Learning a bit about my own psychology

Rather than listening to Laura I use a different app that I programme with all the intervals & also the pace I want to run each at. The app then chivvies me along with 'faster', 'steady', 'slower' as required to meet my planned pace. To date, through pure luck I had managed to choose paces that I could do. In fact I always beat them and I loved the soft voice saying 'twelve seconds ahead' or whatever every couple of minutes. It really spurred me on - both to run faster when I could (flat, downhill) and not to worry about the overall time when she told me 'faster' as I puffed my way up a slight hill.

Today I got the paces wrong. Overconfident & buoyed up by my successful first 20 min run 2 days ago and the 4:49 & 4:43 paces for the 2x 8 minute runs 2 days before that I thought I would give myself a real challenge and set W6R1 up as 5 mins @ 4:20 / 8 mins @ 4:30 / 5 mins @ 4:20.

What a mistake. I knew within less than a minute of starting the first interval (and even before hearing 'faster') that I was struggling and the app confirmed that at the end of the interval - 8 seconds slow. After the 3 minute break (which did not seem overly long this time) I set off on the 8 minute section but did not feel good. The app lady encouraged me every minute or so to achieve what I had foolishly told her I planned to do - 'faster', 'faster' - but I just didn't seem to have it in me. I plodded on and the app lady politely told me my pace was 4:51 for the 8 minutes - over 30 seconds per km slower than I had planned.

I slouched on for the 3 minutes rest period thinking negative thoughts - if I find long runs boring but cannot actually improve my short run pace what is the point? - that sort of thing. Then I set off on the 3rd running interval but with zero motivation, looking down at my feet, mouth dry and basically ignoring the app lady - 'faster', 'faster'. There was no sprint finish and the app lady duly informed me that I was 41 seconds off my set pace for that final 5 minutes. 41 seconds!!! I let myself in the house, plonked myself down & saved the run with 'not good' as a comment. I felt really despondent.

Once I had recovered and showered I sat down to look at the stats for the run again. Hmmm, I had actually done 3.77km in the 18 mins of running (ie 4:46 pace average). Take out the last, appalling 5 minute run (when I had basically given up) and the average becomes 4:41 so not so bad after all. So why had I felt so despondent when I was out there? I think I can learn a few things from this;

1. More haste, less speed - if you try to go off too fast at the start you will definitely pay for it later (and possibly even immediately),

2. 'Slower' and 'twelve seconds ahead' are fantastically motivating and lead to even greater exertion while 'faster' and 'twelve seconds behind' actually have the opposite effect.

Or to put it another way, if you set goals you can realistically reach or exceed you are much more likely to actually reach or exceed them. Sadly it has taken me 53 years to learn this.

47 Replies

  • I think that is a lesson we all struggle to learn. I always set unrealistic goals. One day I'll learn. My first aim was a hill! My second was to get over 2 miles. My next is when I graduate, to get a 5K under 30 mins. My PB last time was 34 mind 37 seconds. I'm trying to be more realistic but I still try to sabotage myself!

    Hope you have a better run next time.

    S X

  • I actually walked faster than I ran yesterday, which is a sobering thought.

    Your pace is fast Chris! If I had that pace I'd be dancing on the ceiling.

  • I hate to say this ChrisL but its the same old, trying to do too much too soon. Speed can come later the aim of the program is to be able to run non-stop for 30 minutes. You are obviously a big tough guy but the bigger they are the harder they fall. Don't make the mistake of speeding up before you can do the time, the speed can come later. I have read so many posts over the years of people desperate to cover the 5K in 30 minutes or under some manage it but some take a bit longer to reach that magic time/distance but ask yourself which would you sooner have. " 5K in 30 minutes with injuries or long term running with no injuries"?

  • What's the name of the App you are using ChrisL?

  • Its called iSmoothRun OG. It really is very good.

  • thank you Chris, it sounds good will have a look at it.

  • Beating yourself up over numbers is a common issue, I know I've done it more times than enough (just my numbers are not as fast as yours) - it helps to stop every now and again and remind myself why I'm doing this, which is health and well being neither of which require a PB. Sometimes it's good to switch off all tracking devices and just go with the flow, and just enjoy it.

  • You've just made me feel a whole lot better, thank you! Gets things into perspective x

  • Hmm. Trouble is that without an immediate goal, target or challenge I am not sure I would enjoy it. Sad.

  • Not sad at all, challenges/targets are part of it for me too, but good to be wary of letting the stats decide whether it was a good run, especially when there's just seconds in it.

  • Good point - what are a few seconds in the scheme of things?

  • Having been one of those who tried to run before I could walk (even at the age of 56!) I learned my lesson by getting a crocked ankle, so Oldgirl is completely right Chris, and you ought to listen up

    Once you're injured it knocks your confidence (well, it did mine) and I questioned whether I would be fit enough to do it again. So don't even go there! Forewarned an all that ......

  • I think this goes back to my earlier posting "Why am I doing this?". I think that some people who responded to that post thought that I was questioning my own thoughts and abilities - but I was more asking myself WHY am I doing this.? WHAT is my purpose in doing this.?? Initially it was just to get fitter - I had become really aware of the number of old, FAT and incapable people I could see every day - but it has moved on from that.

    For me, time goals are meaningless and pointless. Distance goals beckon me more. I am now regularly "transporting" my body on foot over 5K distances with relative ease and without fear of that distance. I still have 4 weeks to go of the C25K programme - and I will have a go at the continuous running periods of 30 minutes -- but they also strike me as purposeless, for my purposes which is essentially to have the ability to transport myself on foot over longer distances. Tod do that, I am definitely going to have to concentrate on Run/walk. I have registered for a 14 klm "race" in August - so this is starting to get to the forefront of my mind regarding goals. I have been using the Parkrun 5K's as an integal part of my C25K training and will continue to do so with my 14 K training. It is a social thing - else running is or can be a very solitary thing. It also forces me to push myself a bit more than I am inclined to do - not being a competitive person. One thing that I really have to do soon - is to walk 14 klms so that the distance does not frighten me any more.

  • I love that running can be a very solitary thing - although in my case, it is just me and the dog, although sometimes it is a case "I know she's in the same wood"

    Sounds a bit as though you've perhaps not yet had the experience of being 'in the zone' - where you don't even know if you are running or walking, just that you are moving through the landscape. Because of doing C25K the habit that my 'sessions' start and finish with a walk is ingrained, and I do enjoy that bit too. I still find sustained brisk walking harder than running though... it's been learning to run (even at a walking pace) continuously that has enabled me to cover longer distances. I was out for a walk yesterday and finding it hard going (I was being asked if I was OK) and I knew really I needed to be running!

  • I think I experienced this "being in the zone" once - strangely enough in the very early part of my now 3 month long running career :) I was using a 30second walk/30second run programme that called on me to cover 7 klms. I did it easily and thought to myself "WOW!" , But since then, I have moved on to this more demanding programme - and as the old saying goes '' It is difficult to remember that your original project was to drain the swamp - when you are up to your armpits in alligators!!!"

  • Too right and well said!!! I think however your target times are extremely fast...my advice would be to focus on your length first slowing it right down, then when you have that behind you focus on making it quicker? don't set yourself up to fail as you are doing brilliantly....Every run gives us something to reflect on and learn about ourselves which is why its so great....

  • There are very few things I have been told I do brilliantly JJ. I will add 'setting myself up to fail' to that very short list. Thanks.

    PS I know you are right.

  • No!!!! Quite the opposite...you are amazingly fast and furious!!! But for the longer distances you might need to tame the speed!!!

  • Oh I see. Emphasis on the word 'brilliantly' and not on the 'are doing'. I have just reread it and that is obviously what you meant (my interpretation would have needed a comma before 'brilliantly' wouldn't it?). Interesting just how negative a spin one can put on something innocuous when feeling a bit down...

  • It's interesting how you have responded to the different messages from your app. Deflated by negatives and encouraged by the positives. I should imagine most of us will respond better to the encouraging positives. Given the option of carrot or stick - I think we'd all be carrot people. You're making amazing progress, cut yourself some slack and stop beating yourself up and be proud of your achievements. Enjoy the last few weeks. :-)

  • Precisely my point Ruby. I would have thought I was a carrot AND stick person but maybe I am not after all - or maybe I was once but not any more.

  • In one of Derek Ralston's Youtube videos about his year long Couch Potato to Marathoner journey---he said: when running, NEVER LOOK FORWARD -ONLY LOOK BACK TO WHERE YOU HAVE COME FROM!!!!! Fantastic advice in my opinion!!!!

  • Does he suffer a lot of injuries from running into things Bazza?

  • You are so full of enthusiasm Chris no one wants to be negative but most speak of their own knowledge through experience/s. I for one would not want to curb your zest for hitting new targets just listen to your body while you push on your running journey and enjoy it that's the main thing.

  • Thanks OG. You are right. I will continue to need targets. I just need to ensure they are at least half-sensible. The ones I set myself this morning were never really on. As JuicyJu said above I really was setting myself up to fail.

  • I guess you've really loaded yourself with several targets. NHS C25K is a nice no-brainer - you just do as you're told and that's it. All you're trying to do is to run continuously for 30 minutes and get that badge. And yet, there is a kind of discipline and challenge in that especially for some of us who panic a bit at 'programmes' and doing what we're told. It's like the guidance of how far ahead to look - if you are always focused way off in the distance you'll trip over a root and fall flat on your face sometimes. (Though I do a lot of admiring the view and going "Wow")

  • I have not got round to admiring the view GoogleMe. I guess that becomes possible if/when one gets 'in the zone'.

  • Love it, oooppppsss b - - - - y tree roots and muddy puddles did for me yesterday. I was shlluuuurrrrppppp, shhlluuurrrpppp ankle deep in peat bog puddle.

  • Ah but all the best runs involve being at least ankle deep in a peat bog puddle. I ran a canal towpath this afternoon and came home with dry feet and it just didn't seem right at all ;-)

  • I agree ChrisL, I have the app set for a slightly slower pace than I have been achieving because I find it so motivating when she (I call her Laurel, in honour of Laura) tells me 'slower'! I agree with the post further down too - speed must come later because too fast too soon is a certain road to injury.

  • Aha! I am not alone. How much slower do you set it though YJB1?

  • Hi ChrisL, I have set it to 12 min/mile pace which is the slowest I would want to run at this stage. I don't try to go faster but this morning my pace was 11:12 min/mile which has increased over the last couple of weeks. I may change it to 11:30 min/mile next week. A trainer once told me that on the ideal run you would run the first half slower than the second half - she called it the 'holy grail of the negative split' that comes from effective pacing and said it improves your fitness more than running all out and conking out before the end. It also helps you in races because it teaches you to keep something in the tank for the end. So I aim to have 'Laurel' telling me 'faster' during the first half, without dropping back so much that I can't catch up. Then I want her to be saying 'slower' during the second half. I have managed this on the last two runs and am now learning to judge my pace much better. I love this app - I think I have you to thank for it! :)

  • I am just annoyed that you seem to be getting on with it so much better than I am....

  • Do you mean the app ChrisL, or the running?

  • The app YJB1

  • Anything specific I can help with?

  • Only if you are a qualified shrink who can teach me not to put such damn-fool paces into it before I set off. I put 5mins/km in for last night's 2x 10 mins run and did it - but only just. I seem to be getting slower rather than faster. I have to do 1x 25mins next and am wondering what pace to go with. I managed 1x 20mins @ 5:00 last week but think I need to extend it to 5:30 maybe to run for 25mins comfortably. What messes with my head is that I did 5k in 24:08 quite OK on a run/walk strategy 2 weeks ago.

  • Funny you should say that, I am actually studying for a psychology degree. I'm not qualified yet though, I will come back to you in a year or two :)! Although I am only just finishing C25K this time around, I do have over 15 years of running experience behind me before I had to stop in 2011 due to an injury so I do feel qualified to say that the best way to get faster is to run intervals, either run/walk or run fast/run slow intervals. At this stage though, you really shouldn't be worrying about your speed, you need to concentrate on getting your body used to running non-stop first. Trying to get faster at the same time as increasing your running minutes is a recipe for injury, at least until your body is more used to the demands you are making on it. The fact that you feel you are getting slower could be a sign that your body is not recovering fully before the next onslaught. I'm afraid I still think in miles and don't know the km equivalent, but at this stage 12 min/mile is a perfectly respectable speed. Interesting that you ran faster using run/walk, I am convinced that run/walk is a really good way to increase time on your feet and your speed at the same time, safely. I will probably use this method when I train for a half marathon later this year.

  • All good stuff YJB1 except that 12:00 per mile = 7:30 per km. I can sustain a brisk-walk at 8:30 per km. Are you seriously saying I should be 'running' at near walking pace? I am not sure I could 'run' that slowly. I would either need to take tiny little 80cm strides at my running cadence or reduce my cadence to 55 with my normal stride (or reduce both partially I suppose as neither of those seem possible). 5km in 30 mins requires 6:00 which seems slow enough. Can we settle on that?

  • This is exactly what Jeff Galloway and Phil Maffetone says !! Google them both -- and IT IS very difficult to "run" at those speeds

  • So why does Galloway's magic mile calc suggest I train at 11:30 miles then Bazza?

  • I thought that you were questioning the thought of training at 12mins:mile? 11.30 isn't far from that. Also Galloway's magic Mile measurements are done over a long training period. The first one that you do he specifically says should be done at "conversational" pace -- the subsequent ones are also done at that pace, however the pace actually picks up as increasing cardio fitness allows conversation at faster paces :) It all depends on what you are training for -- although Galloways Magic Mile figures do show paces for 5K and 10K races -- he is really more interested in the longer distance. This is why I am not that interested in 5K times - my next goal is a 14K race/funrun, so while I am still concentrating on finishing this 5K programme with it's long running (30 minute) periods, my real aim is longer distance - so it will be very much back to Run/walk for me and slow training paces ( at least during the earlier 16 week training programme that I will be doing ). By the time I have actually run a long run of 16K's, I will know what I am capable of in the actual race.

  • No, I didn't mean to 'prescribe' an actual running pace for you because we are all different. Just that, if you were running at 12 min/mile pace it wouldn't matter if you were improving and progressing. As it happens, I don't find it difficult to run at 12 min/miles but that could be because I am 5ft nothing, 54 years old and paranoid about triggering my old injury. You are probably younger/taller than me and haven't had the chastening experience of pushing too hard and losing two years of running time as a result! But there are lots of people on this forum that are running much slower than that anyway. The point is I suppose, is what works and if you feel you are getting slower/not progressing what you are doing isn't working for you. Looking back at my log since I started setting my pace, my first run was 12.04 min/mile net pace - that was on 22nd Feb. Since then, every run has got faster and my last run on 11th March was 11.12 min/mile. That increase was over 5 runs. I'm not trying to run faster, I haven't changed the target pace from 12 min/mile, I am just letting my fitness build naturally. Ironically, I have had a twinge of my old problem but it was caused by a long walk on Chesil Beach in walking boots which is all large pebbles and VERY hard going!

  • Aha. I see what you mean. Maybe I should just set Lauren to 6:00 per km (or more) for the remaining runs & see if I naturally improve on that pace.

    BTW We are actually quite similar. I am 54 this year & 5'8" (unless I have started to shrink, which is quite possible). And I am a Westcountry (Yeovil) boy, but now living in Hertfordshire.

    I heard that some of Chesil Bank had been washed away in the storms. Is that true?

  • Yes, the area around Portland is quite changed. We were walking further West, towards Burton Bradstock. The most notable thing was the number of dead birds. I have never seen so many. We live in Dorchester, having moved from Hertfordshire! We used to live in Berkhamsted.

  • Oi you 2, stop showing off with your speed will you. :-p I need faster tracks. Fast fast fast. Must try to get some.

  • I went out last night to do the 25mins W6R3. I simply could not face trying to run at 12mins/mile or 11:30 or anywhere near so slow. It just seems totally unnatural given the time & distance to be covered. I accept that if you were setting out on a HM or a marathon that sort of (lack of) speed may be appropriate but for ~5k / 25 mins I just don't believe it is. Not for me anyway.

    Anyway, I set the app for 6:00mins/km (9:40/mile approx) and set off. Although I was trying to keep it slow & steady I found a natural & fairly effortless rhythm at between 5:00 and 5:20 depending on the terrain. Lauren kept me informed as to how far ahead I was which was very comforting & motivating. Feeling good, I pushed on a bit harder for the last 5 mins and ended up at 4.89km in the 25 mins. This equates to 25:34 for the full 5k which I am more than happy with as (a) I ran for the full 25 mins rather than run/walk, and (b) I wasn't trying to go fast for 80% of it.

    A lot of the ladies on this forum say to 'listen to your body'. I think I am doing that in choosing my own 'slow' pace rather than going with Mr Galloway's or anyone else's. I have read that some sort of physiological process kicks in during long/slow runs that helps build stamina. I guess I shall just have to wait until I am doing longer runs to get that benefit.

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