The Power of Ambushing Yourself

My lord did I used to hate running.

Not sprinting–I loved sprinting. It made me feel strong and powerful and–most importantly–was over so fast my body didn’t have much room to complain.

But running…actually jogging? No, thank you.

Now I’m closing the gap on a modified Couch-to-5k program and loving every minute of it. (Well, okay, there are moments when I’m fighting a side-stitch and realize I’m only half-way through a workout that I don’t LOVE. But conquering those moments? THAT I love.)

A few hours ago I completed my second-ever 30 minute/3 mile run (yep, that’s 5k). That’s not a run/walk, folks, that’s a run-down-the-clock full out jog. I’m very happy and proud and excited about it, but it nearly didn’t happen.

I’d done my first 30 minute run two days ago and was over the moon about it. I’d planned on doing 28, talked myself down to 20 during the first 10 minutes, then settled on a happy 25…and when I hit about 22 minutes I knew I had to push it to the 30 mark, and I finished with a grin.

I still had some gas in the tank, too. I might have been able to go further.

So, naturally, I figured the very next time I would run I’d crank it up to 35 minutes. (Over-estimating my ability is a personal skill.) That was supposed to be today. But, as the day wore on, I began making excuses.  I’m traveling this weekend, with at least 13 hours to be spent driving, and two nights in hotels. I don’t want to drive exhausted, and when I woke up this morning I was really feeling that ‘day two’ pain after a big workout. Shoot…I could cut myself a break and my body would reap the benefits of the extra rest day, right?

Sure. And you know what, if I had chosen to do that, it would have been fine.

But I also know I won’t be able to eat as healthily as I normally do on this trip. Or rest very well. And I have a weight target I’m trying to hit. So I WANTED to run. But I was tired, hurting. But I had GOALS!

My brain played ping-pong for a while.

Then I decided to ambush myself: I would run at lunch.

Self Ambush – a personal intervention designed to immediately conquer resistance that would otherwise prevent personal growth.

I would normally never consider a 30 minute run until after work. First of all, that’s really 40 minutes when you do the warm-up and cool-down. Changing out of and then back into work clothes. Commuting. Taking the dogs out. Shower and cooling off. Would I have time?

I decided to go for it. It worked for a number of reasons, but I think the two most important are:

  1. The novelty and immediacy of the change in routine gave me a burst of excited energy
  2. I’d effectively removed four more hours of making excuses for why I shouldn’t run

During the run I played mind games with myself, of course. That 35 minute run wasn’t going to happen–I discovered quickly that this run was way tougher than the last one. My mind was trying to give me an out after 5 minutes in, then 10 minutes, then 15…so I made a deal with myself.

35 was out, okay, but 30 was in, no matter what. When I hit 30 and punched the down arrow on the treadmill to my cool-down pace, my grin had a little less verve in it than last time, but it was still there.

Later, when I shared this story with a friend, he neatly summed up the concept of what I’d done as Self Ambush – a personal intervention designed to immediately conquer resistance that would otherwise prevent personal growth.  

Yes, I was late coming back from lunch. Yes, I sweated through my shirt for about an hour after I got back to the office. Sure, I’ll feel the effects of this latest beating my body has taken during my trip.

But I’d done it. I’d gotten my run in.


Photo Credit Michael Mol

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