Warning. Expert advice in this post. This is another answer to a question I recievd during the last Q & A session. It is a topic that we all deal with during our daily exercise and activity. I am so glad that Coach Dean Hebert agreed to field this question. He really knows what he is talking about when it comes to running, exercise, and sports psychology. You may have read my post regarding the awesome encougement I recieved from him at a time when another “coach” really discouraged me. There will always be those who try and keep us from achieving our dreams. Coach Dean is one of the people who build us up and help us achieve our personal dreams. If you need help with designing a good running/exercise program, he can help tremendously. Here is the question that I recieved during the Q&A session:
“I’d like to know how you keep going during training, and don’t just go ‘that’s enough, I’m stopping now'”
Here is Coach Dean’s aswer
This is actually a more profound question than it appears on the surface. Certainly, physically there are certain limits depending on our general present condition. To push slightly beyond them is in fact how we improve conditioning and not just maintain our condition. That is good. On the other hand, reading our bodies and knowing when to back off because we don’t want to overdo it and get injured is quite another thing. My experience though is more often that people do not push themselves. We are accustomed to being comfortable. Discomfort is not something most of us seek out.
Which brings me to what is usually at issue: the mental aspect. As a Mental Game Coaching Professional I work with people constantly on this and related issues. The first point has to be that exercise itself has to become a value of the individual and not merely something being done out of guilt, or being done for someone else. These yield very short term motivation. So, what makes someone keep going is a deep down knowledge that they are better for sticking it out – physically and mentally. Related to a “value” for working out is doing the type of workout that best suits the personality of the individual. Not everyone should be running (I know, that seems like heresy for a running coach to say.) But, waning interest and burnout are highest with individuals not matched personality-wise to their workout of choice.
So, with all that, let me also introduce that sometimes it’s OK not to push through. Illness, stress and general fatigue can greatly affect one’s motivation to complete a workout on any given day. If it is a random once in awhile thing, I would not worry much about it and just chalk it up to a bad day. Your goal is to just have the best bad day possible – as I tell my athletes. Do not succumb to the no pain no gain approach to training.
Now, perhaps more to the meat of your question: what specifically can be done to get through workouts?
First, I recommend the “Just One More” approach I write about in my book on excuses not to run (“Coach, I didn’t run because…”). Get your mind focused on the immediate here and now. Focus on just one more rep, just one more corner, just one more hill, just one more mile. Pick something out on the road to focus on. Or, play a mind game like counting telephone poles. It gets you away from thinking of the next 10 or 20 minutes or more of running and onto the only thing you control – your next step.
Next, be sure you add variety into workouts. Sometimes sticking it out is what you do because it’s tedious. Run different paces, different routes, different distances and different tracks. Run on a treadmill with a computerized running program that randomly throws in hills and different paces.
Too often people get into running thinking it’s the “best” exercises because it burns lots of calories. The problem with that thinking is that if you don’t like it and therefore don’t do the workouts or complete the workouts you aren’t burning those calories! A very social person for instance will often find running tedious even torturous as they go day after day on solo runs. Get real; if you are a social person you need a social setting to optimize your success at running. Make a date for your runs. Join a team. Enlist your spouse or children to run with you (It has been very rewarding doing some runs with my son; who makes it clear he is not a runner.) Just stop running alone.
And finally, if you previously were able to do workouts and now you have difficulty sticking with them, re-evaluate your training. You need a change. You may need some time off. You’ll come back refreshed and ready to go!
Coach Dean Hebert MGCP