Wednesday, July 25, 2007

And... relax

When I was at school I was the type of person who would get really worked up about getting 19/20. That meant I'd got one thing wrong. I'd beat myself up about that one mistake. I'd finish an exam more worried about the questions I'd struggled with than happy with the ones I'd answered easily. I'd feel like I'd done really badly because I struggled with that one question.

I've got a first class degree, a masters with distinction and came top of my year at law school, but it still bugs me that I only got a B for A level history. And that I got 58% for public law 2. Admittedly in the 10 years since that course I've never had to use a single thing I learned on it, but that was a 2:2 grade, and it hurt.

I still haven't managed to shake the habit. Whatever I do, however impressive, I keep on feeling like I should be doing more, trying harder, excelling. If I don't think I can do something properly I would rather not try it than be shown to be defective or inadequate. If I'm going to run I want to be a good runner. If I'm going to climb I want to be scaling mountains. If I cycle I want to do the tour de france. Well, not quite but there's always that feeling of inadequacy - how come I can only run 30 or 40 miles a week? I should be running more. I should be running faster. I should be training harder. I should be able to learn Spanish, draft contracts and clean the house all at the same time.

When will I get it through my stupid head that I don't need to be superwoman? I don't need to excel in everything I do. I don't need to constantly push myself and, just occasionally, I could let myself have fun. I don't need to beat myself up because I missed a single training run (stopping training altogether is a different matter, but one measly run? so what?). I don't need to hate myself just because I had an unplanned encounter with a bag of sweets or a scone or a slice of flapjack. I don't need to always wonder whether I can lose just one more pound. I need to get rid of this all or nothing mentality.

I've posted things before that have hinted that I'm on the edge of burn out and although I'm recognising it, it's still hard to pull away because I've got that urge to push myself as close to the edge as I can get. But it's so hard to find that balancing point. If I don't push myself will I go too far the other way, will I slip back to laziness and sloth? I'm still struggling. You need a certain amount of obsession and bloody mindedness for marathon training. But you also need to know when to back off.

Tonight I managed to persuade myself not to run. I was only planning a 2.75 mile leg of a relay race anyway so it's not like the mileage was going to be important, and it wouldn't really help marathon training that much. But it was a struggle to remind myself that not running at all would probably be better than running badly because I was overtired or just not up for it. I went to the park and sat and read, rather than coming home and feeling like I need to glue myself to the computer and the television in a doomed attempt to keep up with everything that's going on. It was nice.

I'm thinking that on Saturday instead of the long run I had planned I might just head back up into the dales and go for a long walk. Up there I don't need to time myself and work out how far I've gone, I can just clear my head a bit and escape from the pressure I put on myself.

7 Comments:

Blogger Jenny Davidson said...

I read this as if I was reading my own internal thoughts magically transcribed onto the page by some Harry Potter-like device! I've been reading your blog for some months, it's a great pleasure--I feel certain you'll work out the right balance on all this stuff, and yes, if you are the excessive type, it REALLY (hard as it may be to get it to make sense emotionally!) is better to skip a workout than to do a workout too many...

9:44 PM  
Blogger Lightning said...

You need to read this http://www.alternet.org/story/50661/?page=1 and then buy the book! Mine's on order with Amazon and won't be coming until NOVEMBER!!!! Because I stupidly ordered it with a book that's not going to be printed till then! Doh!

Read it with a big slice of cake. Read it instead of going for a run. And if you stop training altogether, I'll come and haul you back into the madness of running ;-)

9:06 AM  
Blogger Lightning said...

Oh and try http://iamthatgirlnow.blogspot.com she is very wise and blogging about the perfectionism thing.

I think if you push too far you end up not doing anything since, er February! But then it takes you ages to get back in the swing, so I'd say take a week or two off now, then get back to it.

You'll still be a running queen after 2 weeks!

9:14 AM  
Blogger t__m__i said...

Oh god yes.
Took me until my early thirties to cotton on to the fact that
a) not only did I love my friends despite the many areas in which they did not excel, and so, therefore, people no doubt loved me whether or not I did Everything, Perfectly, And All The Time
but
b) I had an unfortunate habit of overdoing things with the result that other areas suffered needlessly and I would lose the joy of what I *was* doing

If I slip, my catchphrase is (which I say to myself), "who do you think you are, Mother bleeping Theresa?" and then I follow it up by remembering the many areas in which that late lady did *not* excel.

7:54 PM  
Blogger Salma Gundi said...

Nicole posted once on her bog, A Dumbbell in a Home Gym, a phrase that really hit home with me - "The Perfect is the Enemy of The Good."

The way you describe all or nothing really resonated with me. I hope you find a way to equilibrium.

4:03 PM  
Blogger t__m__i said...

Perhaps morPerhaps more practically I
recommend Tim Noakes MD's 'Lore of
Running' which has the sort of
detailed and documented (yet still
readable) analysis of real-life
runners' careers that illustrates
the distinction between
overtraining & training hard, and
equally, between slacking and
rest. A hefty tome but with your
background I doubt there's many
books you couldn't stare down!stare down!stare down!e practically I recommend Tim Noakes MD's 'Lore of Running' which has the sort of detailed and documented (yet still readable) analysis of real-life runners' careers that illustrates the distinction between overtraining & training hard, and equally, between slacking and rest. A hefty tome but with your background I doubt there's many books you couldn't stare down!

11:35 PM  
Blogger t__m__i said...

Sorry - bloomin n800 bug!

11:37 PM  

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