Overcoming your Ego: When You Aren’t Able to Perform Your Best
Ego. Big or small we all have a portion of our running tied into it. From the basic, feeling of self-worth to the more educated psyche your ego is a great motivator. It pushes us through hard workouts, gets us to roll out of bed while the rest of the world is sleeping or pushes us in our races. We are smarter than our egos, or we’d like to think so. Intellectually we know when it’s time to take a much needed break or not to continue pushing ourselves to the point of injury – or further injury. Yet, the tie that binds us can push us to move out of intelligent thinking and have us start running with our ego making the decisions, even when we know it shouldn’t for our own health or sanity. How can you cope with and manage your own ego when it’s ideal for you to not be striving for your best?
Focus on Your Needs
While our ego can get the better of us on days where we feel good running it is imperative to keep your main goal at the forefront of your mind. Sometimes we have very serious reasons for taking a step back or down shifting our running, such as injured, on the cusp of an injury, pregnant or have other health issues to name a few. Other times, there are equally serious reasons but they can be more difficult to mentally get behind like the health of a family member, temporary situational issues like a new job or move, a break for our own mental health and others.
It important to remind yourself your choice to pull back is for a positive result, and that even though it may feel negative, it will only be a benefit. It is not because you are lazy, unmotivated, a slacker, a bad runner or any other negative reason you can muster. It is also a temporary situation that has the ability to make you a better runner than before when you are back in fighting mode.
Remove Your Triggers
Many of us are tied to our watch simply because it tells us our splits. We post screen shots on social media and enjoy the positive comments that come with it. But happens if something is preventing you from hitting those splits? If you cannot handle seeing splits you don’t like, run without your watch.
It is possible to go out and simply not know your pace. You can focus on your surroundings, the way you feel during your run, enjoy the music you are listening to or hone in on what you need out of your run.
If you happen to be running a race and you know you are going to have a little trouble keeping your desire to push yourself when you know you shouldn’t, try some things that will prevent you from to tapping into your drive. You could offer to pace a friend that would be targeting a pace that would allow you to run a comfortable pace. Or have a little humor and literally wear it on your shirt; if you are pregnant or injured or have something you are open sharing, get “punny” with a custom shirt. If the race allows, you could also opt to un-chip.
Being open and honest and telling those around you your plans will set expectations, for you and them. The person who cares the most is you, so don’t be surprised if your situation goes widely overlooked. It’s your ego concerned about your times crossing lines and how you look during training runs. The purpose of letting those around you know is so you don’t feel like you are constantly having to live up to what performance they are used to seeing from you. And the truth is they may not expect as much from you as you think they should or that you do. Remember, others are going to allow you to take care of yourself way before you do.
Along the thread of being transparent you want to run around with those who will truly support your endeavor an won’t antagonize your competitive nature. Often we run with those who help push us, which is a great thing when you both are on the same page.
Intentionally or not, your normal running buddies may be fresh as daisies and pushing their bodies while you are seeking some reprieve. Your ego isn’t going to let you get that reprieve if you’re trying to maintain your status quo with your mates. Make sure that easy runs don’t get sabotaged. A true comrade will run with you at your pace, distance or intensity level and will be honest when they need a different workout. Now can also be when you have the patience to spend time with friends that view recreational running a little more lightly than you.
Pick a Long Term End Goal
Runners are goal driven by nature and having to stamp out your natural urge can be a taxing feat in and of itself. You may feel like your running world is passing you by and that you’ll never run like yourself again. In order to give yourself a carrot or a light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel, pick a long term goal. A fun one, a challenging one, a bucket list item, something that will really entice you. A goal that will allow your ego to focus on the future and not jeopardize your future goal by getting over zealous in the present.
We can be our own worst enemy when it comes to judging our performance. Runners injure and re-injure themselves by allowing their ego to get the best of them making for a vicious cycle. By being aware of what will trigger us to succumb to our ego we can remove those triggers when needed, allowing us to make great use of the positive choice we made. It’ll shorten recovery or break periods and by learning to manage our ego we can also better understand how to harness it when we really need it.