"But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Philipians 3:13b,14

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why The Worst Training Run is the Most Valuable

We all have them.

Those training runs that are just terrible. You know, when you can tell within the first few steps that you don't "have it" that day. (Now, I am NOT talking about injury here. Just the days when your "get up and go" isn't present, or for that matter, anywhere nearby...).

Sometimes I'll go through spells where nearly every long run is that way. Usually it will last for a month or two.

The first time that happened, I freaked out! I was thinking, "Maybe I am just not meant to be a runner. Maybe I have had all the good miles I'm going to have....".

But it passes. And while you're waiting for that to happen, let me share something with you. Those bad, horrible, no-good runs...... they're valuable. You learn so much about yourself. You have to dig deep. You have to push through. You have to leap the mental hurdle of "I can't DO this." I think of this as mental training. You are developing mental toughness.

That's a good lesson to learn. Especially if you're going to do endurance races. Because there's times in those races where you have bad spells. Times when you have to talk yourself through a rough patch. Work on your mental fortitude. Having difficult training sessions is the perfect opportunity to practice that! You can figure out what works for you- what things to think about, what helps you in the arena of food or hydration, what things make it worse..... all of those things are great to know!

Another benefit to a bad run is the ability to overcome the urge to quit. Because let's be honest, there are times when you're running by yourself, and you know that YOU are the only one who will really know the difference...... that's when you find the little stubborn, hard-core, strong piece of grit and determination that says, keep going. You learn how to use positive self talk to get yourself through. Sometimes that means just finishing the run. Sometimes that means keeping a certain pace. Whatever it means, every time you overcome the urge to quit, you gain something. You test a part of yourself that you learn, over time, to trust. I know, for me, that "don't quit" part that exists inside of me has gotten stronger, and has helped me overcome challenges in many races.

...and guess what else? You use that same skill in life! Seriously. The same skills I have learned when I am pushing through a tough training run or a rough spot in a race have helped me many times when I'm up against a wall in real life. You learn to keep putting one foot in front of the other, not dwell on the bad, and keep pressing on!

...I promise you, any athlete who has done a number of races will tell you this- mental toughness counts. It gets you through. So it is a great thing to have the opportunity to practice this.

So the next time you have a bad training run, remember, you're still training. It's just that you're doing mental training. And remember how valuable that is, and be thankful for the chance to "flex" your mental muscles.

....and reward yourself with a nice bowl of ice cream afterward. That helps too.


  1. I am nervous about increasing my mileage for my ultra and I'm going to reread this blog at least once a week! Great post!

  2. You're going to do GREAT MEgan!!!!!!!! :)

  3. This is so true. Those days when you don't have it are the days your mind is trained to push through it. This is a good reminder. Thanks.

    I've really just not been in a working-out frame of mind. I think I need somebody to come and kick me in the pants.

  4. Too bad you don't live closer..... I am always looking for people to train with!! :)