Should I push through, or rest?

Should I push through, or rest?

A few mornings ago I woke up to pouring rain. It was cold and dark and my bed had never felt so cozy. I had been traveling and spent the better part of the last 30 hours sitting on an airplanes and trains. I was groggy and sleepy. It was the sort of tired I sometimes feel after a long day of work. You know the one, you get home and fall on the couch and think you could just call it a night at 6pm. 

In that moment, it can be really hard to know if you’re fatigued and need a day off, or if movement might make you feel way better. So what do you do?

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Distance Running Is 90% Mental, The Rest Is In Your Head.

“Mental toughness is the capacity to reliably perform at your best regardless of external conditions, distractions, or internal emotions.”- Dr. JoAnn Dahlkoetter

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I love this definition. Mental toughness is key for racing any distance from 5km to 160km. A 5 km requires the ability to redline for a significant amount of time. Alex Hutckison, author of Endure, describes it like holding your finger over a flame. It takes focus and resilience to stay there, right where it hurts. In the long races, it’s battling the bodies desire to quit when you’ve got hours behind you and hours ahead of you. Whether you’re trying to hit a new distance or a new speed, being mentally tough can be the difference between reaching your goal or not. 
 
Here are my 5 best tips for improving mental toughness in training and racing. 
 

  1. Learn about the Central Governor Theory, and then beat it

This theory by Tim Naokes is based on the idea that the mind will try and shut your body down before it does damage to itself, so we feel fatigue. We know it as the edge of our comfort zone. It’s usually the time we stop and walk, but in reality, we can push far past that long before we hurt ourselves. 
 
North Americans generally work to make life as cozy as we can. The second we feel discomfort, we change it. A small chill we put on a sweater, a little bit hungry, there is food on any corner. Rarely are we in a situation where we are at our limit. When translated into running, this means that when we get to the point where it starts to hurt we tend to want to slow down or stop to walk immediately. We want to get comfortable again. 
 
Being mentally tough means recognizing this, and deciding you don’t have to listen. This takes practice. You have to get to a place in training where you really hurt. When you get there, try thinking about it objectively. It’s just pain, it’s just fatigue, it’s just in your head. Maybe you don’t need to stop yet, you can push past the discomfort. 
 
You can practice playing with your limits in the sauna and cold showers. Wait until that moment when you really want to jump out of the freezing water and just hold on. Even for 5 seconds. Push past that boundary, and eventually you’ll expand your comfort zone. 

2.   Visualize

Visualization is a common performance tool in athletics. We are told to mentally see ourselves running well, feeling strong, and having the race of our lives. The key, however, is to also practice the worst parts. See yourself at mile 20 of a marathon, when the pain really starts to set in and you know you have a reasonable distance left. Think about suffering up a hill, and see yourself pushing past that and keeping the pace. Use this visualization to teach yourself that no matter what you face, you keep on going—even when the going gets tough. Make it a habit. 

3.   Make the race smaller 

 
Being tough also means being smart. There are ways to hack your thoughts so you can better control your emotions. Making the race smaller is key. If I toed the line of a 50mile and thought about the full day ahead of me, it would be impossible not to feel overwhelmed. The race has to be broken down. One aid station to the next. Sometimes just the next tree. Whatever your brain can handle, run that race.  

4.   Positive thoughts and self- talk  

 
When I was preparing for my longest run to date (100miles), the most common question I got was, “what are the chances you don’t make it”?
 
I never knew how to answer. That thought had never crossed my mind. Not once. 
 
I knew I was physically capable and the rest would be mental. It’s an old cliché but it’s bang on, “whether you think you can or you can't, you’re right.”
 
Don’t just think that you can, know that you can. 
 
Once the race starts, keep up the positivity. Speak to yourself positively. It’s that simple. 

5.   Smile 

 
It sounds a little ridiculous, I know, but it works. Pain, fatigue, the desire to stop, these are all due to the mind’s perception of what you are feeling. If you force yourself to smile, your mind suddenly thinks you’re having FUN, and then your perception of how hard you’re working lessens. Once you trick your mind, you’ll feel the physical benefits and it will actually be easier to run. Less pain and easier strides equal faster runners. 
 
Master your mind and you’ll your most outlandish goals become reachable. The best part is that having an unstoppable mindset translates into your entire life.

5  Fitness Tips That Have Nothing to Do With Working Out

Health and fitness go way beyond the time you spend in the gym. The ultimate goal is to find a harmony between the physical and mental, and to work hard while reducing stress. Luckily there are simple things you can do each day that will have big impact. Here are my five favourite tips.

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1.    Gratitude List

I’d heard experts say keeping a gratitude list will make you healthier and happier for years,

but for some reason, I couldn’t consistently write three things I was grateful for in a journal for more than a week at a time. Gratitude has physical and psychological health benefits that are so huge that I was determined to find a way to make this habit stick. Finally, I just simplified the task to make it work for me, and it’s been as awesome as they say. Each morning before I even open my eyes, I just THINK of three things I’m thankful for. I was amazed at how fast it became a habit. It’s now the first thing that pops into my head each morning. It takes no time at all, and it leaves me feeling happy and fulfilled before I even get out of bed. 

 

2.    Lemon Water

The first thing I do before making my coffee is drink a huge glass of lemon water. This is arguably the easiest thing you can do for your health, like ever. It will rehydrate you, give you a little immune boost, and get your digestion moving. 

3.    Get Outside

Spend time in nature and watch your life change. The Japanese have studied time in nature for years, calling it Forest Bathing.“The Japanese practice of forest bathing is proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of well-being.”You’ll be happier, more alert, calmer, and all around healthier. Go ahead, google it. The benefits are endless. Check out the article https://qz.com/804022/health-benefits-japanese-forest-bathing/for more.

4.    Sleep

The latest research shows that sleep may be more important than your nutrition and workout routine combined. Sleep debt can cause irritability, head aches, weight gain and more. When you’re sleeping your physical body is repairing, and your brain is clearing out waste and rebooting. Need more proof? Here are a few stats from Dr. and sleep scientist, Matthew Walker’s article: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/sep/24/why-lack-of-sleep-health-worst-enemy-matthew-walker-why-we-sleep

·       An adult sleeping only 6.75 hours a night would be predicted to live only to their early 60s without medical intervention

·       If you drive a car when you have had less than five hours’ sleep, you are 4.3 times more likely to be involved in a crash. If you drive having had four hours, you are 11.5 times more likely to be involved in an accident

5.    Try 30 Days With No Alcohol

I know I know, this sounds like 0/10 fun, but just trust me on this one. It’s just ONE month in your life. Why not test out what 30 days feels like. Prove to yourself you can do it! You’ll quickly see that hanging out with friends is fun because of their company, not because of the drinks. You’ll save a ton of money, and see a load of health benefits. Here are just a few:

·       Better sleep (which we now know is so important)

·       Clearer skin

·       Wake up easily with a clear mind

·       Increased energy

·       Weight loss

·       Better athletic performance

There’s no doubt that putting time in at the gym is vital to your health, but if you want to reap the benefits of your hard work you need to put a little TLC in to your whole self. Think of your fitness like a really good hockey team. You can’t win with just good forwards. You also need defensemen, coaches, gear, physios, rest, nutrition, and really cute uniforms.