Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mind Games

I've been thinking a lot about the power of our minds. We can do some amazing, and also some amazingly stupid things just by thought alone.
I realized this a few weeks back while I was out for a run. I was nursing a tight and sore hamstring and realized that my inner conversation was about talking myself into running longer than I felt like running that day. I was doing this by "phrasing" the mileage in a certain light. For me, this is playing little numbers games like thinking in terms of four five-mile laps instead of ever letting the phrase 20 miles into my head. It seems like a small difference, but it suddenly came clear to me that I had perfected all these little techniques to add up to a lot of mind games.
On the one hand, I was grateful for this adaptation. I think it made it possible for me to run 80 miles around a very small track. I had spent six months teaching my brain to convince itself that the laps were just that, and not to think of the enormity of the larger goal. It worked like a charm for that, and I was able to complete the 80 miles without a trace of doubt during the entire 21+ hours.
However, I think these games became habit, and I didn't even realize I was playing them any more. I think that I kept minimizing the miles in my head, and it lead to me running way too many miles too soon after the 24-hour race. This lead to the aggravation of some foot problems that I was having and probably delayed my return to strong running.
It's a fine line to walk. To effectively play these mind games, you need to convince yourself that what you're doing is much easier than it is. Basically, you want to lose a little perspective. I seem to be really good at that part. As Brian likes to observe, I tend to be an all-or-nothing kind of girl. The harder thing for me is to walk the middle ground. I want to play enough mind games that I can take on and complete challenging events, but at the same time keep my perspective so that I can see (and avoid) injury or burn-out approaching.
So I'm going to continue to play these games, but with a new awareness. An awareness that I'm doing it and a little more caution as to how I'm phrasing things to myself. I'm going to try to allow for the possibility of injury or illness, and let myself feel the feeling of not wanting to do something hard.
It's something for me to work on for the next 70 years anyway.