Long Run and Anxiety (Read 438 times)

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    I like nick's suggestion too -- try to take away the pressure of achieving a goal on the training run.


    This doesn't work so well with a set plan and a scheduled marathon, but it might be workable with a much more flexible plan outline (*), and with, instead of a scheduled (paid for) goal marathon, a list of marathon possibilities. If you find some of the smaller ones, or fat ass style runs, that you don't have to put commitment money into ahead of time, then maybe you can remove some of the pressure of achieving specific training run distances on certain dates.


    Or check out trail 50Ks - I think they generally allow later registration than big commercial marathons.



    *) By a flexible plan outline, I mean something like (I'm completely making this up out of thin air):


    Do something fast at least once a week. Do hills or something different fast also, during the week.


    On the weekend, run long (but hopefully with some sort of fuzzy goal, that is less anxiety-inducing). If the long run doesn't work out, try it again next weekend. If it doesn't work out again, try it again. Repeat ad infinitum -- who cares if it takes a while for the long run to work out.


    You could run some other race distances in the meantime, so your racing life is NOT on hold -- you're just building up a more extended base phase for your next marathon.

    It's a 5k. It hurt like hell...then I tried to pick it up. The end.


      I've also had issues with anxiety and the worst thing for me was always people giving me advise on how to deal with it... so here I go...  Smile


      +1.  I deal with a lot of anxiety myself and don't think this is really a running problem.  I think you need to deal with the underlying anxiety.  I don't want to play Dr. Phil here and maybe I'm misinterpreting what you've posted but...  Why is completing a run so important to you that you're dreading even starting it?

      “What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the fight in the dog. – Dwight D. Eisenhower


      My blog is JT Running DC.  It's awesome.

        As others have said - don't get to hung up about the actual length of a run, be prepared to bail out if things are not going well. Perhaps knowing in advance that this option is available will help with the anxiety.


        Too many runners slog through a long run because it's on some training plan beyond the point that it's actually doing any good. If you can't to a point where it's very hard to continue (for whatever reason) then there's probably little point in continuing.


        The time for heroic effort in a race. Pushing yourself too far in training is counter-productive. You wont be able to recover to train well in the subsequent days. And running is supposed to be enjoyable...


          This thread http://www.runningahead.com/forums/topic/6b5594801401419fa72ecd26fa1706a7/0 may offer quite a powerful option for reducing anxiety. To some extent, the issue here appears to be performance anxiety. So removing measures, and just 'going for a run' - slow, and over a longer distance, may benefit mood and performance. Just how it strikes me Smile

            I think all of the above things are good suggestions...but we also need to take into account that she runs on a treadmill (guessing in a gym on campus??) and is in medical school! yeah...I think performance based anxiety might be an issue!! Julia said it right when she said that you need to get to the very baseline issue of why you have anxiety in the first place, then you can take some of these suggestions and try to implement

              I'm with Julia. I'm an anxious person and a lot of what you wrote resonates with me. This is not about running,it's bigger than that. Downsizing from marathon to (e.g.) 5k isn't going to help, you will just find a whole new set of things to obsess about. If I've read your posts correctly, you seem to have a fair amount of anxiety about food and weight intertwined with the running stuff, and my experience has been that a therapist is the best person to help you untangle all of that and become a happier athlete.


              The good news is that running presents the perfect opportunity for practicing ways to overcome anxiety (e.g. By concentrating on the meditative "just me and the road" aspect) Do you have, perhaps via school,access to counselors or psychotherapists who can give you help and tips? as i said, btdt, and can't recommend it enough.


              MTA: sorry if I just projected my issues onto you. It just sounds familiar!



              +1.  I deal with a lot of anxiety myself and don't think this is really a running problem.  I think you need to deal with the underlying anxiety.  I don't want to play Dr. Phil here and maybe I'm misinterpreting what you've posted but...  Why is completing a run so important to you that you're dreading even starting it?

                Lots of good advice, particularly about addressing any underlying issues. There probably isn't a good "quick fix." That said, have you tried covering up all the numbers on the treadmill with a towel or other object? It looks like you do about 99% of your running on a treadmill, and long runs of 15 miles or more on a treadmill would give anxiety to most people. I also saw that you posted a list of favorite songs on another thread, so if you haven't tried it already, block out the treadmill numbers, put your MP3 player on shuffle, and try running song to song. [I know, too simple, and you've probably already tried this, but I thought I'd throw it out there in case you hadn't.]


                Connoisseur of Cookies

                  You said you were in (went to?) medical school.  However, are you sure there are no underlying medical causes at play here?  No doubt you're aware that the symptoms you describe could be from any number of different causes.


                  If this is, in fact, an issue of anxiety, performance based or otherwise, have you considered seeking out a good psychologist/therapist/counselor who can help you identify the root cause of your anxiety and help you identify coping mechanisms to help you deal with it?  I understand that the pressure from medical school can bring out some unwanted characteristics in a person.  Ignoring them until you're out of school isn't always the best thing to do as the issues will still be there down the road waiting for that next stressful episode to make themselves known.


                  You've received some good suggestions here.  Finding the cause of your anxiety and moving forward in a productive manner to treat it, as opposed to just diverting or covering up the symptoms, might very well be helpful to you not just as a student and a runner but also down the road as a physician.


                  Just some thoughts.



                  "C" is for cookie.  That's good enough for me.

                    Hey guys!

                    I didn't expect this many people to take an interest. Thanks!

                    First off, I wanted to let you know that I did get my 15-miler in this morning and felt great. My alarm went off at 3:30 so that I could get down on the treadmill, get my run in, and shower before class (maybe even get a little bit of studying in). Well, the power was out until 4:45 so I was on the treadmill at 5:15, didn't need that first class anyways. I felt great, no idea what the difference was. Maybe it was just getting on the treadmill early enough so that my mind wasn't fully aware of what I was doing, no idea, haha. I just saw that SubDood posted about putting a towel over the time and distance part of the treadmill and that was what I did this morning. I tend to try to push myself harder than I need to a lot of times so I just took that element out of it today and just ran. When I got down to the last ~1.5 miles I took the towel off and allowed myself to do my normal speeding up with each 1/4 mile on the last mile.


                    Now I can respond to some of the things asked.

                    A few people mentioned laying off marathons for awhile. My marathon is in May so I am for sure running that one but will probably take some time off of marathons during my 3rd year of medical school, though I have said that before each of my marathons and always end up signing up for another one. They are so addictive, ha.


                    Zelanie - I do like the idea of a range. I might have to try that. It will take pressure off of that big number so that I am not so focused on that, but as you said once you get that close you can get yourself to the full distance.


                    Happyfeet -  You bring up a good point that running long distances on the treadmill is very tough mentally. I have actually done upwards for 26 + miles on the treadmill (26 for my 26th bday last year Smile) and I think the monotony may be part of the problem. On weekdays when I run I watch a show that I love in the mornings so that makes it not as bad. For long runs I will occasionally put a concert DVD on and that will help as I can just "get lost" in the performance, so to speak.


                    Coastal - I had never really thought about that with Higdon's plans. There is a lot of emphasis on the long run. I might change up my plan for the next one I do, I was just sticking with what I knew since I had used Higdon's novice plans for 2 previous marathons (no idea what plan I did for my first, my friends just gave me a copy of their plan). Also, I did have a special K pasty bar before my run this morning as I was starving when I woke up and I saw your post last night so I thought I would try it. I tend to not eat before my runs but before my long run it might be a good idea. Especially because I always have something small before the marathon anyways.


                    Seanster - I do think part of the problem is worrying about splits, times, basically numbers in general so just allowing myself to run with not caring will probably be a big help. And I don't take an SSRI but am on Bupropion, its more of a norepinephrine/dopamine reuptake inhibitor. I have found the best effect with that drug, personally.


                    AmoresPerros - I didn't realize about the later registration for the 50ks. It is a goal of mine to do one of those so maybe that might be a good idea to try to train for one of those in the future and see how it goes and then sign up as it gets closer to race time. That also might allow me to experiment with a flexible plan and see how that goes. I have a book called "Brain Training for Runners" that bases its training on knowing how you are feeling and going from there.


                    Julia - It isn't that I am dreading the run as I like running. I think it is more of a performance anxiety/confidence/overall anxiety sort of a thing.


                    pr100 - I do think that is my main problem, getting hung up on that "number". I start getting nervous the night before occasionally and that is the reason why. I just keep thinking about the distance, even though I know I can do it.


                    runathon - Skimmed through the thread, will go back and read it on a study break. I think that is a big thing. I need to learn to slow down my long runs and not worry about pace. I thought I had learned this while training for last year's marathon, but since I have been feeling so great when I am running I threw that knowledge out the window. I can now breathe through my nose thanks to a septoplasty last August and have been trying to push my pace even on my long runs, need to remember to slow my pace on the long runs.


                    Christirei - I run on a treadmill in my house, actually. It saves time from having to go to the gym and anything I can do to save time is big. Like you mentioned, I am in medical school and a lot of us tend to be Type A personalities. You mix that with some pretty bad anxiety and you get what is known as my life, lol.


                    Runharrietrun - You may have projected yourself onto me, but you also nailed it. I'll find something to obsess over.  Plus, as I said I live in WV and there really aren't too many races around here (we are the unhealthiest state in the country) so running smaller races would be difficult without a lot of travel for a short race (and I am $200,000 in debt so far for medical school so not a lot of discretionary income, lol).

                    You are also correct about the food stuff. That is one of the main things that I will eventually get sorted out. Have been trying to figure all that stuff out for years now. The brain is a crazy thing


                    Cookiemoster - I am almost 100% certain there are no other medical causes (except maybe occasional hypoglycemia). When I had to take my medical leave we looked at a lot of things. We were thinking ADHD or something but after going through neuropsych testing and working with my neurologist its just some pretty bad anxiety.


                    As many of you mentioned it is important to find the root cause of my anxiety, which actually through this thread has brought to light numerous things that when put together could be the cause of this "performance" anxiety. Once I finish with my 2nd year of med school (and boards) I will probably try to go back to counseling as many of you have recommended. Living in a small town with limited time makes it difficult to find time or resources for that. Running is typically my "therapy" but it also tends to be what can pull me down the farthest if I don't meet my goals (I am a pretty goal oriented person). Nothing makes me happier than running but nothing makes me more disappointed in myself than not reaching my goal for a run. I know it is dumb and with some suggestions from here I am going to work on that.


                    Sorry for this post being so long, but since you all took the time to try to help me, I wanted to try to respond to everything. And now that you have part of my life story I would again like to apologize for the unnecessary length of the post. And sorry for any typos, my dog just woke up so I can't go back and proofread, haha.


                    Thanks again to everyone who has posted. You guys are awesome. If anyone has any other tips/suggestions/questions I am all ears (or eyes in this case).


                    Faster Than Your Couch!

                      I split long runs into segments: first 2-3 miles, I try to warm up and not go fast. Sometimes I recall that on one of my runs, I wanted to chicken out at 1.5 miles in, but didn't, and the rest of the run went well - hey, I can run more than these 1.5 miles, and then, well, let's just see.


                      Then I go maybe 2 miles, if these go well, I might speed up, or if they don't go well, then I think of previous successes in my running career to cheer me up. Another 6 miles, then it's almost done already. If the plan calls for 15 miles, I set my goal to maybe 13 miles, the rest is "optional". If things go well, I'll run it, if it is just bad, I might skip it. That reduces performance anxiety a lot, and most of the time, I reach the goal the plan calls for, or go even above.


                      I also run without a watch or GPS, I "just run". Difficult to do on a treadmill, though.

                      Stupid question: Apart from the time saving issue, why can't you do some of the runs on the roads?


                      Maybe you can find a running buddy (is there a local running club?), that would help with the anxiety, too. I found that talking to other people helps a lot with anxiety.

                      Run for fun.

                        Anxiety can be caused by a lot of different things and the long run might be part of what is bringing it out but not the cause (maybe).    You need to figure out (as best as you can) the cause or causes of your anxiety and deal with it appropriately.


                        If I were you I would consider some professional medical help.


                        I doubt I'd put too much stock in the advice of a bunch of runners even though we are all well intentioned and genuinely want to help you out because if this is a medical issue, we're not qualified to help (if it turns out to be a running issue then we probably are).     If you have experienced anxiety in Medical school (which kind of makes sense to me) and at other times in your life running a long run might not be the cause of the anxiety rather an effect.


                        If I were you, I'd consider assistance from within the medical world.

                        Champions are made when no one is watching


                        Letting off steam

                          Addressing this strictly from a running point of view:

                          As others have suggested, the weekend warrior nature of the Higdon programs may be the problem specific to long runs.


                          I used to dread the long runs too. My training then was similar to a Higdon program -- heavy on the weekend mileage, much less during the week.

                          The light eventually went on, and I started building up the weekday miles, and restricting my long run to average under 30% of the total .  The dread of the long run went away -- once the pattern was established, I never even thought about it.  The "long" run became so much more manageable when it wasn't so out of proportion with the rest of the week.