Hitting the Wall: Tips for Finishing the Running Distance

24 Feb

You set out to run a mile. Not 3 laps, not 6 min. ONE mile. But your body (or is it your mind?) is fighting with your goal. You feel tired. You are breathing ragged, and starting to collapse. Every second is horrible. You want to quit.

DON’T!

I mean, unless you have a medical situation (check with your Dr. before engaging in physical activity).

Aside from that–you can do it. You’d be surprised at what your body can handle if you’re mind would just get on board. I mean, watch this survival show, “I Shouldn’t be Alive” at some point. You’ll see what humans can tolerate. You can handle this, and you should train your brain that pushing your limits isn’t quitting time.

But how to go about it?

In the long term, remember why you started running in the first place. You had your reasons. Now think about them. Quitting early gives you a fraction of the benefits too. One of my favorite quotes is “If you’re not going to go hard, why go at all?” which hits on the point I’m trying to make. You set a goal–now do the whole thing. Why bother if you’re not going to do it right?

Have your poster with all your motivational quotes that we talked about making before and hang it where you run (or look at it right before you leave). Refer to it often.

Now to the tricky stuff. Train. Your. Brain. Teach your mind to get comfortable with a little discomfort. Again, I’m not talking torn ACL and asthma attacks here. Regular tiredness and fatigue should be something you can work through.

Don’t fixate on the distance that’s left or your speed or other metrics if you wanna stop. It just turns tortuous and slow. Instead, think of your mantra, turn on your most hyped up power song, sing in your head. Distract!

Then, do some physical adjustments. Because when you get tired your form suffers and ironically, bad form takes MORE energy. You want to be as efficient as possible. Also, you know how you have to concentrate on having good form, so you hardly do it bc it’s so effortful? Now is the perfect time. We need to distract the mind from complaining and make our body more efficient. Go through a checklist and do it over and over. This also has the bonus of helping your running form in the long term!

Think about relaxing the cheecks on your face. They should be bouncing with every step.

Is your neck tight? Concentrate on relaxing it.

Relax your shoulders too.

Look up (more than you think you need to). It should feel exaggerated. When you get tired you start to hunch and crunch downward–very inefficient of a posture.

Your shoulders should be back so your lungs can be open. I attempt to push my lower back forward in order to open my lungs more. Your face feels up to the sky, now think about pointing your heart to the sky as well. Carebear stare, anyone?! This will also feel exaggerated, but it’s just normal form. I promise, your body feels crazy, but it’s actually just upright again.

Hardly anyone has good arms when running. It takes loads of concentration to get it right–perfect for this situation! Relax the hands. Stiff, tight fists make for stiff tight everything–not what you’re going for. Position of the hands doesn’t matter as much as relaxation. Seriously, you don’t want to be tight and stiff anywhere when you run. Next, make sure it’s your upper arm that’s creating the swing (not like a drumming motion of your forearms). Next, actually USE those arms to propel you. The energy between your arms and legs should be more equally divided. Most people are just forcing their lower body to do ALL the work. I think about my hand/arm going from my “holster” near the back of my waist to my shoulder-level in front. It’s a pretty big swing. And the elbows should be in, toward the body. Honestly, look up something online about good arms and follow it. Things get very technical, and everyone could use improvement.

Do your shoulders and pelvis line up? No twisting. Make sure they’re squared and facing forward. Knees too. Line everything up. When you’re tired, your legs might start doing wonky stuff, and this isn’t great for speed/endurance–but it can really cause long term damage.

Lengthen your stride. I think about letting my back foot trail more. Your steps should be long so you take less of them.

Play with stride length. I read somewhere that if short quick steps have you tired, that switching to long strides uses a different set of (less fatigued) muscles. I don’t know if it’s perfectly true, but at the very least it’s an additional thing to distract you from being tired. Try tiny, fast steps or alternate to long, slow strides.

Lastly, consider running faster. It sounds crazy when you’re tired and want to stop, but if you go faster you’ll finish the distance sooner! And often if you speed up you’re thinking so much about just staying upright, that you don’t have time to agonize.

Basically, distract your mind and focus on your form. You can do it-if I can do it, so can you!

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