I came across one of the most important tools for racing quite by accident but, I will never race without it again. Every competitor knows you need the right equipment, you need to put in the grueling work, you need to fuel properly and you absolutely need a goal. But, the one thing I never had and didn’t know how much I needed, was compassion. Compassion for myself, no matter the outcome.
This past June I accomplished a big goal by completing my first half Ironman. The half ironman is a 1.2 mile swim, 57 mile bike ride and 13.1 mile run. I trained for months. I sacrificed. I disciplined my body and my mind and then, a week before the race, I got sick. I went through a roller coaster of emotions and self-pity and on race day, I downed some cold meds and hoped for the best. I gave myself a lot of leeway and decided my goal was to simply finish. I walked though portions of the mountainous half marathon and actually enjoyed myself as I never have before. It was downright pleasant.
When I conveyed my emotions during the race and confessed to walking during the run portion and actually enjoying it, my brilliant sister-in-law, who also happens to be a licensed psychotherapist, commented that is sounded like “you were very compassionate with yourself and that’s amazing.” Wait, what?
If you’re anything like me, you’re used to hammering yourself in your mind with things like “go harder!” “keep pushing!” and “you’re stronger than this!” during a race. When I raced that half ironman and, for the first time ever, I was not berating myself in my head and instead practicing self-compassion, I didn’t even know it. But I felt it.
I want all of you to feel what I felt on race day and, since this is prime marathon season, I figured it was a perfect time to talk to my sister-in-law about self-compassion and also bestow upon you a runner specific meditation! You’re welcome.
**The rest of this post is from a conversation with my sister-in-law guru, spiritual gangster, guiding light, yogi and vegan dessert finder, Katie Burdick, LMFT (licensed psychotherapist) and Intuition and Yogic Lifestyle Coach. Ohmmmmmm**
“One of the first skills needed for self-compassion is self-kindness — extending compassion to yourself, even when you feel like you have failed, which can be challenging to say the least.”
Self Awareness Leads to Self Compassion
Q: Athletes and anyone who does endurance running sets them up to be successful in goal setting or gaining a new skill – they are hardwired to follow that process successfully. If compassion is a skill how would I go about training and utilize it every single day?
A: Compassion in and of itself is rooted in buddhism and spirituality. It’s a way of life, not something you can really jump into, kind of like running and being a runner. You didn’t start by running a marathon but by run/walking and then practicing week after week and building a strong foundation. The first day you ran you probably did not identify as a runner. It takes time to achieve a goal like running 26.2, time to identify as a runner or be in a running community and, having self-compassion is exactly like that. You have to build it over time and practice regularly.
Be aware of how you are talking to yourself when you’re training and when you’re not training. Think about the stories you are telling yourself and if they are valid. Just because you tell yourself the same thing all the time, perhaps for many years, does not mean it’s true. Examine your thoughts and, if necessary, change your thinking.
“Whatever route you chose, practice it like you would training – meditation, yoga, a podcast or whatever – create new pathways in the brain – the smooth road vs the rutted road – we default to the thing we do most often or ‘the smooth road’ – work at it and know it’s not going to be automatic to take the less traveled pathway of thought but if you think about the things you need to do to build compassion and, over time, the ‘rutted road’ will become the smooth one.”
A Balanced Perspective
Having a balanced perspective means to stop thinking in black and white. A lot of the time, when a race is the goal, the ultimate outcome is the only one that equals success. Challenge yourself to stop thinking in terms of black and white and give yourself room for a wider range of accomplishment.
It should not be “all or nothing” because there is a middle ground in your mind, aptly called the ‘wise mind!’ The wise mind is where the emotional mind and rational mind meet, and the one you should pay the most attention to.
In therapy we take people out of black and white thinking. It’s not about a PR but – look at the money I raised or lives I’ve changed or weight I’ve lost. The success is a blend of all the accomplishments, the totality of the journey, and not one specific thing or another.
A Runner’s Meditation
In relation to self worth, if you have a regular meditation practice and are regularly getting in touch with who you are, you’re less likely to define yourself through your accomplishments.
Meditation, at its core, is getting to the truest version of you. The silence that is below the pressure, below the goal and just about your state of being. Compassion is a part of that core, and you can become more aware of your true self though a meditation practice.
Follow this link to read more about becoming self-aware and what it means to practice mindfulness and then listen to a guided meditation, created exclusively for you by Katie Burdick.
Never underestimate the power of your mind over your body, especially on race day. Find compassion for yourself, no matter the outcome of your race and know that running and racing is something you do, and not who you are.
Do you have compassion for yourself when you race and run?
Do you meditate? Why or why not? Don’t tell me you don’t have time!