On Facing Fears

I struggled whether or not to share this post. Not because I feel apologetic for writing about a negative experience, because I don’t. I believe in sharing highs and lows. I am just not someone who is used to showing vulnerability. It’s something that I want to get comfortable with. And since this is a post on facing fears I figured this is a good place as any to start…

I was watching Biggest Loser the other night and there was a scene in which Jillian Michaels said one of her favorite sayings is, "Feel the fear but do it anyway."

Then I came across a blog series on Fear Confessions. It felt like the universe was trying to tell me that...it's time to face my fears.

I fear a lot of things like mice, mountain lions, driving up a steep San Francisco hill with a stick shift. But these are not the fears that I want to face right now. Actually I probably never want to face those fears...

The fears that I am talking about is the fear of feeling uncomfortable. The one that holds me back from fulfilling my potential. That stunts my growth. I could get into this topic on a lot of different levels but for the purposes of this post I'm going to talk about this fear as it relates to running.

On Running

I mentioned in my Kaiser Half Recap post that I have a lot of mental hang-ups when it comes to running.

I can have really good weeks of running, and then all of a sudden not be able to run more than a mile without having to stop. It's like a sudden overwhelming feeling comes upon me where if I don't stop I feel like I'm going to die. It's essentially an anxiety attack.

Such was the case on this morning's run. I was feeling really good after Sunday's race. I thought that all the soreness in my body was gone (in hindsight it wasn’t). I had a good track workout on Tuesday and great cross-training workouts on Wednesday. Today I woke up feeling confident about today’s run, and for once, wasn't intimidated by it.

The prescribed workout was to warm up for 1-mile than alternate miles at tempo/easy pace until 6 miles. I started off feeling great but not even 3 miles into the run my mind just gave up. I hit a wall where I felt so mentally tired of pushing myself that I just couldn't do it anymore.

I switched my Garmin to display distance and decided to run by feel. But then I got so fidgety that I ended up turning it off. About a quarter mile later I felt good again so I turned it back on, only to feel like crap again another quarter mile later and ended up turning my Garmin off all together. I still ran the 6-miles, but it was hard and daunting, and not the prescribed workout.

I've been experiencing this off and on for a while. I can have periods of great running, and then wham – have a bad run like this one, which then leads to a period of struggles. Then I become fearful that every run is going to be a bad one and literally have to psych myself up just to get out the door.

Then there are other days when I just don't believe that I am capable of successfully completing a workout. I'll look at the prescribed workout and go into it thinking, "Yeah, there's no way I can do this." Sometimes it will turn out to be a really great run, but then I look down at my Garmin and think, "Oh my, I don't run this fast" and then slow down. Hence why I covered my Garmin with tape on Sunday. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy, I know. It makes me feel bad, like I'm holding myself back because I think I’ll hurt myself, even though I’m not. My coach says that it's some psycho-something reaction and is common for people who have their share of injuries.

I've recognized and acknowledged these fears for a while, but I just don't know how to overcome them.

I've read self-help books. I have tried repeating mantras but they feel like empty words to me. It's frustrating because I always feel a mental fortitude in all of the other kinds workouts that I do, just not always in running.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated on this topic. How do you overcome your fears and find your mental toughness?