What to do when running gets hard? I’m not talking about the 20 mile mark in a marathon or the last 100m of an 800. I’m referring to your garden variety easy run which no longer feels easy. You ache, a slow pace takes way too much effort and you can’t find any rhythm to save your life.
Stopping or quitting are options of course, except you know from experience that starting up again after a layoff is often more painful than to just soldier on….especially as we get older.
From the Alexander Technique perspective, we talk about sticking with the means whereby…focusing on the small steps needed to reach our goal rather than on the goal itself. This has a nice Zen-like quality to it. Just put one bloody foot in front of the other and stop the whining!! Sounds simple enough except for the aches, pains and lack of rhythm mentioned earlier…plus the fact that the mind starts to look for ways out of this self imposed Armageddon…take a day off, give yourself a break you’re under a lot of stress, the weather,…and my personal favorite…”at your age…”
As the emotional pressure to stop mounts, sometimes there’s a little voice, barely a whisper that you have to strain to hear that says something like “if you stop, it will be soooo much harder to start up again…and then where will you be?” Sitting on your sagging butt in front of the TV watching football eating Cheesies…you ready for that?” Maybe not.
One thing I’ve come to realize after 40 years of running is that no matter how blocked and stuck I feel, there is ALWAYS a way forward. ALWAYS.
So what is the answer this time, I ask myself. None of my usual goto’s had worked. I tried more stretching, saw the physical therapist, added a bit of strength work, cut out the pressure of race preparation, focused on the rhythm of my breathing, focused on the rhythm of my arms…and it still felt too hard.
Suddenly an image flashed through my thoughts…I pictured a ‘raid’ (that’s the term to describe a river of foraging army ants) of army ants marching slowly but relentlessly toward their target. I became both a member of the raid and it’s target!! Sounds weird but the thought of the ants making forward progress towards me got me out of wishing that the run was over because when it was over…SO WAS I !! At the same time there was a sense of accomplishment as I passed familiar landmarks at my ant like pace…we were making progress…getting closer, step by step….!
Now as ludicrous as that sounds, something in me changed and I found the sense of rhythm that had been sorely absent. As the urgent need to get to the finish line faded away I became more at ease with the journey and things got a little easier physically and so much easier emotionally. I had found a way forward, once again.
If you find yourself in a rut rather than a grove, contact me or a qualified Art of Running Instructor to get some help getting back on track.