Imagery is key

I decided to purchase a new pair of trainers the other week. After my decision to not take part in the Warwick half marathon and hitting my 5 mile barrier I realised that the shoes I was currently sporting needed to be retired. After 4 faithful years which included two trips in the River Great Ouse (one boat capsize and one slide down the bank), numerous times left out in the rain while training on the river and a year of attempting to run, I felt they deserved a break.

While waiting for the trainers to arrive I used my ‘day to day’ trainers for a run. Slightly bigger and very strange to wear, I found myself completing a PB of 6 miles. Although the nausea I experienced afterwards was a lot worse than anything I ever felt when I used to row. Even the Vets HORR didn’t leave me feeling that bad!

When the new trainers arrived, I took to them instantly. Breaking them in and posting a comfortable (in many ways!) 6 mile run.

Now, the area I run usually is very hilly. It’s the edge of the Chilterns and the scenery is amazing. But it’s also offered me the chance to create my biggest asset. The imagery I require to keep myself motivated.

Running, like everything in my life is at risk when I get bored. I like a bit of spice, variety, anything to keep my mind (and body) on its toes. But when it comes to running, I have been struggling. My mind occupied with every muscle twinge and footfall.

During that 6 miler though, I suddenly thought back to PT session I had a few weeks ago. I was struggling, tired and losing focus. My PT started counting down the last 4 in the set and it clicked. I imagined I was in a boat and completing the last 250m of a regatta. I realised if I was ever going to make my goal of completing a marathon this year a reality, I had to draw on the best experience I have of pushing myself to the limit.

So it started. On the flat I would ‘push for 10’. Imaging I was in my single, on a warm Thursday evening, rowing down the Ouse at St Neots. With a fellow rower alongside me and every now and then ‘leap frogging’ to make sure we did some work.

Uphill was the start of a head race. Pushing off the footplate (pavement), getting into a rhythm and feeling my legs start to work.

Downhill, the recovery of the slide. A chance to catch my breath. Ok, you get longer to recover running downhill than you do at R32, but you get the idea.

The main thing is that I imagine I am in a crew when I start to struggle. I hear and see those I used to push through that pain barrier with. I know how far I can push myself. The winter Ergo sessions taught me that and I’ve not gone anywhere near that yet.

Although it may sound crazy, it’s working. The best bit? Employing this tactic, changing my diet (and in-training snacks) have turned my training around. I posted a PB of 8 miles today. Yes, my legs and feet ache, but I finished feeling good. Not exhausted, bright red and breathless, which has been the result of so many training sessions until now.

I don’t know how long this will work for me, but for now, in my head, each run will be a rowing outing. Just without the possibility of ending up in a river. Unless I lose my footing and am extremely unlucky.

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