You decided to pick up running, you think it's a great activity I can do without having a lot of things that I need. I only need shoes and I can head out the door and run. You get down the block and realize you're starting to feel a little tired. You're huffing and puffing a little bit.
And then by the end of the next block, you're done. So you're thinking yourself, “How the hell do I run without stopping?”
Well, I'm Jesse Funk, and today on this episode of Runners High, I'm going to show you how to do exactly that.
Before I can really tell you how to run without stopping, first, we have to figure out why are you stopping? Well, there's actually kind of an inner voice that's telling you to stop. If you pay attention, there's something in your mind that says, “Okay, this is it.” It has to do with some of the you know, physical factors, where you're huffing and puffing, you're out of shape, you just can't seem to deal with the discomfort.
But why is that? There's actually kind of a precedent, where researchers have said that there's this limiter inside our minds that tells us to stop. Why is it telling us to stop? So that we don't over exert ourselves and die, essentially. It's a voice that’s trying to preserve your life.
Now, it's a little overactive because, you know, there are plenty of people that go out and run even ultras. They've conditioned themselves to do so but they still have that voice. That's a secret, maybe the you aren't going to realize right off the bat.
Everybody, myself included, even though I've been running almost 20 years, and people well more experienced than me, still have that voice, that voice it says, “Okay, I want you to stop.” But we've learned a little bit more about how to command it.
As a little bit more evidence, we're actually the premier distance runners on the planet. I talked about this a little bit in my interview with Dr. Jason Carp on the Smart Athlete Podcast. But you can also read about it in the book “Born to Run” where we visit the Tarahumara, an indigenous tribe in Mexico. And their way of life is about running.
It's what, that book and that story kind of spurred the barefoot movement to a craze several years ago. But it illustrates more of the point that we are born to run. So, we are, you know, we do have the ability to overcome that voice in our head that says, stop.
So, how do we go about actually doing that? One of the things and probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think about how can we overcome that inner voice is simply, better conditioning. But it's a little bit of a chicken and egg problem, isn't it?
Where we want to be conditioned better, but we can't do that because we're dealing with that voice. My coaches through, you know, my years of training be it high school or college, often said to me, running is 90% mental, 10% physical. Numbers aside, it really kind of points out how important it is that you master your mind and become stronger.
One of my favorite quotes, and I'll paraphrase actually, rather than quote from one of my favorite coaches in college, we called him Mr. T. That's another story entirely. But Mr. T, said to me because I had overthinking problems. He said, “Do you know why stupid people are so much faster than you at running? Well because they don't think how much it hurts, they just run.” And that's kind of the crux of the whole thing.
When you're overthinking and you're allowing your mind, that automatic mind to overcome what you're doing and you're thinking about it too much, then you're going to allow yourself to succumb to that voice that says stop.
So, you might be wondering to yourself, Jesse, what's sort of freakin’ practical advice like what do I actually do to deal with this dumb voice in my head, that won't go away? Well, like I said, it's not going anywhere so you do need a strategy to deal with it. In my opinion, the best way to go about that is actually meditation. Meditation is not a cure all. It doesn't help with absolutely everything, but we're dealing with a problem of the mind, created in the mind that stopping what you want to do physically.
The kind of meditation I would suggest, is simply a sitting and observing kind of meditation. It’s where you're growing the strength in your mind, to be able to sit and observe the processes of what's going on. You sit and observe your breath. That's it. There's nothing more to it than that. It’s the ability to learn how to detach. And you have this kind of moment where you are observing what your mind is doing. You see your breath, you know, within your mind's eye.
And then you also see these thoughts arising and you let them go, and you see them and you let them go. And it’s strengthening this kind of muscles, so to speak, to detach yourself from some of the processes that go on within your mind, while also using your mind to observe those things. That helps you become a better runner and not stop while you're running.
Now, that sounds pretty esoteric. But I found that running itself can actually be a meditation. When you find yourself, I want to say, in the zone, all those thoughts subside away, you become motion itself. And that state, in my opinion, is easier to achieve when you have a stronger muscle of the mind and your allow yourself to let those thoughts go and not be consumed by them. The practicality of it is you take that strength from the meditation, and you bring it into your running practice.
And you can do this just as running if you want to. But you take it into your running practice, start with maybe a long run, where you're not going to be as uncomfortable, something very easy paced; observe your breathing, observe how your muscles feel. Don't become attached to the discomfort.
Note and say, I am discomfort -- you know I am uncomfortable. Dis-comfortable. I'm just making up words, don't mind me. I am uncomfortable but I can deal with it. It's just something that's happening.
In this kind of process, we’ll be a little convoluted to start. Because you're going to be thinking and doing what I did in college, overthinking. But from taking that you eventually move on to the next step where you aren't consciously thinking about it so much anymore. This is actually the heart of pacing.
When you observe your breathing, you observe the discomfort in your legs. You know aerobically what's going on, how hard you're breathing, you know, the burning in your legs, what kind of level that is, what’s your cadence, what’s that rhythm that you're panning out, how far your legs pushing off the ground, you know, what's your stride length, and all of those combined together to create what we say is the feeling of pacing. It's a long progression.
Don't expect to do this overnight. But the way that you run longer without stopping is to observe your mind, observe that voice that says I don't want to run anymore, and learn how to detach yourself from it so that you can get better and better and better.
Now, that also goes to saying that you can't just go out and run a half marathon from your couch. But on the mental side it’s a big, big portion of what you need. Stay tuned for other videos, subscribe to the channel. I'll talk all about the physical side of what you need to do to get to be a better runner. But remember, that mental side is just as important as the physical side. Without your mind you are not going to go where you want to go. I'll see you next time on the next episode of Runners High.