The Rails to Trails half marathon is staring at me from Sunday. While physically, I know I’m set (provided my knee doesn’t give me any issues), and mentally I know I can rock it, I’m still surprised how easily excuses can creep into my mind, even days away from the race.

I’m been running for half of my life, and excuses still pop up and disrupt my running. It seems no matter how long you’ve been running, or how good you get, excuses can derail even the most dedicated runner.

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I’ve been having a really good training segment. The past two months since the Apple Dumplings half marathon, I’ve really focused on my training. Ratcheting up the miles, putting in my speedwork. Doing the legwork, weight training, recovery as if I were training for the race of my life. (Which I’m not; it’s just a small race.) In the grand scheme of things, this race doesn’t matter, but I want to push myself to see just what my body can do.

So why then, when I walked out the door this morning for an easy 3 mile run, I still had to fight the excuses in my head?

It’s raining.

It’s cold.

This will be miserable.

Perhaps I can run later this afternoon.

It’s really dark, maybe I should wait.

It’s really windy. I don’t like running in the wind.

What?! I’ve been getting up and running farther and in much worse conditions, and now that I’ve entered the taper I’m making excuses? It’s ridiculous.

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But it happens more than we’d like – giving in to our excuses, whether it’s running or diet or finances or whatever we’re trying to improve. Identifying the excuses that derail you, and coming up with  strong defense can help battle the excuses when they arise. These are the excuses that most often come up for me, and what I plan to do to defeat the excuses.

Excuses #1: I’m tired. Well, duh, Cate. You have kids. Are you just being a pansy, or is there something bigger going on?

  • When to run: Is it just a mental fatigue? Feeling crummy because of the weather/ lack of sunlight? For most of us, having kids keeps us in a perpetual state of fatigue. Unless your body is physically exhausted, I say get out the door; a run will energize you.
  • When you’re done: Up all night with a teething 6-month old? It’s okay to skip the run. Haven’t slept more than 6 hours the past week? Skip the run. Body burned out from burning the candle at both ends? Skip it. Sometimes your body genuinely needs the break, but be sure to pay attention to where the fatigue comes from.

Excuse #2: I’m hurting. A long run or a hard workout the day before can leave me feeling incredibly sore, but there’s a big difference between soreness and injury

  • When to run: A bit of muscle soreness shouldn’t stop you.Using the muscles will help break up the lactic acid, get things moving/flowing and can aid in relieving the soreness. Just keep it easy. Basically, Cate, don’t be a pansy.
  • When you’re done: Anything that is so intense it inhibits your ability to walk should take a rest day or two. Injury, of course, will require rest. Be sure to pay attention to your body’s signals. Don’t let a little niggle turn into a full-blown injury that will sideline you for weeks.

Excuse #3: I’m sick. It’s that time of year again. Colds, the flu, stomach bugs, and sinus issues are all over.

  • When to run: My rule of thumb is when its limited to the head (think cold, or sore throat) it’s usually okay to run. At the same time, you have to truly evaluate how you’re feeling. A stuffy nose is no big deal, but compounded with a fever is giant pain.
  • When you’re done: Any time your symptoms hit below the neck. Stomach or intestinal upset, lungs or chest tightness/ pain/ congestion, fevers, aches and flu symptoms all warrant a rest day (or two).

Excuse #5: The weather’s bad. Wind, rain, snow, cold, heat, etc. The weather is as unpredictable as a toddler’s moods.

  • When to run: This excuse is one of my biggest obstacles. I will make any excuse if the weather isn’t perfect. Because we all want that perfect day: 54 degrees, slightly cloudy, the slightest hint of a breeze, and no rain. You know, the day that comes maybe once or twice a year? If you wait for that perfect day, you’ll never get anything done, so brave the bad weather and get out the door.
  • When you’re done: If the weather is severe enough to be dangerous. Thunder and lightening, extreme heat/cold, or blizzards all justify a change of plan. Either run indoors, or switch rest days.

Excuse #6: I don’t wanna. We all have that little voice in our head that tries to convince us to give up. It’s our brain’s protection against perceived stressors.

  • When to run: Always. Shut that stupid little voice right up, Cate. Ask yourself, How bad do you want to reach your goals? If you’re not willing to put in the time and make the sacrifices, you must not want to meet your goals that badly.
  • When you’re done: Never. I refuse to let you give up, Cate.

No matter what the goal or task, we all have excuses that will attempt to derail our success. Don’t let them stop you!

Most of my excuses can be destroyed by simply telling myself, “This is good mental training.”

For example, on my 14 mile run a couple weeks ago, I faced some pretty nasty conditions: cold with a light sprinkle and windy. My training plan called for faster miles at 8-12. It was pretty brutal. As I turn the corner for my last mile-long stretch, not only was I running up and down hills, but I was also running into the wind. Every imaginable excuse ran through my head:

13 miles is good enough.

You got the workout done, just walk.

This wind is ridiculous, you can’t do it.

Look, half a mile left. You’re basically done, just stop. 

Everything in me wanted to stop, but I kept thinking about the race I have coming up. I knew that I was going to need a strong mental game to keep running when I feel like quitting. So I told myself, “This is good mental training. Just do it.”

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I finished the run. While the miles strengthened my legs, I think the bigger accomplishment was beating the excuse.

Don’t let those stupid excuses win; you got this.

 

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