Anxiety Comes A Knockin’

Source: Asics postcard

Something I have struggled with during my training cycles (minus the ultra) has been the anxiety I feel before a tempo or speed workout. My inner monologue goes a little something like this:

A few hours before – “Ugh, intervals. You know you are never going to hit your goal pace, right? And if you do, it will be  SO PAINFUL. It’s gonna get ugly.” *shakes head and murmurs* “mmm-mmm”

An hour before – “Seriously, why do I do this to myself?? Why don’t I just go out and run and not worry about the time? Enjoy the fresh air and the trees and feel one with the earth and all that crap! Who cares if I run my best marathon? Isn’t it more about just getting out there and finishing? And who invited the butterflies? This is so dumb! Get a grip!”

A few minutes before, as I am tying my laces – “This is the worst plan ever. Let’s just sit on the couch. Why am I so nervous?? No one cares how this goes! There is not one single soul that gives a shit!”

A few minutes in – “Ok, this is not so bad. Look, you are already halfway through your warm-up. No matter what happens, it will be over soon. Just give it what you got and we won’t be disappointed”

A few intervals in – “Wow, these are better than I thought they would be! Why was I worried, this is fuuuuuunnn!” *smiling and air drumming along to songs*

Final interval – “Last one!!!!Crank it lady, leave it all out here!” *turns up iPod, sings along in head “YOU GOT MY LOVE TO LEAN ON DARLING, THAT’S WHAT’S UP!”

A few minutes after, ecstatically checking off the day’s workout on the fridge calendar – “Man, I love this! I feel amazing, I will totally kick ass! Where are the bad guys, I am like freakin’ Wonder Woman over here! Nothing’s gonna stop this machine!!Yahhhhooooo!!!”

I repeat this roughly two times a week for It never gets easier, it’s as if the knowledge that once I get out there I will be totally fine has to be relearned every time. I never feel less nervous -if anything, it gets worse over the course of the cycle because the workouts get more challenging and I worry even more about hitting my splits. I am like some sort of amnesiac runner. The only progress I have made on this front is that I actually still go for the run. It was feelings exactly like these that prevented me from running my senior year in high school. My older, wiser self now knows that if I ignore them and press on I will be rewarded with the double bliss whammy of a runner’s high and the relief that it is over. But I would still like to avoid the whole drama beforehand, it’s exhausting!

So asking for some help here –

Do you experience running anxiety?

How do you banish the demons?

Full Moon Run on the OC Boards next Saturday, September 29th!! Meet at 730p at 18th Street!


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9 responses to “Anxiety Comes A Knockin’

  1. A resounding YES! Oh my!

    Oddly enough, I actually look forward to tempo and pace-work days and have no problem getting out the door. It’s what typically occurs during my warm-up and then the first part of the actual workout that gets me crazy anxious. Kash, my warm-up mile moves as slow as that little turtle that I found yesterday. It’s so slow that it severely affects my average pace for the entire workout when all is said and done. LOL! If I try to warm-up much faster, I will undoubtedly blow my entire run up (another reason why I’m not a big fan of group runs). So, here I am… warming up… slower than drool… inserting a few accelerations to force some pace and wondering how in the world I’m going to get from warm-up pace to where I need to be (which will sometimes differ by 3:30)! THIS is when my anxiety really kicks in. I mean, I LOVE the fast stuff and without a doubt, I’m a short-course girl once I get rolling, but my gawd the physical jump to “fast” is so mental for me!

    My first mile into the actual workout usually consists of me trying to revise the remainder of the workout, so that I can better wrap my mind around it. Sometimes I cave in and “go” with the revised plan (especially when I’m really feeling the heat like I did last week) and then other days (like today), I feel like Supergirl and the workout rolls along smoothly. I never can tell what type of workout it will be.

    Like you, it also tends to get worse for me as the training cycle moves along b/c the heat tends to be a pretty significant limiter in Florida up until the beginning of October. So, if I’m doing a November race (like this year), I do a lot of summer/early fall training by RPE and HR and then “hope” that it translates to the appropriate pace whenever we get a good spell of weather. That’s a whole lot of finger crossing and a whole lot of anxiety. ;p

    On the bright side, unless I do a really good warm-up (like before a 5k or 10k), I have a built-in pace governor. In the half-marathon or marathon (two races in which I do no warm-up other than dynamic stretching), there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that I’ll go out too fast on the first mile. I might go too fast on the 3rd or 4th mile, but the first mile… no way. ;p

    Banish the demons? I haven’t a clue, girl. I just try to roll with it as best as I can. I think the common denominator (the reason why we soldier on despite the nerves) is drive. I don’t think you can “teach” drive. It’s either in a person or it’s not. Some races/training days stink like a skunk, some smell like roses. A little bird once told me that if they were all perfect, what would we have to work for? ;p

    • Thanks for your thoughtful response! I too never have to worry about going out to fast – I naturally negative split. Even splits are something I am trying to work on more on this race my perfect MP is already challenging enough – I don’t need to add running even faster than that in late miles to make up for slow initial ones! We shall see how that goes, it’s a real experiment of one over here!

  2. Bel

    So far, I get like this if I skip too many days in a row. I go into it thinking – nay, KNOWING – that I’m not going to be able to run as far or as fast as I did the last time. I get scared that I somehow FORGOT how to run or that my body isn’t capable of it. And the more time that passes between runs, the more I feel like saying, “Forget it, you’ll have to start all over again anyway”.

    So, you’re saying that never stops then?…

  3. Linda Kisiel

    Yes, before each race. But wow, before my half started, I had butterflies the size of elephants. As soon as we got to the line, (after using the port a potty), I felt the love and comradeship of the other runners. Also, my very wise daughter, Chris, said. “You’ve done everything you can, now just go do it.” Great advice, huh? I also repeat my mantra. “You got this.”

  4. As usual, I can’t relate to the running aspect but that doesn’t seem to stop me from commenting. I just like to change running to dancing or yoga or whatever else I am into at the time. In this case we are going to go with yoga.

    After several months of taking classes and talking with one of my teachers I came to the conclusion that I needed to take a more advanced class. Enter the butterflies. Suddenly I was convinced that my muscles had lost all of their flexibility, that my body forgot how to balance, that I forgot all the poses, my alignment, by breathing…all of it. The days leading up the class, the hours leading up to it, I all but talked myself out of going. The only reason that I went was that I didn’t want to disappoint the teacher that I had talked to about it. She had worked with me over almost a year and I felt like if I didn’t go it meant that I didn’t have faith in the work that she had done. So I went.

    It was hard but not impossible. And I loved it!! So..yes, butterflies still happen. I get through them by trusting my teachers. If they suggest that I try something new I trust that they are encouraging me because they think I can do it. Sometimes I will have more faith in them than I do in myself at the beginning of a class – by the end of the class I have the knowledge that I can do it.

    • I hope you never stop commenting! Also, my stats page says you are my number 1 commenter, so that makes me even happier that you keep writing 🙂 I agree, the faith that other people can have in you really helps. That was one of the few things that got me through the rough patches in the ultra training, esp in miserable March. Thanks again for that, by the way 🙂

  5. Pingback: Marathon Training Recap – Weeks 5-8 | Cape Island Runners

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