Running is hard. We know that. It takes effort, our heart rate goes up, our breathing is labored, blah blah. We know that. But what if I said that stopping is the hard part of running?
You’d probably slap me and tell me I’m a big fat liar. And I wouldn’t fault you for that.
Yes, running itself is hard and there are a million and two reasons why that’s the case. For today, we’ll go ahead and focus on this statement:
The hardest part of running, is stopping.
First things first, let’s open our minds to this concept. Why would stopping be the hard part? It’s hard on our joints. The continuous motion is great-ish but if we suddenly stop or even slow to a stop, it does take its. It’s not perfect on our hearts because up and down and up and down. And let’s face it… the real reason is because it’s hard to get going again.
Think of your body like a train. Once it stops, it is hard to get moving again. Most of it is in our head, it’s hard to get going again. But, of course, it’s plain hard for our bodies to get moving again. For that reason and for that alone, we should avoid stopping at all costs.
Everyone is different, everyone has a different running journey. For me, when I first started running, I would let myself take a walking break only on the mile marks. Each of us, I think, has something we do like this. The age old phrase “I can stop when I get to…” Which is fine. Until it isn’t. There’s a certain point where we start getting used to stopping at these points. And suddenly, we can’t run past them. Big problem.
My first piece of advice is this: Abandon the mile marks. What I mean by this is when you’re running, throw out the precision. Don’t fixate on the number. Let’s say you want to run 3 miles. 3.00 doesn’t have to be the stopping point (nor should it). Anywhere between 3-3.2 miles would be my run. A ballpark.
When we’re running then, or approaching the end, we don’t get the chance to teach our body to stop right on the mile dot. We stop when our bodies say “enough”.
This applies during the run too.
My issue was my mind. I doubted myself, my ability, my endurance. So when I was approaching 2 miles I though, “I have to stop” even though nothing was telling me to stop. But I kept stopping. I would get to six miles and stop. My breathing was under control, my heart was in a great range, and my legs weren’t exhausted. Why was I stopping?
Because my head told me to.
Don’t doubt yourself. That’s the next piece of advice. And it’s really hard to do. Just keep trucking. Develop a mantra. Let your gaze wander around. Play a game with yourself. Laugh. Sometimes all we have to do to keep going is entertain our mind for a bit. Eventually, we learn how to slip into a near meditative zone where we just keep going with the flow of our feet and the asphalt.
But in the beginning, treat your brain like a cranky kid before bed. Your willpower knows what’s best for it. Your brain…not so much. Trust your heart on this one.
Sometimes though, our brain is onto something. Whether it’s before your run or during, sometimes our brain is screaming no, no, no, no. If it’s before your run do a little check. Shoes tied right? Body okay? Head okay? Did I eat the right amount at the right time? Hydrated enough? Do I have to go to the bathroom?
If it’s during your run, don’t stop but don’t ignore your brain. It doesn’t hurt to do a little self check-up. Go toes up. Any blisters forming on your feet? Any points of pain or instability (sometimes the pain doesn’t hit us)? Is your breathing or heart rate abnormal? How about your effort levels? Sometimes we can’t figure out what’s going on but we can change the pace if our body really isn’t performing correctly.
And that brings me to my final point.
Don’t be afraid to make adjustments.
We runners tend to cling to our pace like its oxygen underwater. But it isn’t. Remember that during practices (which is what a run is) not every single one will be great. To maximize our performance in the long run, we need to learn how to adjust our expectations on the fly. We need to learn how to adjust our pace to suit our current position.
Say you are getting really, really worn out for no reason. Slow down. If you feel that energy coming back great! You get to pick your pace back up. No change is permanent but an adjustment in pace could potential turn your run around. It’s okay to make an interval run a recovery run if your body isn’t having it.
All of this just to avoid stopping during a run? Yep.
Stopping whether it’s during a run or during work or something else is the last thing we ought to be doing. Sure, it’s what our brain (and maybe our body) is telling us to do but that doesn’t mean we should do it.
It hurts us, a lot. It doesn’t help us any. We start solidifying the habit of stopping before we actually need to and that leads leads us away from success. It brings us to a place where we don’t have to work through uncomfortable scenarios. This then teaches us it’s all right to back down when we want to. We don’t have to push through anything.
And that’s bad.
To see any sort of success, we have to work through our issues and keep pushing forward. That might take a lot of time or it might be a quick progression. But we still have to do it.
So don’t let yourself stop. Don’t look at each mile or block like an individual accomplishment. Look at the run as a whole. Set a rough goal and stop somewhere around it.
Don’t get caught up on what your brain is saying. Listen to your body on this one. And follow the road in front of you.