When SAD hits the conditional
This time of year is winter here on the west coast of Canada. I live in a strange micro-climate where we are known as the wet coast because of the amount of rain we receive. We sometimes get one day of snow a year – certainly no white Christmas. But our winter also consists of relatively mild temperatures (you can still run in capris), strong winds, and sideways rain. Winter here can suck.
Usually I get caught up in a pretty strong case of SAD this time of year. I’ve felt it this year as well… when the days get dark and the weather won’t perk up and all I want to do is hide under my covers and watch British mysteries on TV. This year was no different, but what I noticed the most was my lack of motivation to do anything, even running.
I’m usually always keen to go run, come hell or high winds. I will run in heavy-duty rain; after all it’s only water. I will run in the dark, but less willingly. But this year had another factor: I ran a Fall marathon.
People did warn me about the post-race blues. I’ve heard that recovery takes a day for every mile of your race. So by the end of November I figured I’d be pretty strongly in the clear. Instead, I was running less. And my mind didn’t care.
When I get into a slump I often resort to bargaining. I tell myself that IF I do something THEN something else will happen. It’s like the hypothesis and conditional statements in a math problem. IF x=9, THEN x+1=10. (I kept it simple so I could understand this as well). I used to do this a lot in high school. We had to run a 3 km loop and I hated it. So I would bargain with myself to get to the finish.
The conversation would go something like this:
Conditional Me: If you run to the end of this road, then that cute guy will look at you.
Rational Me: Why would that cute guy look at me if I run this far? And who cares if he looks at me?
Conditional Me: He will look at you and he will LIKE you too. We just have another 5 min more to go.
Rational Me: I don’t think this will work, but I am going to try just to prove you wrong. You suck.
This is known as extrinsic motivation. We need to convince our minds of some kind of reward to distract it and convince it to keep going so that it finishes the task at hand. Often the motivational
lies mantras I use when running long distances (or in pain) relate to food, chocolate, or some kind of relief. I remember one run where I was in such pain I promised myself that when I finished 2 more kilometers I would stretch out my hamstrings.
It’s silly at times, but so are our minds. Our bodies will want to quit first, so we need to convince our minds to keep going. Usually I can rely on intrinsic, process-orientated motivation. I can tell myself that running hills is great for my lung capacity and will shape my butt. That can be all the pep talk I need. This only happens at the beginning of a training cycle and when the weather is good and I am well rested. As the weeks go on, I think that a bigger butt will be more comfortable to sit on, and who the hell cares anyway?
So today I went out with two running buddies for our long run. We ran 24km and it rained. It’s the longest I have run in 2 months. There was no wind and I was with good friends. I ran to prove to myself I could, because I had company, and because it was good for me. I also got a new Garmin watch for my birthday, and I am still keen on trying it out.
Whatever the reason, today it worked. Running two hours on your own can be a long time, especially when you start when it is still dark out and everyone you know is sleeping. I am glad we ran because it went great. Next time I run I can remember this good feeling and getting out will be a little bit easier, even if it is windy.