Resilience in Running – Why do we need it?

What is resilience and why do some people have it and some don’t? Can resilience be taught or is it something that you are born with?  At times we can look at other people and admire their ability to sail through life, some people “beat the odds” and do well despite their experiences of adversity and struggles.  Having resilience is being able to get back up again when the most difficult and challenging life events knock them down but if we feel we haven’t got resilience then how to we “get” it and how can this help us in our running?

I believe that you can learn to become more resilient at any age, when Richard Branson was around six years old, he was in the backseat of his mother's car on his way to visit his grandmother. With about four miles to go, the future billionaire founder and chairman of the Virgin Group started acting up — and his mother, Eve, stopped the car, pushed him out, and told him to find his own way there. Harsh, and I’m by no way encouraging you to try this at home, but I feel a fair example of teaching resilience, because resilience is about developing coping strategies to deal with situations and setbacks that knock us off course so that we become a mentally stronger individual. 

By developing skills so that you become a mentally stronger runner you are giving yourself the best chance of being flexible in your approach to situations so that you are able to bounce back from injury, setbacks and disappointment.

RunVerity’s “tool bag” of coping strategies to help you become mentally tough

Try to be self-aware of your thoughts and emotions when you encounter a setback, did a race that you’ve had to pull out of mean a lot to you and why? Did you not perform in a race that you worked hard training for?  Were there any pre-cursers to the event that placed you off balance?

Optimism – did you notice any good or has any good come out of your setback?

Mental agility – are you flexible and accurate in your thinking, will there be other races or other training opportunities?

Character strength – what can you build upon and learn from this setback that will make you stronger? Could you share your experience with another runner to support them?

Talk to people, share your experiences, we have so much support and knowledge now in RunVerity, no one in our group has woken up one morning and achieved their PB, everyone has worked hard in training and has experienced highs and lows, maybe you don’t think they have but trust me, everyone has had bad races. Ask people about their experiences and see how they coped.

A good technique that I use a lot when I reflect on races or a training run that didn’t go too well is the ABC

A Antecedant – what led up to the event? Was I tired, upset, hungry, poorly prepared

B Behaviour – what were your beliefs and behaviour? Did you believe you could do it right from the start? Did someone say something to you that put you off kilter?

C Consequences – what were the consequences of the behavior? How did you feel straight away and did you carry these feelings over to the next run and the next race and the next one after that?  If you did, does this ABC happen again because your mind set was weakened because you feel bad.

Practice the phrase “It will end”.  This mantra works whilst you are in the moment of running, but it’s only after you’ve had a few experiences of going from feeling like death to feeling great that you truly understand it so trust the process. Most of the time, the discomfort you feel never really gets any worse and discomfort is ok, pain isn’t and it’s learning the difference between the 2. Research shows that people who acknowledge this discomfort are able to run through the uncomfortableness, it hurts everyone at some point but go back to the mantra above.

Lots of people think they have to do long runs, 5K a few times a week is fine. Do short, frequent runs and record what you do and try to maintain this behaviour

Keep a running journey – this can be simple or complicated, it’s up to you but here are a few suggestions of what to record.

-       Time of you run

-       Distance

-       How you felt

-       Weather

-       Terrain

-       Aches and pains

-       Pace

I know a lot of you use Strava and this is great so try and use it to reflect on your runs and spot any patterns of behaviour

 Overall, keep running in perspective, balance the triangle of life, the physical side of running (body), the intellectual and career side (mind) and the spiritual and emotional side (soul).

Yes, competitive running does require sacrifices and running takes priority at times, other times work or family become increasingly important and training is sacrificed, try and maintain a reasonable balance, any time you put too much emphasis on any side of the triangle, the other sides are negatively affected and could be damaged which results in running or family losing out.