Monday, July 13, 2009

The Temptation of a Walk Break

Let me first disclaimer that I'm a big fan of long distance walking (how I got started) and long distance run/walk intervals (I was a previous Galloway-er). I've been trying to get faster and part of that for me is cutting out walk breaks. I'm not advocating that everyone should be out there cutting out walk breaks.

After having someone coach me the last few weeks to avoid the temptation of taking a walk break, I had a nice change on Sunday when I ran with new and old friends: Paula, Steve, Wendy, and Rod. Wendy and Rod were much faster than me. Paula was down with whatever because she and I had done a hard 6.2 (10K) training run the day before. Steve is the newest runner in the group and a couple weeks ago had done his first 5 mile run. He was around a 11:30 to 12:00 runner. He doesn't really want or need to be taking walk breaks but was doing it each week.

After 2 miles out at 11:24 and 11:12 pace, we turned around to go back. Steve started to walk. I told the other three to go ahead and I worked with him the next two miles to not walk. I had a chance to use some of my anecdotes and thoughts to keep him motivated. Today's post is about my thoughts about the dreaded walk break.

It's funny. There's nothing in us that should make us want to run 4...or 9...or 13.1...or 26.2 miles.... UNLESS WE ARE BEING CHASED. There's nothing in our evolution that turned our genetics into thinking it's natural that we should be out running long distance. And I think our brains know that. Your brain has a way of telling you so strongly after a few miles, "What are you doing? There's no one chasing us. Why are we doing this again? Let's stop. Or at least take a break... You're going to get us killed!"

I think part of training is learning to ignore that little voice - within reason. As someone cutting out walk breaks now, I always go through a self-check once a mile or so once my brain reaches that point that it's screaming to walk.
1) "How's my heart?" Is it beating too fast? too hard?
2) "How is my breathing?" Can I catch a breath? Am I breathing too hard? Too shallow? Do I feel like I'm getting enough oxygen?
3) "Is anything ACTUALLY hurt?" Harder one to answer because your legs are tired, something might be a little sore. But our gut knows the answer. Is something actually wrong? Am I actually in pain?

If the answers to all three of these have the cumulative of answer of "I'm okay", then I have no reason to walk. I know it's just my brain playing tricks on me.

Meanwhile, if the answer is "I'm not okay", for gosh sake's listen to your body! It's trying to tell you something and it will not be ignored. You can ignore it for a month or so perhaps before it will finally make itself heard, sometimes as a "You have a stress fracture" statement from a doctor!


When it comes to running, part of the fun of the sport for me is the absolute mental challenge. If your mental game is sound, you can do great things, and sometimes outperform your current training or ability. But if you're faltering in your mental game, you can come to a screeching halt.

Have you had a conversation with the little voice in your head lately during a run? Maybe you should!

Happy running!

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