I really hate running.
That might surprise some people given that I do it so much, but I do.
I hate it, it hurts, it’s hard work, and I don’t often feel that “Runner’s High” that people talk about.
That said, I still think it’s important to run. There’s a lot to be said about doing things that you don’t like to do to gain mental toughness, but for me, it’s mostly a way of staying fit. But I also do it just because I can, which means a lot to me given that there was a period of time when I couldn’t move my legs at all.
When I’m running, it’s difficult to remember why I’m running. “Why am I putting myself through this pain?” I’ll often get an urge to just stop and go home, especially if I’m trying to do a long run.
A tactic I play during my runs is to make the cost of failure suck more than the effort needed for success.
Let’s say I want to run 20km. If I’m just running 2km loops near my house, I’m going to get bored or frustrated and I might end up going home before I have completed my 10th loop. It’s easy and low cost to go home.
To counteract this, I could run 10km in a direction. Once I’ve run 10km, I have to run 10km home. If I don’t, I’m stuck 10km from home walking back. That’s gonna be long and boring and I’ll probably get pretty sick of the exposure (to either the cold, or the sun, or whatever). It’s in my interest to run back home too, because running home sucks less than walking home.
Or, let’s say I want to push myself and run a fast and hard 5km. I might choose to run this during a time when it’s raining hard (or when it looks like it’s about to rain). That way, the faster I run, the less time I spend in the rain. If I fail and run slow, I’ll get drenched in the rain and I’ll be more miserable than if I had just pushed a little bit more and succeeded.
This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot whilst running recently. I couldn’t run at the start of last month because I was self isolating, so had to run 200km in just 21 days to hit my goals. It’d usually take me the full month to do that amount, so I was doing longer runs than usual and had to play some tricks on my mind to keep going.
There’s a loop near my home that adds 7km to my distance. It’s been a big part of my strategy to run that loop whenever my mind is feeling weak, just because it gives me a path that I can’t easily escape from.
I guess the key element to these tricks is that I’m taking the decision away from myself. In the example of the 2km loops near my house, I’m constantly having to fight against the impulse to go home. I might win the first few times, but eventually it might grind me down. When I’m running that 7km loop near my house, the only decision I have to succeed at making is to take the longer route.
That’s what I do for running.
I’m trying to find other ways of applying this to my life. Maybe this gives you some ideas of how to apply them to yours.