I recently read a really good post by Running Rachel about her foray into Crossfit, within which Rachel discussed some of the issues that come with trying something new and going out of her comfort zone. In her article Rachel refers to her “love/hate relationship” with Crossfit and how even though she loves the challenge, she hates how Crossfit causes her to have feelings of being “weak, inexperienced and often inferior”. However, don’t think this was an article filled with negativity about her performance. On the contrary, Rachel knows these are ‘novice thoughts’ brought about by her lack of experience and being out of her comfort zone.
This got me thinking about running and how beginners often struggle to enjoy running. Being a beginner runner can often leave you suffering both physical pain and willpower sapping negative thoughts. So how do so many people overcome these issues and learn to love running?
Well, I don’t have all the answers, but I believe one of the key things that a lot of beginner runners struggle with is achieving a good balance between their physical ability and their mental attitude. Beginner runners often struggle to achieve this balance because taking up running pushes you outside your comfort zone, both physically and mentally, usually in ways people haven’t experienced before.
Before we move on – going beyond your comfort zone is a good thing! Pushing yourself like this exposes you to new challenges and new achievements.
However, if you push too far you run the risk of falling short of your expectations and engendering negative thoughts about your running. Like most things in life, the key is finding and maintaining a balance, in this case between your mental and physical strength. By being able to find a balance between your physical ability and your mental attitude, you begin to be able to ‘critique’ your performance, instead of being ‘critical’. A critique of your performance is objective and allows you locate areas where you can improve, and areas where you are already strong. Being critical involves ‘subjective’ criticism of where you weren’t ‘good enough’ or ‘tough enough’. These negative thoughts eat at your confidence and your willpower and cause anxiety about your running. It is these sorts of thoughts that can prevent people from developing a positive relationship with their running. Why would you keep going or keep trying to improve if you are always met with self-criticism and anxiety?
So, how can you try and achieve a balance between your physical and mental strength?