, that my body worked just as hard as if my limit was the full 22 miles I was supposed to run. My body still gained all the strength from that "fail" run that it would have if I did a full 22 run and it felt easy.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 4:59 AM on February 27, 2012

This is textbook "all-or-nothing thinking," which has been identified as a cognitive distortion. A good way to deal with it is to write out (or type) a "rational response." (For some reason, it works better to actually write/type it than to do it in your head.)

First, you'll want to complete the thought that you have that makes you feel bad. "Giving less than 100% is bad because..." Probably, you have some kind of idea that one "should" always give 100% or that giving less than 100% makes the whole thing worthless, etc. Note that these are arbitrary axioms with no basis in reality.
posted by callmejay at 10:51 AM on February 27, 2012

Run a lot. Mostly easy. Sometimes hard.
posted by bwanabetty at 9:17 PM on February 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

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