We’ve all hit the wall – that merciless phase of a workout or race where your lungs feel like week-old party balloons and your feet feel like bricks.
Runners will talk about “pushing past” and “breaking through,” but what does that really mean? Usually gritting your teeth and battling through with sheer force of will, hanging on for dear life until you either bust through or cross the finish line, whichever comes first.
There’s a better way.
Running, especially as you start to feel challenged in the middle of a workout, becomes as much about mental toughness as physical strength. By taking a step back (figuratively!) and evaluating your running, you can improve your form and get past the wall without even realizing it.
Next time you are really struggling to put one foot in front of the other, slowly think through a head-to-toe checklist of what your body is doing. As you make small adjustments to your form and your attitude, you’ll start running more efficiently.
What’s more important, is that you’ve got your brain engaged in something other than your own discomfort and frustration. More often than not, you’ll break right through that wall without even realizing it and come out moving faster on the other side.
Here’s a sample checklist, but by all means go with whatever works for you. Starting at your head and working down to your toes is just an easy way to think through your major running systems without having to remember a lot.
- Check your head. Make sure that your chin is up and your jaw is relaxed. Both will make it easier to breath and help relieve tension.
- Shrug your shoulders. Getting tired mid-workout is stressful. A lot of us carry that stress in our shoulders. Give them a shrug or two as you run and make sure you aren’t letting them tighten up and lift towards your ears.
- Breathe deep. Short, choppy breaths aren’t the best way to get your body the oxygen it needs. Challenge yourself to breathe long and deep in the face of fatigue.
- Wiggle your fingers. Keeping your hands balled into fists or a death-grip on your phone creates tension and wastes energy. Loosen up those digits.
- Straighten your back. For a lot of people, posture is the first thing to go. Making that one quick correction can make you feel stronger instantly and deliver an uplifting jolt to your overall mood.
- Lengthen your stride. Poor running form can lead to spending lots of energy for very little speed. Short, sluggish strides are the biggest culprit. Stretch those legs out, add some speed, and feel the wind in your face. Instant mood-booster. While you’re at it, pay attention to how your feet are striking the ground. Make sure you are using the same solid form that you were at the beginning of your run.