I’ve decided to write about my track session from this morning with the aim of reflecting upon how tapping into personal values can be a way of staying focused and committed throughout training/exercise sessions.
Following my recent return to regular track training, having been training erratically due to a hectic schedule, I decided to challenge myself to a track session that I have never before attempted alone – only in group sessions. This session is a lactate-inducing 400/800m session which I used to dread, and I found it particularly daunting today given that I hadn’t done it in over a year.
However, despite some unsettling feelings about it, I felt I was in a good place to take on the challenge. Recently I chatted through my training and motivation with a colleague and friend of mine, Evie, who I find to be totally confidence-inspiring and empowering. She helped me to recognise my strength of commitment and focus my mind-set in a constructive way for my training sessions.
So with my recent change in focus, I had already committed to doing this session beforehand and felt prepared to embrace the discomfort that would come with it. When I arrived at the track it was windy and rainy, plus my legs were still heavy from Monday’s session. I was tempted to swap the session in for a slower one, but instead reminded myself of my prior commitment and decided to try tapping into my values.
When I first started running, I was very prone to stopping when things got hard, or avoiding doing tough sessions by myself, as I wasn’t prepared to mentally handle the physical pain or risk running a time I wasn’t pleased with. I would allow my fear of the discomfort and negative thoughts to take over.
But over time, I’ve learned to ask myself: what matters more to me – my intrinsic values behind doing this session, or avoiding discomfort and potentially “slow” times?
The session this morning consisted of 8 reps of 300m done very fast, so I thought I would try thinking of 8 values behind why I was doing the session. A few overlapped, but there’s nothing wrong with reaffirming important values in my eyes.
NB: values are very personal and unique to you as an individual, so these values are not ones that you “should” adopt yourself – they are simply my own values behind training.
These were the values I came up with as I was warming up:
- Self-improvement: this drives a lot of what I do, as I simply gain a lot of intrinsic satisfaction out of progression in many areas.
- Challenging myself: again this is something else that drives most of my training – I like to challenge myself and put myself in tough situations, as it gives me a sense of mastery and achievement.
- Boosting my mental toughness: the more I do these sorts of sessions, the tougher I become mentally against future adversities and times of discomfort – it’s a great opportunity to practise experiencing discomfort with a mindful approach.
- Doing it because I can: I often feel very grateful for my ability to run and train as I do, amongst other things, so I like the idea of training simply because I am able to physically run the session, and am able to decide to go through with it. This is also a way of further affirming to myself that I am in control of my decisions – my decisions are guided by values not momentary emotions.
- Proving to myself that I can handle it: as someone who historically has lacked confidence, I find it empowering to do challenging things in order to prove there and then that my self-doubts are wrong!
- Boosting my fitness: this is an important value for me as I care a lot about my health, energy levels and ability to do things. Doing this session would add to my bank of activities that further my fitness in various ways.
- Making other things seem easier: this isn’t exactly a value, it’s more of a reason, but this sort of tough session is perfect for making race pace or training paces at longer distances feel easier physically! If I conquer this session, it gives me more confidence when I face challenges that I perceive to be smaller.
- Doing something very difficult: this is the same thing as “challenging myself” really, but whenever I asked myself why I was doing the session, I kept thinking “because it’s difficult”, and this resonated with me because there’s just something really enticing about the idea of completing something that isn’t easily done.
So I reflected on one of these values each time I pushed through a rep. I find that staying focused on the personal reasons for my efforts helps me to run with a purpose, i.e. push myself and pay attention to how my body is feeling. If I can be in full contact with my values while I am training, I do everything with much more presence and vigour.
Historically I would try to distract myself or “dissociate” from the physical discomfort – let’s be honest, the feeling of lactate building up isn’t one you want to prolong! But I’ve discovered that I don’t need to distract myself from it. It isn’t going to go away, no matter how much I try to ignore it, so I find it best to work with it. For me, staying connecting to my values helps me to view my running more mindfully – I don’t need to distract myself, I can simply experience the discomfort knowing I am honouring my values and creating something important as I run.
This isn’t to say that this method is right for everyone – as a trainee psychologist I recognise the huge importance of individual differences in choosing how you go about motivating yourself. This is just the way I choose to go about focusing on my values, and it’s one of many examples of how you can use it in training.