True story: I get nervous for track workouts.
The thought of them turns my stomach in knots before I even lace up my sneakers. I try to mitigate this dread by reframing my focus, by reciting mantras and finding my happy place. But at the heart of it all is this fear that I won’t be able to do the workout. That I will fail. And then my overactive brain can make turn that failure, the failure to say run 800 meters in a certain time, into an entire referendum on my existence and worthiness as a human being. I know, I know. It doesn’t make much sense. And there are dozens of little steps my mind takes to go from missing my time in the 800 to colossal failure as a person. You’d have to be in my mind to understand that leap and trust me, that’s an exercise you don’t want to be part of.
This morning I went to the track trying to shake off the fear. On my left hand I had written down the splits I needed to hit in order to complete my intervals on time. The workout called for six intervals. On the first four I took off and was just a second or two faster through the first two time checks. But by the time I hit stop at the end of the interval I was five seconds faster, bent over, grabbing my knees and praying that I didn’t throw up.
On the one hand, this was a good sign. I was running faster than I needed. I was developing a finishing kick. I was battling through the discomfort of the interval.
On the other hand, I was running too hard. I didn’t need to run five seconds faster. In fact some well-seasoned coaches would tell you that it’s not necessarily admirable to run your track workouts too fast.
Feeling a bit spent, I had two more intervals to do. So I decided to experiment. I would check my time along the way, but I would focus on maintaining a steady pace. I would force myself to slow down a bit. And you know what happened? I hit the last two intervals perfectly. I mean spot on. Every. Single. Checkpoint.
As I jogged through my cool down I replayed my workout. The first four intervals I was running spot on until the final 200 meters. That’s when I started to panic. That’s when I thought “Oh no, I was a second slow!” or “Pick it up! Pick it up! Pick it up!” I was afraid I would fail. I was hedging my bets that I would slow down and countered that by being too aggressive. On the last two intervals, I trusted myself and I trusted my pacing. “Right on pace! Right on pace! Keep it here!” I chose not to panic. I chose not to worry about failure. And each time I trusted myself, I finished exactly where I needed to be.
Those faster times are great and proof that I can run them. But the real value in today’s workout came in the lesson of trust. Most of the time, I have not fallen behind. Most of the time, I’m not off pace. It’s just a story I’m making up to myself. It’s just a fear gremlin having his say in my head. If I take a moment to look at back at my plan and trust myself, I will find myself in a good place, and likely a better place than I had even imagined.
Some days it’s not about pushing yourself to the limit. Some days, it’s about trusting the power you already possess.