Today’s post is about the little changes I’ve made to my running & my lifestyle that have made me a better runner over the last year.
Hopefully a few of these will apply to your own life and you can use them to assist you too!
- I’ve stopped constraining myself with labels – First I was a jogger. Then I was a plodder. Then I was a half marathoner. Then a marathoner. You limit your vision by what you define yourself as. If you derive most of your identity from being a half-marathoner, then you can be constrained by half marathons. If you think that all you’re capable of is a 5 hour marathon, then you’ll be less likely to try for a faster time. You’ve gotta give yourself a chance to prove what you’re capable of. I’ve stopped putting myself in boxes now as I’m growing and expanding.
- I complete all the hill work I can – There’s nothing worse than encountering a hill you aren’t ready for in a race. That’s why I take on as many as I can these days so there aren’t any unpleasant surprises. Running on hills has improved not only my mental strength but my physical strength. I’m ready for anything. Besides I’ve learned to enjoy hill running. I take it easy and work with the hill.
- I’ve stopped checking my Garmin every 20 seconds – That was enough to drive me up the wall. There have been a few times where I’ve tripped up on the ground whilst looking at the watch. Checking it doesn’t make the time go by any faster either (I should have learned my lesson when I was a kid waiting for Santa Claus!)
- I’ve stopped weighing myself so often – It got so bad at one point over Christmas that I’d rejoice in needing a piss as I could weigh myself again after. “Holy shit man, down 4lbs in 3 minutes after pissing out 8 litres of Lucozade Sport! I’m a fucking winner!”
- I’ve accepted that it’s more important to be the best runner I can be and not necessarily the best runner – Sometimes I’m left feeling hopeless when I see how bad at running I am compared to others. This doesn’t matter. I need to focus on improving as much as I can and forget what others are doing. You’ve gotta run your own race in life.
- I wave at cars instead of giving them the bird when I’m out running – Before I’d have a permanent scowl on my face and I’d be paranoid that they might take offence at my head and come back and finish me off with a shovel.
I will run you right over you little speccy bastard!
- I’ve stopped worrying about races whilst there’s still time to train for them – What’s the point of worrying about a marathon when I can get outside and train for it? Worry causes stress. Stress causes me to overeat. Gaining weight stresses me out. None of these things help me as a runner. All I have to do is get out there and run off the worry! It’s the easiest and best option!
- I’ve stopped ‘picking’ fights with people walking their dogs – I’ll admit it, for the first year as a runner I almost thrived off confrontation with dog walkers. Whenever a little dog nibbled at my ankles I was full of righteous indignation and wanted to set the owner straight about how this was totez unacceptable. What a dick I was! And did it help with my running? Nope. It just made me more full of rage.
So to all dogs. I’m sorry. It’s me that’s a cunt, not you. Except poodles. YOU ARE ALL FUCKING CUNTS!
- I no longer view speed work as the enemy – Speed work is liberating in that it allows you to run faster whilst applying the same amount of effort. I still disagree with the word “work”. It you view it as fun and enjoy yourself then you’ll want to do it more and more.
- I’ve stopped assuming that the worst is yet to come in my running & my life – Ever since I completed my first marathon back in 2011 I’ve been waiting for “The Event” that will bring my running days to a halt. I don’t even know what I’m scared of. The unknown?
- I’ve stopped viewing “comfort food” as comforting – I hate the feeling of being overweight when running or walking. I hate when my clothes don’t fit. I hate having to constantly pull my t-shirt down over my body. The more junk food I eat, the worse this will become which is why I limit my intake these days.
- My failings as a runner aren’t final – Failure isn’t the end, it’s just a signpost towards success. I never thought I’d record a sub 2 hour half marathon, but I finally did it in Dublin in August 2013 at the 15th attempt. I never thought I’d run a marathon again after I freaked out in Barcelona El Prat and missed the Dublin Marathon 2011. I came back in 2013 and recorded my best ever time. I might have messed up in Las Vegas too but I will go back again and make up for it.
- I’ve accepted my stubbornness is not always a virtue and I’m changing – Sure, I might have a “never say die” attitude that means I keep coming back to running but that same stubbornness means that I never cease the shit that’s dragging me down. Eating junk food, running at the same slow speed and drinking to excess on the night before a race weren’t helping my running. That’s why I’m changing my diet, reducing my alcohol consumption and working on my strength as a runner.
- I know now that I don’t gain anything from having a negative mindset, so I’ve stopping giving in so willingly to negative thought cycles – When you’re looking down, you’ll only head in that direction. If you think that your run will suck and hold on to that mindset then you’ll only drag yourself into a bad run.
- I no longer put pressure on myself “to perform” in the middle of a race – When I get tense, I start to hit the ground harder with my feet to compensate. How does that help? I’d rather be more ambitious in training than leave everything until the race. I always run better when I’m relaxed. It’s the only way I can fly.
- I’d rather run a race even if I’m not prepared for it and fail spectacularly – Especially if the alternative is to sit on the couch and just say ‘yeah I’ll run this race at a later date’. That later date will likely never arrive if I’m unwilling to try anything remotely different. That’s why I’m glad I ran the Titanic Quarter 50k, even if I finished last by over an hour. It was an experience and I pulled through. I can come back stronger next year!
- I’ve accepted that I’m where I am today because of past choices – And I can change where I’ll be tomorrow by being healthier today. There is no such thing as a wasted day for me anymore. I have the power to direct my future by being conscious over my lifestyle choices now. You can’t move forward if you’re continually having to make up for yesterday. I’ve stopped mortgaging my progress as a runner for another slice of fucking cake.
- I’ve started changing my running shoes more often – In the past I refused to change them until I’d put 1,000 miles into them. By this stage they were quite literally falling apart and providing zero support. Now I change them every 3 to 4 months.
- I’ve reduced the amount of alcohol I drink on the night before running – Instead of having half a bottle of Vodka on a Saturday night I’ll go for one bottle of wine. I don’t have to cut out alcohol altogether. I’ve realised that too much is not good for me, particularly if I’m drinking for the wrong reasons. You only ever develop an alcohol problem when it initially provides a solution to a deep rooted issue. That was the case for me when I started when I was 19. All of a sudden social anxiety was a thing of the past. Only it wasn’t! I was just driving it deeper and deeper.
- I stay out running past my comfort zone – Let’s say that I know I have 8 miles in the tank. Instead of quitting at exactly 8 miles, I will try to extend my run to 8.25 or 8.5 miles. It might not seem like much but it has done wonders for my stamina over the years.
- I always do a little speed work on every run – Even in long slow sessions I will always include bursts of speed to liven up the run. It makes it more enjoyable and helps increase my pace steadily too.
- I’ve stopped blaming other people in races – I take personal responsibility if I mess up. Even when I’m blocked by 4 ‘Sisters!’ running together with their arms linked in a row. Even when someone stopped right in front of me at a water station. Even when the racing line is blocked by a man dressed as Scooby Doo. These are all obstacles that I circumvent. I only blame others when I’m not well prepared.
- I feel happy for friends or acquaintances when they record a better time than me – Before I’d get jealous of their success, overtrain to try to beat the person and then get injured. When other runners fail, you don’t gain anything. When they succeed, you can gain advice and wisdom if you get over your own ego!