Lately, my inner voice has been talking and I’m proud to say I’ve been listening. It tells me to push through summer’s intense heat when I’ve got no other options. Other times I hear a faint whisper throughout a long run telling me that things are not going as planned, and just to let it go. But because I’ve made a habit of listening for so long, it’s a voice I can trust. You know the one. We all have it – a voice or instinct that helps us make decisions. And it’s important to listen, because you’re the only one who can hear it.
I’ll admit, sometimes I don’t listen. When my body told me to quit because I had too much stress in my life (both physical and mental), I just kept pushing forward. Then exhaustion derailed my training. It became clear after I recovered that when nothing feels right, it’s good to take a step back. Listen to what your inner voice is trying to convey as you struggle to push forward. Again, you are the only one who can assess how the different stressors in life might be impacting your running.
Sometimes my body sends signals I have a hard time deciphering. Excitement? Anxiety? Panic? It’s a foreign language that keeps me guessing while my body tries to manage the lightning bolts firing from my brain. Usually before a race. Fortunately, I’ve learned to channel that voice and translate the urgent message as anticipation of the unknown. With a little visualization to focus on how the upcoming event will play out, it’s easier for me to keep an optimistic outlook instead of worrying about “what if.” But it hasn’t been easy. Turning a debilitating voice into a positive one involves taking inventory of your previous race (or other similar) experiences, how you felt, and what helped you succeed. Getting through those tough mental moments by digging deep and rebounding on the other side is arguably the hardest part of ultrarunning.
Fortunately, I know things are going well when my inner voice begins to send voluntary messages that are centered around improvement. Maybe I need to push a little harder, or stay away from the flats and focus on the hills. This is when I know I’m in tune with my body, and can boost my training without hurting myself in the process. Listening is an important skill that’s not only helpful when communicating with others, but also with ourselves. And the more we listen, the closer we get to conquering each step towards that ultimate, pie-in-the-sky goal.