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December 22, 2005

Embrace the Hate

I can't remember where - I want to credit Pete Pfitzinger of Running Times magazine, although I'm not positive - but a couple of years ago I read an article recommending that on a regular basis, you should do a consistent speed workout thst you hate.

Such workouts are good for two reasons: they are extremely demanding (the reason you hate them), and they help build mental toughness to help you overcome larger psychological obstacles as race day approaches, and during the race itself.

The speed workout I fear the most has always been the long time trial. Sometimes I do a 10K on the track, monitoring my heart rate and running just one notch below race effort. More often, though, I do a 4.1-mile time trial on a gently rolling stretch of road near my house.

When I'm in shape, I fear this run because it hurts like hell, and if I finish a few seconds slower than usual, I start obsessing about where my training is going wrong.

When I'm out of shape, I fear this run because it hurts like hell, and my slower times are a sobering reminder of how much work I have ahead of me to return to form.

During my marathon buildup, this run is a weekly staple. Lately, though, I've had a hard time dragging myself out of bed on the mornings when a time trial was on the schedule.

My fitness currently is middling somewhere between "marathon shape" and "lazy slob", so I've had no expectations about reaching a particluar time for these time trials yet. The only part I know for certain when I head out the door is that it will probably hurt like hell.

This morning's run was no different than previous time trials: apprehension during the first mile, anxiety during the second, weary tenacity during the third, and a determined race effort during the final mile. I crossed the line in 25 minutes, 53 seconds.

When I'm in good form, I'll dip into the high-24s for this run, so I'm far from being race-ready. But last week I ran 26:08, and the trial before that was in the mid-26s. One month ago I was over 27 minutes.

So I'm getting faster. Maybe there's something to this "doing things you hate" idea after all.

To hammer the message home, when I got to work I sat down with my customary cup of green tea. The Good Earth company places famous quotes on its tea bags, and this morning my quote was from American psychologist and philosopher William James: "Do something every day for no other reason than you would rather not do it."

I'm familiar with the quote, and the rest of it reads, "so that when the hour of dire need draws nigh, it may find you not unnerved and untrained to stand the test."

That was today's "wow" moment. It's almost like James was a marathoner or a coach in his spare time. He identified one of the primary tenets of sports psychology more almost a hundred years before such a field even existed, and more than a century before I began laboring with the misery of these darn speed workouts.

I know that I need to keep doing the time trials. I've always known that liking the workout is not a prerequisite. And now I know that because I still hate the workout, it actually benefits me more than if I enjoyed it.

William James would be proud of me today.


susie 12/22/05, 3:14 PM  

Good for you. It's always a test of wills to make yourself follow through like that. I used his quote on my blog recently, too. Powerful words.

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