The following article is a guest blog by one of our coached athletes, ultra runner Tom Crossland. I love it :)
This week has been one of those frustrating weeks that every runner or athlete has, I have had a cold and so have only been out for two training runs during the week out of the planned six, this has got me thinking about recovery, acceptance and self compassion.
Everyone knows that recovery is important. Coaches (thanks Coach Rob Wilby @wilbyrob) continually tell us how it is vital that we listen to our body and take time to rest when our body needs it, especially when we are sick, so why is it that when we ‘listen to our bodies’ and take the time to recover it causes me so much anxiety and worry. I think it is because we, as athletes, do not practice acceptance or self compassion enough. We are always striving to be ‘better’ and push the limits.
It would seem to me that acceptance is a key skill that ultra endurance athletes need to cultivate. There will be times during training and racing when things are not going your way and it is not useful to beat yourself up about this, it is what it is. At time like this I often think about what the Dalai Lama says about worrying.
“If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it's not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.”
In essence I think he is talking about the dialect that exists between action and acceptance.
When training, if I am feeling tired or like I just want the end of the run to come, if its windy and raining, or freezing cold. There seems no purpose in worrying or getting angry with yourself, you are where you are on that day at that time. Take stock, is there anything you can do to change the situation. If you are tired and have not eaten for a while have something to eat. If you are cold and have spare clothes put them on. Are you in too much pain and so should finish the session?
If you are committed to finishing the session and there is nothing you can do to change the current situation, just accept what is happening and keep moving. There is no utility in being angry with the weather or being fed up that today you are ‘off pace’; these things happen just keep moving and accept. I find it useful to then be mindful about my surroundings or my activity.
I think that to cultivate acceptance we need to have self-compassion. I have often thought about how much tougher we are when giving ourselves advice than when giving others advice. If a fellow athlete was talking about how they had a slower than planned workout or had to take an extra rest day, we would all say that it is not a big deal, that some days it just isn’t meant to be, that it is important to rest. And yet if that was our internal voice talking to ourselves, it is likely, there would be self condemnation and self doubt.
At these times I think it is useful to think about how you would talk to other people, would you be as hard on them and then try to change the internal voice to one of acceptance and self-compassion. Think about the things you did well and don’t get hung up on the less good things.