Say it out loud.
Try saying out loud why you are feeling so bad or want to quit. “I’m tired,” seems rather silly to say out loud. “I can’t do this,” begs the challenge of continuing on because you CAN do it. (Note that this is not saying push through an injury, potentially causing greater harm.)
If you are in a race, check in with those who are around you and notice how they look or sound. Do you think they are also feeling badly? Probably! Misery always loves company. Saying it out loud might just get you a laugh from a fellow competitor because they know exactly how you are feeling.
Assess and adapt
When in a rough patch, take a few minutes to really assess what is going on while continuing to move forward. Is this a fuel issue? Hydration? Electrolytes? A pace that is too fast? Chafing? Hotter weather than you are used to? Colder temps than you expected? Once you pinpoint what’s truly wrong, you can start to formulate a plan.
Low on fuel or hydration? Take the time to take in water or fuel or electrolytes. You may not want to stop or slow to fix the problem, but if it makes your more comfortable or even keeps you from quitting, isn’t it worth the time?
Whatever the issue is, it won’t correct itself unless you take action. Working through these fixable issues in training is partly why training is invaluable for figuring out what works for you. Sometimes you will have to get creative!
I remember being on a training run in the winter and realizing my hands were getting painfully cold despite my gloves. Then I started to worry that if my hands were cold, pretty soon all of me would be cold, so maybe I should call someone to pick me up to prevent anything else going wrong.
In talking to myself, I realized I felt fine, I didn’t need to quit, but I’d be a whole lot happier if I could do something about my hands. I saw a runner ahead of me with gloves tucked in to their pack, so I decided to find out if I could borrow their gloves and meet them at the end of their run to return them.
It took a lot to ask a stranger for gloves, but I know runners and runners usually are cool people who are happy to help other runners. So, when I caught up, I asked. This runner (like me) owns many pairs of throwaway gloves and was more than glad to give them to me with no need to return. Once I had a second pair of gloves on – even before my hands started to warm up – mentally I felt better and was able to concentrate on finishing my run.
Long runs or “non-goal” races are great times to try out ways to avoid negative self-talk or doubt. Test out fueling, gear, and clothing, knowing you have other friends out there with you and you’re never too far from crew or an aid station.
Some days may not be “your day” for either hitting a workout or meeting your goals for a particular race. Before going to the worst-case scenario of giving up, take time to evaluate options and reframe the challenge.
What are your mantras? I know I have chanted to myself “the more you run the sooner you’re done” more than once. I have also counted to 100 more times than I can count (ha ha) and sung 100 bottles of beer on the wall. Talk about a good distraction … !
Remember Newton’s law that things in motion stay in motion and things at rest stay at rest? It is easier to stop for good if we stop for too long to decide. Keep moving and work through the bad patch; treat it as a fleeting problem that you need to solve.
Know when to quit. All of this being said, we are not saying ignore pain or be foolish. There are times in workouts and events when it is appropriate to stop.
Are you in discomfort? You can probably carry on. Is it pain? You might need to stop. Not sure? Rely on those around you to help you decide if you’re having trouble distinguishing. If it’s a long event and you have crew – trust them. They are not glycogen depleted and having trouble with rational thinking. As the athlete, you may be.
(Stay tuned; we’ll be addressing the topic of “when to quit” in much greater detail in the future!)
No matter what you decide or the outcome of a day, remember how far you have come. Be grateful for the chance to extend yourself and proud that you even gave it a try!