Stop so you know you can start again

Katie loved to throw a “10 x 800m repeats” at me during marathon training. I stared at that workout on my schedule in disbelief. TEN times? The recovery intervals were only ninety seconds. Ninety seconds to recovery and then convince yourself to come back to bat and hit it hard. There are no other options. Home run or bust! 

I still make myself, and my clients, do this. (But not always for ten repeats.) I still watch the seconds tick until I have to pick up the speed again. Five, four, three, two, one…


The very short-lived moment between one and GO? That’s the hardest part! And the best part.

This mental rest-go-rest-GO transaction invests money in the will-power bank. I always think I’ve tapped it out, but nope! Not quite. At number four, I want to cry because I’m not even halfway done. At number six I’m scared of still having to do seven, eight, nine, and ten. By number eight I don’t even focus on the two laps around the track because all my brain can think about is the last two repeats! By number ten, I’m ALL IN because, fuck, finally, it’s the LAST ONE. That’s usually my fastest repeat. That tells me everything I need to know for race day.

We can keep going.

We have something left in the tank, even when we repeatedly try to convince ourselves otherwise in the name of rest. These legs will respond when I will them to move. My mind will block out the luxury of rest right at the moment it needs to, not a second earlier or later. Once we’re going, momentum will build in our favor. If we’ve done the work, the memory of this exact workout will push us through the tough moments.

A little rest can go a long way, so long as it doesn’t linger…

I used to avoid walking during workouts and/or races because I didn’t trust myself to run again. I used to not let too much time pass between races, because I didn’t fully trust myself to pick it back up. 

I used to hold on to relationships too tightly, for too long, because the lonesome in between seemed like it might be too uncomfortably comfortable. I used to control everything I ate, with little to no break from the calculating, because I feared a moment of clarity. I knew that controlled behavior stemmed from not trusting myself to make decisions. But when that need for control gradually let up, when I trusted myself a little more, I made better choices.

I’ve learned to notice when life’s momentum feels forceful, step back, recovery, and then go again.

You don’t have to be into marathons, 800m repeats, or speed workouts to work this will-power muscle. There’s a scientific reason that coaches insert recovery intervals—”recovery” being the big clue there—but I think there’s just as much mental fortitude gained as there is fitness. (Clearly!) If you’re on a run where you’re just NOT feeling it and are kinda pissed about being out “there” at all, stop. Give yourself a specific break–thirty, ninety, five, one hundred seconds…your choice!—and then go again. Do this a few times.

There’s a proud voice that pops up and tells you to keep going, because it knows you can. A part of you that knows you’re going to be just fine, even if you do have to keep running, and even if it’s hard. A rational part of you that’s like, “CALM DOWN!” (Which is always pretty annoying, because you know it’s calling you out.) And an excited, badass part of you, because hot damn—look at you go!

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