Something very strange and unexpected has happened in the last month. I am running at a much faster pace and it doesn’t feel like I am giving it a lot more effort. It is like I broke through a wall or ripped heavy chains off me when I ran that first sub 30 minute 5km a couple of week ago. (Read about it here). I had built up this goal up to be a huge unattainable thing in my head. I have been frustrated for two years. Now remember I barely squeaked out a sub 30–it was 29:30–and I felt like I was going to puke at the end of it. In other words, it took everything I had to do it. Then the next time I went out for a run I felt light and fast and was shocked when I learned that I was running at a 5:27/km pace. How did that happen? I wasn’t trying to run at a crazy fast pace–I have been a consistent 7:15/km runner for EVER. I just seemed to happen without any more perceived effort on my part. Then when I ran the Triathlon last weekend, I had to do a 5km after swimming 750m and biking 20km. I felt like I was really slogging along super slow. I was shocked at the end to discover that I was actually running at a 6:30km pace–at the end of a tri! My last two runs have been at a 5:45ish pace.
What gives? Why can I run so much faster now? I haven’t really changed my training and I certainly haven’t been doing intervals or fartleks or hill repeats. The only thing that changed was the fact that I met my time goal. I had only intended to do this once to prove to myself that I could do it. What I never expected was that fact that by meeting this goal and running faster than I had ever run before I somehow recalibrated my pace button and now my normal pace is faster.
I have learned all about extrinsic and intrinsic motivation and self-efficacy and the power of belief in my psychology classes. It makes sense on paper, but I really was not trying to apply this to my own training. The fascinating thing that I learned is that you don’t have to be trying to make this happen for it to happen. Our brains will do it regardless of our intent. How much more powerful would this be if there was a focused thoughtful intent behind it?
I will tell you my secret wish. I would love to be a sports psychologist with a practice focused not on the elite athlete–they all have huge supports teams–but for people like me. Women and men who will never be professional athletes, but those who go out at 5:30 am to train because it is an important part of their life whether or not they get patted on the back for it. Just think how much better we could all be if we had our own personal support person who encourages and provides insight into our motivation and offers direction on how to meet our goals? I want that! I want to proved that for others.
I think personal trainers offer a part of this service. My experience with a trainer-Martin from the YMCA– was to impetus for me to reach my speed goal; reaching that goal broke something in me–in a good way. I had to give the excuse (belief) that defined my running–“I am a slow runner”. It has taught me that I can be better than I thought I could be. So now I have to make new goals. I am being totally serious when I tell you that I am shocked when I run at under a 6km pace, but on my run today along the Assiniboine River in Brandon Manitoba, I found myself pushing to make sure I stayed under a 6km/ min pace. Three weeks ago I would never have even attempted to run one km at this pace, never mind push myself to run 6km at under 6 min pace. Nothing has changed physically but a lot has changed mentally. Now I want to see what else I can do if I believe it.
One of my favourite sayings is a Zen proverb:
Leap and the net will appear
You won’t know what you are capable of unless you take a risk and try…
What barriers do you have in your life? What things have you not attempted because of the voice in your head that tells you that you can’t? Why is that voice in charge? Sometime someone else has to believe in you before you believe in yourself. I want you to go out and do that thing that you don’t’ think you can do. I KNOW you can do it; borrow a little of my belief and get it done. You WILL surprise yourself.