How to Quarantine Like an Endurance AthleteApr 06, 2020
We've now been at this social distancing / quarantine thing for a few weeks, and it's likely that people's mood and mindset are starting to take a dive (more on that in a moment).
Above all, we want you to know we're here for you, and we're cheering for you. You can do this.
And on that note, let's get into this week's post.
On Fridays, Ashley and I have a weekly call where we hash through business-related items for Peak Mind. At that very moment, I was making lunch for my kids. My 4-year-old was yelling in the background for her sandwich, and my 20-month-old who refused to go to bed the prior night was scream-crying while attached to my leg.
It was a hurricane of stress and activity.
Ashley, being the amazing psychologist that she is, paused and said, "So, how are you doing?"
My response might surprise you.
I said, "Honey, I'm 8 miles into a marathon. Now is not the time to start concentrating on how bad my feet hurt."
And it occurred to me, the way I've been coping with the difficulty, pressure, and stress of this time is to approach it the way I learned to approach very long runs. There is a very specific mindset trick that I learned from so many years of pounding the pavement, and I want to share it with you today.
Quarantine is an endurance event
The marathon, my endurance event of choice, is an incredible physical challenge, but what many people don't realize is that it's more mental than physical.
Endurance events require you to do just that: ENDURE.
Endure much longer than you'd like to endure. To keep going past the point that you think is your limit. To continue when you're hungry, thirsty, your joints ache, your feet are blistered, and you're wondering not whether you're losing a toenail, but exactly how many toenails you're losing.
Endurance events require you to get to that point...your breaking point...the point where you think you have to stop....but then keep going. Endure.
Yes, there is a physical training component to marathons, but what people don't realize is that the physical training is the easy part. Show up, do your miles. That's it.
The truly difficult part is the mindset work that is required to continue to make yourself push further and further past your breaking point.
The situation we're currently in is not unlike a marathon. We're being asked to do something uncomfortable for a much longer duration than we'd like to be doing it. Because of that, I want to share a few things I've learned from my years as an endurance athlete that are helping me endure through this time as well.
I hope they help you too.
The key to enduring is to acknowledge, but not obsess
A marathon is exactly 26.2 miles. That is longer than anyone wants to run in a single day.
In between you and the finish line are hills, exhaustion, pain, hunger, thirst, self-doubt, and fear.
There will be moments that have the potential to feel just as overwhelming as my story about talking on the phone with Ashley. This is true for marathons and it's certainly true for the endurance event we're all involved in right now.
The biggest lesson I've learned from my days as a marathoner are to acknowledge your circumstances, but do not obsess over them.
Notice the pain, but don't dwell on it.
Notice your fear, but don't dwell on it.
Notice the chaos around you, but don't dwell on it.
Instead, notice it, acknowledge it, and intentionally move your attention elsewhere. Sounds a lot like mindfulness, doesn't it?
Because here's the thing, if there's one sure-fire way to make the pain, fear, uncertainty, or chaos feel EVEN BIGGER, it's dwelling, obsessing, and focusing on it. Allowing your thoughts, mood, and feelings to be uncontrollably dragged down by it.
Your mind IS your biggest asset in an endurance event.
When the boredom, isolation, overwhelm, sadness, or fear begins to creep into your mind, acknowledge it, then re-focus.
My suggestion is to re-focus your attention on the finish line.
This will end.
Remind yourself that, although the road ahead is long, it is finite. You WILL reach the finish line, and you'll be more grateful for your "old life" because you've endured this time without it.
A quick note on pacing
One of the little known facts about endurance events is that pacing is key.
Your goal on race day is to run at about 60-70% for a looooooooong time. 60-70%. That's it.
If you go out of the gate any faster than that, you'll burn up the limited store of energy you have at your disposal, and the end of the race will be brutal.
In this endurance event, your #1 goal is to pace yourself. Make forward progress, but be constantly aware of your energy store.
Finally, a quick note on race cadence
This part is going to be tough to read, but I feel responsible to write it because I want you to be ready for what is to come.
Endurance events have a very predictable cadence. There are 4 phases:
- Phase 1: FUN!!! The gun goes off, you're feeling rested, refreshed, and good, and you bounce off the line and spend the next 5-8 miles smiling and high-fiving little kids along the race route.
- Phase 2: Meaning. Around miles 8-10, things start to get a little hard. You're getting hungry. You might have your first hints of pain. You've run a few hills and are starting to fatigue a bit. In this phase, you cope by focusing on meaningful things like the bigger reason why you run, how grateful you are that you're able to run, etc.
- Phase 3: Hitting the wall. Right around mile 20, many marathoners hit "the wall." Everything hurts. Your body, and if left unchecked, your mind as well, is screaming at you to quit. You truly believe you've hit your breaking point, but there are over 6 miles left in this god-foresaken race. You will hit several walls before you finally reach Phase 4. Your mindset and attentional control is CRITICAL in this phase.
- Phase 4: The finish!!!
My prediction is that we are about to hit our first wall. Here's why:
- Phase 1: We had fun with quarantine. We made the best of it! We had the push-up challenge, people posted fun photos with their kids and the delicious meals they were making.
- Phase 2: We're here now. People are focusing on more meaningful activities like sewing masks, cutting out hearts for their front windows, and supporting healthcare workers.
This means, if race cadence prevails, the wall is next. Be ready for it.
My challenge to you
My challenge to you over the next 1-2 weeks is to keep your head in the game.
Acknowledge the way you're feeling (overwhelmed, exhausted, DONE!), but work hard to move your attention to other things.
Work hard to avoid being unconsciously swept away into a dark place of feeling sorry for the situation we're in.
This quarantine is an endurance event. You are being asked to endure longer than you'd like to.
You are capable of it.
Your actual limit is so much further than "the wall" will lead you to believe.
You CAN endure.
We're here for you
Please know that we're here to help you thrive through these uncertain times. We're cheering you on!
And please be sure to be there for yourself! Self-care is critical! You wouldn't show up to a marathon without eating or sleeping or doing the things you need to do to make sure you're in tip top race shape. The same goes for now, too! You need a solid, effective self-care routine to help you show up in tip top shape, mentally, physically, emotionally, and energetically. Self-care [by Design] can help you do just that.
“It is only in our darkest hours that we may discover the true strength of the brilliant light within ourselves that can never, ever, be dimmed.”
– Doe Zantamata
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