Mood, like training (or life in general) has an ebb and flow to it. For most runners, mood and training seem to have a highly positive correlation – meaning that when training is going well, mood is elevated. The flip side of this is that when training is NOT going well, or is interrupted, mood tends to plummet off a cliff.
I’m speaking in generalities of course. Not every runner I know feels such an intense connection to their training – but a lot of us do. For me, I have come to view running as the number one anti-depressant in my life, so any issue interfering with that brings almost instant anxiety. Being aware of this helps, but it doesn’t prevent the tailspin from happening.
I almost made it through the entire month of January without this happening, but an unfortunate (if not semi-hilarious) injury has kept me from running for a couple of days. I won’t get into details other than to say it involved repeatedly stepping on a cat while trying not to step on said cat and ending up a crumpled heap on the floor. It would make a spectacular video, I’m sure. The result is strained intercostal muscles in my ribs and a couple of days of taking it easy.
Again, logically I know that a couple of days (or even a few) isn’t going to have a detrimental effect on my overall training or goals. What I’m still working on is the “end of the world as I know it” thoughts that come along with the smallest hiccup. I have dubbed this Worst Case Scenario or (WCS) Thinking. It’s not catchy, but it’s not supposed to be.
Here is an example of how it works;
Time: Random Winter Day
Location: Anywhere it is considered normal to experience heavy snowfall or even blizzards.
Rational Thinking: “Oh, poo. I may have to run on the treadmill. Or cross-train. At least I have food, shelter and literally dozens of modern conveniences within my reach. An extra day of rest might actually help me as well.”
WCS Thinking: “The snowpocalypse is upon us!! The roads will literally never be safe to run on again. If I dare set foot outside of my house, I will surely be hit by a rogue Camry with all season tire on or devoured by a yeti. Or, due to slippery footing, I will catastrophically tear all the ligaments in my legs.”
Would you like a second example?
Time: Any time I cannot run due to pain, illness or life in general.
Rational thinking: “As soon as I am able, I will be back out there running. It’s not like I have the Olympics trials or I am unable to do other things to stay fit and active.”
WCS Thinking: “I am never going to be able to run again. There is no point in putting in any effort, as another injury or obstacle will always prevent me from achieving even the modest goals I have set for myself.”
The first example is a bit extreme, but the second is literally the type of thinking I deal with on a regular basis. Battling the voice that wants you to give up, that keeps asking “what’s the point?” and makes it so much easier to focus on the setbacks than the progress is exhausting.
I wish this post was more about how this thinking is getting rarer for me or the tools I incorporate in my routine to quickly get back on track – but it isn’t. It’s just sharing the thought process as well as the difficulty it creates. I find it more than a little ironic that I have a hard time applying skills or habits I developed through more than a decade as a professional personal counsellor to my own situation. That being said, I did find an interesting resource here.
There are days that the WCS Thinking is the only thinking that I can focus on. And there is always the fear that it could be right. I’m very fortunate to have an amazing partner who helps me on these days, as well as some close friends and even the online running community. If you deal with this type of thinking or know someone who does, the only thing I can tell you is that –at least so far for me – that voice is a big fat liar. Remind yourself of that and identify the people or other resources that can help you when the thoughts get so loud that they crowd positive thinking out.
If you read this because you follow my blog, you follow me on Facebook or Twitter or somehow a search engine happened to bring you here, I want to thank you for taking the time to read this post. I also want you to know that if you ever need to talk about your own WCS Thinking, I’m willing to listen and talk to you as well.
Take care of yourself – and happy running!