What To Do If You're Freaking Out Because You Have A Tough Training Session

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*The following is inspired from the new, AWESOME book, Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness.

Ugh, there it is. Printed in black and white on the training calendar: the session you’ve been dreading ever since it appeared on the horizon. For some, it’s a super long session that’s going to push you well beyond your usual distance. For others, it’s a very intense session that sorta makes you puke just by reading it.

Before you know it, you’re coming up with “built-in excuses” as to why it’s not going to go well. You haven’t slept in weeks. Work’s been hectic. Too many distractions at home. The hamstring has been feeling tight. Your training shoes are 2.7 miles past perfect cushioning status...

Understandably, you’re feeling anxious and nervous that you might not be able to hit the planned splits. Many of us aren’t comfortable with failing and there’s a real possibility this session won’t go well.

Or, at least, that’s one way to approach the session.

What if I were to tell you how you respond to the session is partly determined before you even lace up your racing flats?

That, in fact, how you simply view the session determines what type of hormonal response you’ll get from the session.

Pretty crazy, right?!

Consider two athletes - One approaches the workout worried that it's going to hurt, anxious, and afraid that they will fail. The other heads into the session thinking, "this is gonna be really hard, but I know I'm well trained and I'm going to get a really positive adaptation".

The difference is one athlete views the session as a threat and the other as a challenge.

Threat Vs. Challenge

Here’s the crazy part.

Even if the two athletes run the same times turning the session, the athlete who views the session as a challenge will see a positive hormonal response (due to increased DHEA production which is associated with growth), whereas the athlete who views the session as a threat won’t get as positive an adaptation.

So how can you reframe the session so that you start seeing it as something more positive, one that you can think of as a challenge rather than a threat?

Before the Session

Trust your coach and your training. (Remember, it’s in OUR best interests to prepare you well!)

Say, “I am ready for this.”

And, as Brad says, “It’s the right time in your training cycle, you’re fit enough to do this workout and, even if this hurts a ton, you are going to benefit positively by doing this session.”

During the Session

It’s great to show up with the right mindset, but then when things get “real”, the lungs start burning, and the overwhelming desire to back off demands a response, remember the following:

Remind yourself to trust your training (again) that got you to this point. You’re physically plenty strong enough to handle this. BELIEVE IT.

Yes, the session is gonna get VERY uncomfortable, but EXPECT it to. Then, when inevitably it does get tough, you’re ready and prepared to push through.

Stay in the moment by focusing on your form. It’s one of my favorite personal tactics and it rarely fails.

By focusing on your form, you prevent your mind from going negative and work on something you can control. By the time you start reverting back to how much you’re hurting, you’re that much closer to the finish.

And if you DO start ‘going negative’, jump right back into your form. Can you relax a little more somewhere? Perhaps you can soften your shoulders, your face, exhale a little more completely?

Hopefully these tips prove useful for you and can help you tackle some of your most brutal sessions more effectively.  If you have something that works well for you, don’t hoard it all to yourself - please share below!