HOW I KEEP RUNNING: DISTRACTING MYSELF AND PASSING THE TIME.

Serious question, how many blog posts have I written over the last three years that start with “so, I’ve started running again…”?

Too many.

I start running. I love it for a bit. Feel like I’m really getting into it. Sign myself up for a 10k, or even a half marathon (once, last October), do the event, get bored, and then stop again.

About three months after whatever it was event that turned into my last run, I look in the mirror at my now-much-more-wobbly-legs, wonder why I stopped and vow to start again.

(Read more about this ridiculously frustrating but all too familiar pattern HERE in a post I wrote last October called “I’ve started running… again.” It was published about two weeks before I quit… again).

Anyway, three months have passed (you’ll understand why if you’ve read the previous post), and I’m starting again. It’s January after all, no better time to start something inevitably give up on a few weeks time.

So far this month I’ve smashed it. I’ve been on nearly ten runs, all of them about 3 miles long. I’m working on my speed, doing half of them in the gym, half of them outside. I’m officially high on the endorphins and am working hard to be able to run a 5k in under half an hour, a 10k in under an hour and a half marathon in under two. (This, by the way, will happen when hell freezes over, but let a girl dream wouldya?!).

Sure I’ve quit a million times before but maybe, just maybe, this time I won’t. It’s worth a try.

So. One of my biggest problems with running (other than the fact I have bad knees, get disgusting blisters, feel like I’m about to choke up a lung and worry that I’m going to freeze my tits off of course) is the time that I have to spend in my own head whilst I’m doing it.

If professional athletes get to be away with the fairies whilst their running, it’s definitely fair to conclude that I am trapped with the gremlins.

Left to my own devices either pounding the pavement or, for reasons best known to myself, running on a rotating belt like a bloody hamster, my mind wanders to less than helpful places. Almost all of these places look like me not running anymore, rather, turning off the machine to go home and have a bag of crisps or slowing down to a walk and strolling home, all the while trying to convince anyone that passes me by that I’m not a failed runner, but a deliberate walker who has made the decision to partake in this activity in a sports bra and trainers.

My mind is the main reason that I can’t run.

Here are some of the things my mind says to me while I am running that make me stop running:

  • Why are you doing this?
  • What is the point?
  • No one will know if you walk for a bit.
  • No, seriously no one will know.
  • Why don’t you just try again tomorrow? Today is obviously not your day. Stop wasting your time.
  • You haven’t even run a mile yet. Quit. It’s too hard.
  • If it takes this long to run 1/3 of a mile, what makes you think you can do this ten times over?
  • You will never be good at running.
  • Ever.
  • You can’t do this.
  • You’re rubbish.
  • No one is watching, just stop.
  • Stop.
  • OK then. Let’s stop.

Any of this sound familiar?

It takes all my strength to tell that bastard voice to fuck off, and by the time I’ve done that, I’m normally too tired to actually crack on with my run.

So how do I drown it out? How do I distract myself for long enough to get the bloody thing done? Well, they’re not fool proof, but here’s what worked for me so far this year.

And yes, they’re a bit daft, but my brain is not stupid. It won’t fall for the same shit every day. Gotta mix it up y’know.

I count, everything.

I wrote about my weird fixation with counting in a blog post I wrote last week about how uncool I am, but it does really help with running. I won’t check how far I’ve run until I’ve counted 1023 more steps. I will spy a lamppost in the distance and challenge myself to correctly guess how many steps it will take me to get there. I won’t turn around until I’ve listened to 6 songs. I bet myself I’ll pass a certain number of traffic lights. This buys me so much time, gives me something to do and is very distracting.

Play games with the distance.

When I’m outside I run with a watch that tracks my distance and speed (it was a hand-me-down from my mum and has totally revolutionised my exercise – since mine is old I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, but you can look at the updated version here), and this game works on the treadmill too. If I’m listening to music I will only allow myself to check how far I’ve gone at the end of every song, if I’m watching TV in the gym I will only allow myself to sneak a peak once each scene ends. If I know the route I am running I will not allow myself to do certain things (whether that’s check the distance, the time, or take a break) until I’ve reached certain milestones. If I’m not keeping an eye on my distance and speed I just don’t see the point in running, stats or it didn’t happen and all that shit…

Make a killer playlist.

Yeh. You’ve heard this before. But do not underestimate the power of a good beat. I make a playlist before I go, updating it all the time because you need to be sure that there isn’t a song that you want to skip or than annoys you. Fill it with songs that you actually want to hear and turn the volume up up up.

Why am I here???

This is a thought that can pass a LOT of time, as daft as that sounds. Bare with me. The longest and most spontaneous and surprising run I ever did was an accidental ten miler (who even am I to do that shit by accident?!?). I did that the day after the London Marathon and the thing that kept me going was the thought of all the people who had beasted themselves the day before. I wanted to be like them, that was why I was there that day, and that thought kept me going for hours. Literally.

Podcasts.

Perhaps one hosted by yours truly? Kidding. Kind of… This doesn’t work for everyone, my mum for example says she can’t do this because she forgets to listen, and sometimes I’d agree with her but then at other times it’s so good. If you find one that goes on for forty minutes or whatever, you can use the time to actually listen to something you’re interested in.

Don’t always go it alone.

Granted, it’s hard to be accountable to somebody else schedule and it’s not always possible to run with a buddy, but mixing it up from time to time can be great. Although it is important to get into the practise of running on your own, occasionally running with someone else can be really inspiring. Time DOES go faster when you’re with someone else and the miles will feel shorter. If you’re doing the same run that you always do you will notice how much easier it is with someone else which means that, by the time you go to do it on your own again, you know what you’re capable of and it might just make it more enjoyable.

Making plans for the next one.

If you find yourself struggling after one mile, or two miles, or however many miles, one of the most exciting and encouraging things you can do is imagine yourself doing the same thing and not struggling. Rather than seeing yourself as weak for not being able to do something, use this is a platform from which to get better. There is a bridge exactly 1.5 miles away from my house that, when I first started running, I could’t get to without stopping. I made it my life mission to get there in one go and a couple of weeks later, I did and it felt amazing. Finding challenges and really clinging onto them is more motivation than you’d think.

Leave your problems at the front door.

I’ve got a lot on my plate at the moment and for the first time I’m using running to my advantage. I’m physically not letting my worries come with me. When I close the front door I’m like ‘yo, sorry you guys, you haven’t got legs, you’ll slow me down, you’re not allowed to come’ and they’re like, ‘oh okay well have fun we’re not going anywhere‘. Whilst that may be true, it’s really, really, realllyyyyyyy nice to leave them behind. And whether you are one of these ‘exercise actually makes me feel so much better about life‘ people are not, we cannot deny that problems seem much smaller when you burst back into the house full of endorphins.

Life plans. 

A nice obscure one for the creatives amongst you. When I’m feeling a bit meh, or dried up inspirationally, I take myself out for a run, dream my biggest dream and imagine myself living it. It’s a fantasy I don’t want to get back from and often jogs some great ideas (pardon the pun). Using the time to think of new blog posts, new business opportunities, whatever it is, is actually great. Just make sure you’ve got your phone so you can jot down whatever pearls of wisdom spring to mind.

Dream of the ass.

I know it’s not all about the body, but good god, don’t you ever underestimate the power of aspiration. The thought of a perky, gravity defying, cellulite free arse is the thing that really pulls me through my darkest miles. My arse will look amazing. My arse will look amazing. MY ARSE WILL LOOK AMAZING.

“I CAN DO THIS”

Say it. Out loud. All the time. If you think you’re about to stop, if you’re feeling tired, if you are struggling, say the words. Doesn’t matter if you’re surrounded by people, chances are they will have headphone in anyway or be totally absorbed by their phones (no one gives a shit about anything in London). Positive affirmations are the things that I live for. I can do this. I can do this. Stopping after you’ve said this to yourself is about 100% less likely to happen.

The food.

If all else fails, make a huge mental meal whilst you’re running. Go through every single step. Plan it perfectly, safe in the knowledge that when you get home it’s going to taste so, so good.

I wish I knew more. I really wish I knew more. I’m sorry, this is all I’ve got. Hope it helps though.

Let me know if you’ve got anymore suggestions in the comments (please!).

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4 Comments

  1. David
    January 20, 2018 / 11:14 am

    Brilliant blog, and great advice. Much I can relate to. Started out again two weeks ago and back up to 5k and now I’m really bored. I think the problem is I have such a short attention span.

    • Emily Clarkson
      January 20, 2018 / 11:16 am

      Me toooo!! Hope this helps 😊

  2. Natasza
    January 20, 2018 / 5:02 pm

    Oh gosh, it seems everyone runs and the last time I was running I was probably 12… My boyfriend even bought himself a treadmill, it works great as a clothes rack instead of a chair. But that aside, those are some great tips for people who struggle with doing something in general, so I’ll try to implement some of those in my everyday life!

  3. Megan Jefferson
    January 24, 2018 / 4:19 pm

    I LOVE this ! The benefits and successes of exercise are discussed a lot online however the doubt and struggles aren’t always addressed. I went for my first run in around 2 years at the weekend and although it was short compared to others (just under 3 miles) and I started off very slowly I felt SO good after. I will for sure be using these tips to help go further this weekend.

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