Syncing Your Mind and Body

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My mind and body are at odds right now.  My mind is convinced I can ran at a certain pace.  Paces that I was running in the spring. Mile repeats? 6-6:15.  Tempo runs? 6:30-6:45. I’ve run those paces before. But my body hasn’t gotten the memo yet.  Apparently it’s not ready to get on the speed train.

Each time I receive a workout from my coach – which includes mileage and pace – my first thought has been that the paces seem a bit SLOW.  Example: Mile repeats this week. Goal pace 6:50 -> 6:45.  I was up to 5x mile repeats in the spring. The last workout I ran them all between 6:05-6:15. So my coach has me running them over 30 seconds slower.  6:45 is a slower pace than what I was averaging on my tempo days in April.  Slower than I did a 10 mile steady state run in the spring. (**I know paces on the treadmill are easier to hit than outside but I still managed 10 consecutive miles at well under a 7 min pace**)

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I do the said workout (at the “slow” pace my coach prescribes) and my legs are just not turning over the way I am used to them too.  A 6:45 pace feels HARD.  Like really hard. Like running a sub-6 minute mile hard.

I’m not writing this post to whine about why I’m not faster. Or to have comments telling me that I am fast.  Speed is relative.  I’m not saying I’m slow. But I am running slower than what I am used to running. And what I know I can run. And I’m definitely slower than a lot of speedy female runners I know, including some who have the PR I am shooting for. I follow a handful of females who are all shooting for marathon PRs around 3:10-3:15.  Their mile repeats and tempo runs blow mine out of the water. Kind of disheartening to feel so far removed from their abilities.

I think we have all been there at some point in our lives.  Maybe you were injured for a few weeks.  Maybe you were blessed with a child. Maybe you took some time off running for school.  Point is, after that hiatus from running, your mind was probably a bit ahead of your body. Your mind says run x:xx pace and your body throws up the red flag.

There are also times when the opposite may be the case. Maybe you don’t believe enough in your ability to aim a bit higher or shoot for a faster split. Or you have a preconceived idea of a time you can’t possibly run and so you subconsciously slow down or don’t push as hard. I’ve talked a lot about my inability to believe in my goals.

The only way to race to your full potential is to marry your mind and your body.  Your mind can’t believe you can run 6:30 miles for the marathon when in reality your body is only able to run 8 min miles.  You will crash and burn after a few miles and you will end up running WAY slower than 8 min miles for the remainder of the race. And if your mind is holding your body back, you will start {way} too slow and not be able to completely make up the time at the end.

My mind and body were in unison for the NYC Half in March. My goal was sub-1:32. I ran 1:32:23.  My splits were even steven and I felt strong and in control from start to finish.

nyc half

They were NOT in unison for the NJ Marathon.  I think I may have been a bit optimistic with my goal time and then didn’t take into account the headwind. Pushed too hard to start (sub-1:35 through the half) and paid for it with a DNF.

nj marathon

That’s where I am at with running right now.  I’m trying to be patient and give my body the time it needs to get used to running those paces again. Training for the Ironman put me in the best shape of my life – but not necessarily the best running shape. Does that make sense?  The one positive, however, is that I feel STRONG on my long runs.  Running 14, 16 miles at a 7:40 pace feels somewhat easy to me right now. Dorothy was calming me down yesterday. She reminded me that my body is more geared towards endurance at the moment.  Which potentially could bode well for the marathon that is just 2 months away. So while I may not be able to sustain a 7 min pace for more than a 4-5 miles, running a 7:20-7:25 pace for 26.2 miles might be totally feasible.

However, marathon goals will be decided upon as the time gets closer. Would I love to shoot for sub-3:10 again? HECK YES. But right now, I don’t feel that it is a feasible goal. I think my mind believes I can but my body is not there. Yet.

How do you decide goals?

Has your body lagged behind what your mind believed was feasible?

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    20 thoughts on “Syncing Your Mind and Body

    1. Time out- YOU are fast. Oh man, if I let myself get down every time I read one of YOUR posts. I am so darn slow compared to you and a lot of others out there right now. I have to remind myself on a daily basis that I’m so lucky to just be able to run pain free and that it doesn’t matter if I’m slower (WAY SLOWER) than I used to be. Oh how I love you. Can you please email me about RW Half and about your coach? I must know. He he.
      STUFT Mama recently posted..Stepping Up the Runs, Crafts and Coconut ChipsMy Profile

    2. I totally know where you’re coming from. I think marathon training is a tough beast because all you want to do is prove that you can run faster. Speed workouts are like little confidence boosts that we unfortunately don’t get that often because we’re working on stamina and endurance. I’m working on “marrying my mind and body” now before Grand Rapids and it’s proving more difficult than I thought it would be. Hope we both get our mojo back and let the legs find a rhythm soon!
      Jenny recently posted..Grand Rapids Training 2013: 6 Weeks OutMy Profile

    3. That makes a lot of sense. And I like Dorothy’s advice- you are in an awesome place for a marathon! The endurance runs are my weakness- I’ve been hitting my track and tempo paces, but struggling to pick it up in a long run. You were sailing through your 17 miler this weekend- awesome! But I also hear you- it’s discouraging when you want to nail those track paces and your body just isn’t letting you. It’s still in you, I know you’ll be back to those paces before long. :)
      Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted..Fall 5 and 10 September Recap and WinnersMy Profile

    4. Wonderful post! This spring I took some time off from running due to injury and it was so difficult not to compare my post-injury running to what I had been doing pre-injury. Reading this was a great reminder to check in with both my body and my mind when setting goals and training.
      Noelle @ NoelleRuns recently posted..16 MilesMy Profile

    5. I’m totally with you on the mind-body disconnection. Sometimes I even have just a mind-mind disconnection. Page (Twenty Six & Then Some) has done a few posts on recovery after Ironman and has said that recovery after your first is normally around 6-8 weeks. It’s normal to be struggling a bit so don’t beat your too hard for it. Just keep up the work and things will start to come together. And don’t forget about recovery!
      Shannon @ Mon Amour recently posted..Diamondman Sprint Triathlon Race ReportMy Profile

    6. I love this post Michele and so appreciate your honesty and insight. I’ve definitely experienced both – expecting my body to run at a faster pace than it was willing and surprising myself with a faster pace than I gave myself credit for. I know that your body and mind will sync up – you work so hard for this and you have so much trust and faith. xox
      Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..Run to Fight HungerMy Profile

    7. I think adjusting expectations and goals is a really hard thing that I have been struggling with a ton. I think it is totally awesome and fine to have that 3:10 goal and you should shoot for but at the same time learn from your runs and understand what your body can do right now whichi s different than last season or next. I say all this and I am trying to take that to heart I would love to sub 4 at my marathon, and I probably could have pre-baby but I am not sure I am there at this point…

    8. This is exactly what I am experiencing at the moment too. I am trying to be patient right now with my body – but it’s so frustrating!! I’m almost 4 months postpartum and while I FEEL strong and my brain WANTS to push – but my is all “screw that!”

      I KNOW that I will feel more comfortable running and have more energy when I’m done breastfeeding (I’m sure you will too!), but that’s not going to be for a while – so instead I am trying to focus on small goals (like running more than 6 miles). Truthfully, I’m still just happy I can run again – but every now and then that competitive part of me shines through.
      Michelle recently posted..Why New Runners Inspire MeMy Profile

    9. For me personally it took two years post baby to be myself, and have all of my hormones go back to normal. That in combination with the fact that you have been training for an ironman (much slower paces) I am no expert, but I do know you’ll get that speed back, and it sounds like you know exactly what you need to do to get it. I agree, sinking your mind and body is one of the toughest things to do… I have crashed in many races because of that very thing. xo
      Lisa @ RunWiki recently posted..Hood to Coast – a Paradox of SportMy Profile

    10. I know how you feel! I am currently trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon in the spring of 2014. I have had comments of how long that is away, but the thing is my body isn’t ready. I have over an hour to cut off my last marathon time and if I want to get to where I need to be WITHOUT injury I need to listen to my body and take it careful. I am working on speed now and while I have a ways to go I can already see improvement. I think you have to realize that your body will adapt but you have to realize what is feasible and I knew my body would not be ready for a fall marathon to be where I want to be and that is OK.
      Sara @ LovingOnTheRun recently posted..Vega Thrive Kitchen Recipe: Pear-licious Green DrinkMy Profile

    11. Oh Michele…I am with Dorothy on this one!!! I think it will be better for you.Don’t be down about it…you are definitely more endurance fit right now…but for 26.2 that is good!!!!!
      This is the first time I have really followed a pace chart/training program for a marathon and according to my pace chart a 16 mile run at a 7:40 pace is spot on as a steady state long run for a 3:10 marathon!…and that that is easy for you is even better!!!!
      I don’t know how I really pick my goals…I just go for something that based on what I am running would be hard but could be attainable on a great day. I do prepare myself though…meaning I set the goal, but I don’t make it my everything. I will work really hard and do my best, but if I don’t get it…thats okay too. Not that it won’t be disappointing but I work hard on keeping perspective :)
      I hope your run goes well tomorrow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      My goal is 3:15 and sometimes you times blow me out of the water :)!
      Jen @ milesandblessings recently posted..The Sunshine Award!My Profile

    12. I feel you pain – when I switched from triathlons back to just running it took a while to get my running back to where it was pre-triathlon (I was a pure runner before taking up triathlons). The good thing is your endurance is set and now you can just focus on getting your speed back. You can make big gains in two months – your body will catch up to your mind!
      Andrea @ The Fit Scoop recently posted..Week 30: I’m glad I’m not an elephantMy Profile

    13. I decide my goals depending on the situation and the kind of race. I race a lot and I had to learn the hard way that you cannot PR every time. So for my last race (Team Champs-5M race in Central Park on Aug 3rd) I told myself: “just do your best but don’t go there with a specific goal.” The only thing I aimed for was anything under 8:30. I ended up running at 8:09 without doing anything out of the extraordinary. I couldn’t believe it!!! That gave me the extra confidence that I needed and my next goal is to break 8 during my 4-mile race tomorrow… fingers crossed!
      MartinaNYC@runtomakeadifference recently posted..Party time and I almost quit runningMy Profile

    14. Great post! I think synchronizing the mind and body are one of the hardest parts of racing. Especially when the mind wants to go faster than the body can handle. I ran into this challenge at my 70.3 this weekend. My head wanted to run, and my body simply couldn’t meet the challenge. I wish I had some great insights into how to deal with the dilema, but I don’t. I think solving this is the holy grail of racing success.

      Good Luck next weekend!!
      wornoutsoles recently posted..Big George 70.3 Race ReportMy Profile