Tag Archives: mental toughness

My Breakfast and Yoga Morning Routine

Even though my morning routine varies a tiny bit with the seasons, the elements of it are always the same.  Breakfast, yoga and some deep breathing help each day get off to a positive start morning routinebefore I have a chance to get off track.

I can’t remember the last time I was woken up by an alarm and am usually up 10-15 minutes before it would go off.  That doesn’t mean, however, I get out of my nice warm bed.  I’ll stay cozy while planning the day and deciding how to complete the day’s check list.  A quick check of my phone lets me know my early morning hasn’t cancelled and I must go on.  After resigning myself to the fact that I can’t stay in bed all day, it’s off to the bathroom.  Usual business and a cold splash of water to the face make sure I’m actually awake.

Since the majority of my work and workout wardrobe is black, I rarely turn on the bedrooms lights to dress.  Ambient light from the half drawn blinds is enough to make sure I match.  Then it’s downstairs to feed both the dog and myself.  Dog food in bowl, my Cheerios in a bowl and by the time I’ve grabbed a spoon Jordy is ready to go outside.  I eat while he does his dog thing out there then return my dirty dish to the kitchen.  Now it’s time to get moving.

I take a deep breath, reach into mountain pose and start my 5-10 minutes of yoga.  It’s at least five but ideally closer to 10.  If there’s a big north  or west wind, I know I have to leave a bit earlier to bike to work.  During my practice I’ll repeat positive mantras and visualize what I’m going to accomplish that day.  At this point my mind is focused and my body is ready to work.  I officially check my email/Facebook/Twitter/Instagram for the first time, hop on my bike and start the day.  The only time this varies is when I have a chance to take my yoga to the beach and bike first.

Why do I stick so steadfastly to this morning routine?  It’s made a big difference.  Clearing my mind and moving my body before I let any distraction in has made me more prepared for sitting at my desk, hitting the gym for a client or tackling a workout.  My focus is better, my attitude is positive and I’m ready for whatever comes my way.  Even heading out for those 20+ mile runs in sub-zero temperatures wasn’t so bad.

Meredith

Do you have a morning routine?  What does it include?

Tough Long Run + SPI Belt!

After last week’s missed workout, I was ready to get back to work on Monday.  I had a good workout on the treadmill with still icy roads to avoid to start the week and solid workouts on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.  Friday things wrapped up with tough long run. 

After an easy run Thursday my legs were feeling beat up.  I hadn’t slept well for three days and was struggling with the choice to do a workout I knew would be hard on Friday or Saturday.  Saturday’s forecast was chilly, rainy and windy while Friday’s was warmer, sunnier and less windy.  The downside for Friday was I’d half to run after biking to and from work and coaching for several hours.  I really did not want to get wet.  My legs felt heavy and the day off would have been nice.  I chose pain over wet and did my tough long run Friday mid-morning through the afternoon.

The tough long run was not just going out for a finish fast or middle marathon pace miles event.  It was meant to be a threshold workout and a challenge.  Starting with a 2 mile warm-up, it was on to 3×2 mile (rest 3 min) repeats at marathon pace minus 15 seconds, then 8 miles easy, 2 miles back at MP-15 and a 2 mile cool down.  I almost bailed during the warm up but I started to feel better 2k in.  It was one ugly run. 

I settled into a groove during the 2 mile repeats that was 10 seconds too fast.  Slowing down for the easy 8 was also challenging.  I gave the final 2 mile push all I had to finish on a up note and cut my cool down short.  The weather was much warmer than predicted without the expected cloud cover.   I battled dehydration, hard trouble keeping my heart rate down and dealt with foot cramps toward the end.  Not the run I wanted it to be, it was still a decent workout that helped me work on my mental game.  They can’t all be great or we’d never get better.  I’m looking forward to next week’s 18 mile progression as another tough long run to improve on this week’s mess. 

I’m also excited to try out my brand new SPI Belt this weekend!  I participated in the winter edition of RunChat‘s RunChat Hunt for the second year and was lucky enough to win.  The tough long runchallenge works like this:  the RunChat community picks ten items for you to photograph while on the run.  Each time you snap one, share it on social media with #runchathunt for an entry to win a variety of prizes from awesome sponsors like SPI Belt.

I typically don’t run with anything other than a house key and, if needed, gels.  Yes, I like to have my peace and quiet but if I could easily carry something else with me I might.  Stay tuned for a review in the next few weeks!

Meredith

How do you handle a tough long run?  Cope with a no so good workout?

Fit Friday: Mental Preparation

Performing well at anything, whether it’s a test in school, a race on the road or an off the cuff speech, takes mental preparation.  While planning is an important part of each of those instances, you also need to be ready for the unexpected.  I’ll be going more in depth into this idea on the East Coast Run Project blog next week (sign up to get it here!) but right now I’ll tell you how it helped me rock Week 4’s long run.

My fourth week of marathon training called for a long run of 18 miles.  With my client training schedule my morning, when I prefer to do long runs, schedule have me two options.  Thursday or Saturday.  Either day, the weather looked nasty and my body would be tired.  Thursday would be chilly with temperatures in the mid-30s and winds over 20mph with gale warnings.  Saturday would be significantly warmer, mid-50s but still be windy (no gale warning) and, to step it up, a 90% chance of rain.

Naturally I opted for Thursday.  With only one bridge to cross I much preferred a strong headwind to soaking wet shoes.  A finish fast long run, I was concerned the wind would take too much out of me to really have the high quality workout I was looking for.  So I started my mental preparation.  I steeled my nerves for a cold, challenging run.  I visualized an average pace somewhere between my 8:10 goal and my ‘this sucks and is really hard’ pace of anything mental preparationbelow 8:40.  Over and over on Wednesday I said to myself that I could do it no matter how tough it got.

And you know what happened?  IT WAS AWESOME.  Aside from almost being blown into traffic on that aforementioned bridge.  I was plenty warm in my layers.  The wind was mostly quieter than predicted.  Instead of the constant struggle I prepared for the wind was gusty.  Thanks to that big tailwind my finish fast was actually extremely fast!

I felt amazing the last mile.  The run I had expected to be brutal was, in fact, fantastic.  I’m so glad I took the time to do my mental preparation.  It really paid off and was great practice for race day.

Meredith

What’s your mental preparation routine?  Do you have a positive mantra and what it is?!

Week 3 + Being Unbeatable

It’s Week 3 of marathon training and things are rolling along nicely.  I’m feeling good after two weeks of increasing mileage and have two more to go before a down week.  One thing about this year’s most ambitious training plan yet is that I’m tying it to my Unbeatable Mind training.  While I am far from unbeatable yet, I am seeing and feeling some big differences from how I felt last year early on.unbeatable

Even with more miles on the calendar each week I’m more relaxed and flexible about what’s coming my way.  I’ll get the miles on the treadmill if I have to, in the middle of the night if I have to and at the end of the day, it’s all going to be fine.  Unless, of course, I get injured.

Which I might be on my way to but hopefully not.  I’ve had some funkiness going on with my right ankle or glute or Achilles that I warm up out of some days.  It’s definitely muscular and I’m trying different things to see what shakes it out the fastest.  Extra glute activation during my warm up, extra stretching of the calves and sometimes just loosening my shoe lace for a minute all help.  I’m making a big effort to listen to my body and figure out what it needs.

That’s how I can tell my Unbeatable training is making a difference.  I’m not freaking out.  There’s no desperate search for a quick fix.  I have a long way to go in both marathon training and mind training.  I’ll get to the finish but I want to be injury free when I arrive.  For now I’ll pay close attention to what works best to get me going on each run and stick with it.

Meredith

Do you ever over reacted to or ignored to a potential injury and what helps you be Unbeatable?

Wineglass Half Marathon Meltdown

Last weekend I ran my goal race.  My 2016 Wineglass Half Marathon race was a disaster.  I loved the event itself but my running featured a total meltdown that I’m actually glad I had.  For race day specifics, check out my review on BibRave!

The race day schedule did not really suit me but I succeeded at not letting it get to me.  I took a mandatory shuttle 15 minutes to the start then hung out for an hour in a gym before warming up.  I’m a get up and go type so this definitely put a cramp in my eating, sleeping, relaxing, game ready routine.  After gear check and potty, I warmed up and toed the line ready to rock 13.1 miles.meltdown

I had worked hard all summer and was looking forward to nailing this race.  I felt good.  My legs were fresh while my head was in the right place coming off my congestion.  I had an excellent first seven miles on pace to hit my PR goal but my body felt all wrong.  I was working much harder than I should have been and it felt way more difficult to maintain my desired pace than I had expected.  When I hit Mile 8 slightly behind my goal pace with already fried legs my head started to get the better of me.  The source of my pain turned out to be my shoes.  They were old and I hadn’t run in them in quite some time, saving them for this race.  Big mistake.  But I’m not going to blame a bad race on shoes.

What really pushed me over the edge was a gentleman I had been running with for a few miles saying “aren’t these views amazing?” just as I noticed I was behind goal pace.  My response: “What views?”  That’s when the meltdown began.  My entire body hurt with 8k to go.  There was some hip pain I had never had before bothering my left side.  So I quit.  I wasn’t having fun.  I was totally miserable.  Yes, I was disappointed to have a bad race, sad I was going to miss my goal but I was also in pain and pushing for no reason.  I took a deep breath, stopped and looked over to the mountains.  Actually stood still for 30 seconds.  Starting again, I jogged the rest of the race.  I spent time looking around, cheering for other runners and chatting with water stop volunteers.

No one is paying me to run these races (except when I’m a pacer).  It’s supposed to be fun.  Somewhere along the way this fall I lost that.  Turned out this race wasn’t about hitting or not hitting a PR for me.  It was a total reality check that I desperately needed.  Running is fun and I have to get back there.  I’m taking a week away from running, rewriting my upcoming months of marathon training, buying all new shoes (more on that later), backing off my aggressive run 50 states schedule and focusing on having fun.

Meredith

Have you ever had a meltdown during a race?  What did you learn from it?

The Never Ending Run

Have you ever had a never ending run?  When you know you’re moving and things are going pretty well until you look down at your watch to see it’s been five entire minutes.  Five minutes?!?  It felt like FOREVER.  You’re not extremely fatigued, sore, unmotivated or dealing never ending runwith horrible weather conditions but this workout will definitely seem like a never ending run.

I have definitely had my share for any number of reasons.  My head isn’t in the game because I’m distracted by something else going on that day or maybe I really needed a day off instead.  One thing I won’t do is bail on a run, unless I’m injured, even if it takes what feels like a ridiculously long time to complete.  So how do I get through these dragging moments?

The first thing I do is start smiling.  I’m likely to get frustrated when things aren’t moving along as I want them to, so I make sure to get back to my happy place.  I’m lucky I get to run whenever I want and I’d be silly to forget it.  Smiling also forces your face, and your entire body in turn, to relax.  It could also be exactly what the next person you pass needed to turn their frown upside down.

If I’m smiling, moving and still not getting where I need to be, I’ll evaluate my body.  Am I hurting?  What did I do yesterday or two days ago?  Looking back through my recent workouts can give me a good clue as to why this sessions has turned into another never ending run and help me fix it by finishing sooner, intentionally slowing down or stopping for a stretch.

The third step to get this endless run over with as painlessly as possible is to turn my watch off.  Maybe it’s stopping long enough to drop satellites and just finishing a timed run.  Maybe it’s turning if off altogether.  I’ll be just fine with one less day’s data to pour over.  Running is fun, keep it that way.

No matter what I do to get back on track with a tough workout, I know it’s a step towards making me mentally tougher.  And that’s good news for any workout.  Focusing, remembering your goals and realizing it could always be worse are great ways to turn a never ending run into a successful session.

Meredith

Have you had a never ending run?  How did you deal with it?

Benefits of a Bad Training Run

Having a bad training run every now and then is an inevitable part of prepping for any race.  There are days I wake up and know I just don’t have it.  For whatever reason, the day’s scheduled workout just doesn’t feel like it’s going to go well.  When I can see it coming I’ll try to avoid a bad training run by altering my schedule.  Unfortunately, that’s not always possible and I have to get out there and get it done.  The run can be bad from beginning to end, just at the end or mostly in the middle but no matter how I slice it, it’s no fun.  The good news is I can look back after a less than stellar day and put a positive spin on it.

It might not be running’s fault.   OK, my run wasn’t good.  Would any other kind of workout gone better?  After a bad training run I usually feel like yes, my run was bad, but Crossfit or yoga wouldn’t have gone very well either.  There are many external factors that can turn a workout from good to not-so-awesome.  Fueling, sleeping, stress, a tougher than expected workout thbad training rune previous day, all of these have played a role in some of my bad days and it’s nice to know they’re easy to fix, easy to prevent and quick to move forward from.

Build mental toughness.  A long run that turns ugly can be frustrating.  A bad training run can also be a big step in helping increase my mental toughness. I never know what’s going to happen on race day and being prepared is what training is all about.  Fighting through a few mentally and physically challenging runs during a training cycle helps me get ready for the unknown, realize I can push my body past the moment it says ‘I’m tired’ and am capable of more than I believed before that run began.

Listen to your body.  Sometimes a bad training run isn’t running fault (see #1) but sometimes it’s a sign of something more.  Are you overtraining?  Are your recovery plans not effective?  Maybe there’s an injury.  After a crappy run I always check in on how I’ve been taking care of my body for the last few days.  If I can easily identify a reason that falls under #1, I’m happy to catch up on sleep or doing a better job fueling.  If it’s harder to figure out why I’m didn’t rock a workout, it’s time to take a step back or a day off to evaluate what’s really going on.  Do I need a day or two off?  Maybe a change of scenery?  Not as easy to correct as being tired or under-fueled, these are the things that can take the fun out of running.

Keep the fun in running even after a bad training run by remember these things.  It’s a little bit easier to deal with a bad workout when I know there are benefits hiding in there.

Meredith

How do you deal with a bad training run?  Do you think they’re actually positive?

Staying in the Fight Webinar

Monday afternoon I attended (viewed?) a webinar titled ‘Staying in the Fight’.  Hosted by SEALFit founder and retired SEAL Commander Mark Divine, I must say I got more than I expected from the presentation.  ‘Staying in the Fight’ covered sections of Coach Divine’s book, 8 Weeks to SEALFit.  Emotional resiliency, mental toughness and decisiveness.  It was invaluable to hear things in a way I hadn’t heard or read them before.  I know I’m mentally strong (though the SEALs definitely have me beat).  I fought through enough long runs at the end of long weeks full of hard, heavy and fast workouts to know I can handle whatever it is I’m going through.  Like that GoRuck Light last year.  staying in the fight

My mental toughness has increased dramatically over the last three years, though emotional awareness is an area where I still have lots of room for improvement and Coach Divine’s lecture was loaded with tons of valuable information on how to do so.  I credit the eighteen months I spent fighting and suffering through SEALFit workouts with fixing my runner’s knee problems, teaching me about Staying in the Fight without even being aware I was learning it and showing me I was capable of more than I expected.

I discovered SEALFit in early 2011 when I was looking for something new.  I wasn’t running very much back then due to knee issues but had just about had it with the annoying left knee problems.  Knowing that my pain came from weakness more so then structural damage, even though I do have a tiny bit of a tear in the left one, I also recognized that the solution was getting stronger.  Running wasn’t going to get it done, it just made the cycle begin again.  Run, pain, rest.  My lifting regimen was very traditional back then and as I quickly discovered, the standard legs, arms, back/chest and cardio days weren’t making it much better.  I knew about, and used, functional fitness with clients and occasionally used it in my own workouts, but it took finding SEALFit and enjoying the daily challenge it presented to really show me the huge benefits functional training has over a more traditional body building type schedule, especially for a runner.

Looking back at my logs from two and a half years ago, I never completed one single full workout with the prescribed weights and took twice as long as everyone in the comments.  But I didn’t care.  I felt stronger, my knee didn’t hurt and I made progress by breaking workouts into two a days, sometimes skipping sections (overhead squats, snatches) and without even knowing it, getting mentally tougher.  By the time spring 2012 rolled around and I started to train for my first half marathon, my knee hadn’t bothered me for months and I knew, even though I hadn’t run more than 3 miles at a time in six months, I could and would, cross that finish line in under two hours (1:54.04).

Today I’m focused on running 40-50 miles a week and breaking 1:30.00 and unwilling to fight through SEALFit workouts on a daily basis, but the heavy lifting part of my training plan is incredibly important and I can complete lots of my Crossfit workouts as prescribed.  I’m also able to suck it up when it’s hot, humid, early, late, snowing or raining, when I’m hungry, tired or grumpy and get out to run or in the gym to lift.  Thanks to SEALFit, I’ll be Staying in the Fight until I reach my current goals, set new ones and repeat.

I highly recommend Coach Divine’s books, The Way of the SEAL, Unbeatable Mind and 8 Weeks to SEALFit.  I read them a while ago and Monday’s Staying in the Fight webinar was a great refresher as I head into some hard summer training that’s sure to challenge my mental toughness and help my emotional awareness grow.

Meredith

Are you familiar with SEALFit?  How to you work on mental toughness and emotional resiliency?