I'm learning . . . it matters what you listen to.
Mowgli, who is a real runner, asked me what I was listening to as we headed to the track together for the first time. I told him about my collection of audiobooks and podcasts. His eyebrows arched.
I told him about how they helped to distract me from the exercise which seemed like a good idea, since I hated it. I told him about how I could just check out and try not to think about what I was doing. He looked at me with something bordering on pity or contempt and just barely avoided saying, "You're doing it wrong." What he said instead was, "I'll make you a playlist."
The next night, I went out to jog in the neighborhood (the hardest venue I have). I listened to my audiobook for the first 20 minutes and then switched to a song that a magazine had recommended, "I Run for Life" by Melissa Etheridge.
O. M. G.
How had I not known this before? I could run further, faster, better based on what was coming through the headphones of my iPod. Checking out had kept me plodding along, going through the motions. Being fully present opened up new enthusiasm, new experience. I was having fun! (I know this, people! And I keep learning it over and over again.)
It also mattered what I listened to in my head. The voice in my head thinks that trying to run or even jog is a very bad idea. A very, very, very bad idea. It has lots of reasons to back it up and has the sly arguing skill of Matlock: "Do you or do you not feel that stitch in your side? Let the record show that breathing this hard is not and never has been fun!"
But then I learned to talk back. I learned from my friends what to say to the voice that says, "Go ahead and stop." Mowgli said that he likes to ask himself, "If someone was chasing me and I had to run away, could I?" If the answer is yes, he says, he keeps going because the limit is clearly mental, not physical. I tried to imagine someone chasing me to motivate me to run. Imagining the person in a hockey mask wielding a knife seemed to help a little.
An old friend who is a real runner gave me all kinds of advice about what to drink and how to pace and motivate myself. My favorite piece of advice: someday I won't be able to run and I owe it to myself to do it now while I can. Or something like that.
Another encouraging friend said that she imagined that all limits were mental and said to herself, "I do not choose this limit." I've said that to myself a thousand times since then. It comes in handy in other settings, too. Sometimes I say to myself, "Just a little longer. Just to the next corner. Just to the next curve. Just to the next line on the sidewalk." Most often, I say, "You're doing great. You're okay. Don't think about what it will be like a mile from now. Right now, you're really okay. Don't quit."
Talking to myself in a compassionate voice or a challenging voice works better than talking to myself in a shaming voice or a mean voice. Really, people, I know this! And I'm learning . . .