Friday, September 2, 2011

Psyching yourself up for long runs

Tonight, as I work from my laptop in the dark, sitting at a table under a big tent at the our outdoor movie series, and semi-watching "The Big Lebowski" on the big screen, I have begun the long and arduous process of psyching myself up. 

You see, I have to run a ridiculous amount of miles tomorrow, and I am anxious to say the least. Some of the thoughts running through my mind:

My IT Band isn't going to let me run 20 miles. 
I could really use my foam roller right now.
Why didn't I think to bring an ice pack to ice my knee while at work?
I'm up too late already; I shouldn't be working right now, I should be home and in bed.
Crap, I still haven't had dinner. 
I won't be fueled properly tomorrow morning.
What am I going to eat for dinner when I get home after 10PM tonight?
I should be chugging water right now. My bottle is almost empty.
Why am I blogging right now? Clearly there are other things I should be taking care of.
Wish I could have a beer. Everyone around me is drinking beer.
No, I wish I could have a White Russian. Nothing goes better with "The Big Lebowski" than White Russians. 
Nope, can't, gotta prep the bod for running twenty f*cking miles tomorrow morning.

Doesn't that all sound nice? 

Onward and upward - I thought I'd share some insight on how oneself can psych themselves up for a long distance run. 

Divide the distance into smaller sections. 
This tip comes to me from my wise runner friend Sheila. She told me to envision the 20 miles tomorrow as four 5-milers instead, mentally dividing each section.

Take in the scenery.
One of the things that I love most about long runs is looking around and taking in all of the details of where I am, and how different some places look on foot versus traveling in a car. When I ran across the Hoan bridge as part of a half marathon this summer, I was blown away by how different things looked... the bridge almost felt smaller than when I drive across it. By distracting yourself with the pretty scenery, the miles don't feel quite as long.
Think about your real reasons for running.
Sure, we all run for various surface reasons, but think about those deep down reasons that you're out there pounding the pavement. What is truly motivating you? For me, it's a combination of reasons... one big one is to get out there and just be. Running slows life down to each minute, each breath. That resonates with me. Some reasons are more personal, and I often think about them and how I'm honoring them when I'm out there on a long run. Whatever your reasons, thinking about them puts your body into auto-pilot.

Distract yourself with your favorite fuel.
I know that many people are against using food as reward, but I absolutely do this and it works for me. What can I say, I really really love snacks. Plus, when you're out on a long run, you need to take in calories to keep your energy levels up. In addition to your requisite gels or other endurance formula stuff (enough to cover your fuel needs for the run), sneak a few pieces of your favorite sugary candy in your fuel belt, or some pretzels or crackers. I don't know about you, but a 20-mile run seems more fun if a few Sour Patch Kids will be awarded at the halfway point. 

Bring along kick-ass music.
My secret to endurance running: music. Obviously you've got to be careful about where you wear headphones; you should exercise extreme caution if using them while outdoors, and alone. That said, it's incredible what a killer playlist can do for your workout. This is no new advice, I think pretty much everyone runs with some sort of music, however consider this angle: change up your music to suit your mood. I've found that classic rock songs about America or freedom motivate me more than anything else. What started with a cheesy playlist for a Fourth of July tailgate party is now my go-to soundtrack for running! Tom Petty's "American Girl," Neil Diamond's "America," Don McLean's "American Pie." A little tacky, but it works for me. Who knew? Plus, because these songs are of epic length, they take up more space on my playlist and help to pass the time. 

After tonight's movie at work, I am feelin' the need to build a playlist based on "The Big Lebowski" soundtrack... anyone? "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)" would be awesome... or how about Gipsy Kings's "Hotel California?"
You do the talking: What are your tips for psyching yourself up for long runs? 
And, what's your favorite sugary candy? I am partial to Sour Patch Kids, but also love Hairbo gummy bears and generic candied fruit slices, all three of which I plan on bringing with for the Pikes Peak Challenge next weekend!


Alison said...

I psyche(d) myself up for long runs by thinking of the amazing feeling I always have at the end - exhaustion but a huge relief and sense of accomplishment. You can't get to that feeling without putting the miles in!

Beth (Well I'll Be) said...

Not sure I could psyche myself up for 20 miles, but for any long run I have to mentally prepare, and wrap my head around it. I think a good playlist also helps the most. I hope your 20 miles went well!! Sour Patch kids and hot tamales are my fave candy. I've never used them as fuel on runs before but it's a genius idea!

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