Monday, April 29, 2013

Race Anxiety, Revisited

I wrote about dealing with this issue last fall, when I was training for my half marathons.  It seemed like every time I set out on a long distance run, my heart would start to pound and I'd get a feeling of dread, along with some panic breathing (which is NOT fun to do while you're trying to run, believe me) and it got so bad that I'd start out running and within a very short distance, think "I can't do this" - which was a ridiculous thought to have at, say, half a mile into the run.  The worst of it happened when we did the San Antonio Rock and Roll half marathon - that was an ugly day.  I eventually began running with an interval timer, doing 2:1 intervals (run for two minutes, walk for one minute), and that helped immensely in getting me through the longer distances as I trained for the Armadillo Dash half marathon at the beginning of March.

After the Dash, we went back to running shorter distances on Saturdays, and I stopped using the interval timer because I wanted to run 3 or 5 miles without stopping, like I used to.  Everything was going fine, and then we started our 5K race season...and once again, I've found myself with the same anxiety/dread feeling/panic breathing as I begin these races.  It's so bizarre to feel like this - almost every race, I've had the "I can't do this" feeling wash over me, and I actually get mad at myself, because of course I can run 3 stinking miles - that is a no-brainer for me!  And I don't want to do intervals during a 5K race...especially when, on any normal day, I can run 3 miles without stopping.  I've been able to push past these feelings during the races and keep running, but for crying out loud, WHYYYY does this keep happening? 
    What I know is that I like 5K races.  I like getting my race packet, I like laying out my clothes for the race - heck, I even like waking up early for the race!  It's fun to be part of a group of people who willingly go out and run together; there's no pressure in these 5K's to be a speed demon.  I'm running with my friends; we're just having a good time.

    I will say that I'm able to push the anxiety/dread aside much quicker than I used to, but the fact that I'm still dealing with this kind of irks me, if you want to know the truth.  Plus, it seems to take almost the entire first mile to get my breathing somewhat normal if I've started with the shallow, panic breathing; spending one-third of the race gasping for air does not leave a lot of room left for a good run.  I do not understand the way my brain works.  This is supposed to be fun, dangit! 

    What I wish is that I could run like I did back in 2010.  That year, everything about running was new to me and I was making improvements with each race.  I wish I could start a race and just run - no panic, no anxiety, no dread.  I wish I would stop feeling like I'm trying to play catch up when it comes to my running ability.  But most of all, I wish I could get back to enjoying, from beginning to end (actually, the end is always fun), these races!

    32 comments:

    1. I hear you, Shelley. I'm experiencing the same thing, only with cycling and hills. I almost bowed out of Saturday's ride because I got myself so worked up about the hills that I'd heard about. I don't know when this started, nor, like you, do I know how to get this stuff out of my head. It makes what should be a totally fun experience less fun. As it turned out, the hills were a non-issue. If you find the "cure", I'd love to know about it.

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. That's exactly the problem - this is supposed to be fun, and I'm the one who is making it not fun...wth?!?

        Delete
    2. My only thought...take off the garmin/polar and just run for runnings sake. Stop even caring about anything. Do that for a while.....then when you restart with using it it will be fresh and new again! :-)

      ReplyDelete
    3. I so so so wish I could help.
      I cant with the running and truly what I blogged about today has helped my anxiety.

      xoxox

      ReplyDelete
    4. I'm sorry you're still dealing with this! I know that those feelings mostly went away for me once I joined a running community and started making running a social thing, but I know you're already doing that. It sounds like you have the right attitude of just wanting to run and have fun, so I guess just keep thinking that way and hopefully it passes.

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. Fingers crossed, Anne...fingers crossed. :)

        Delete
    5. I totally understand this, these days every run a voice in my head says "you can't do this". It's sometimes hardbto remember I once ran 20k and enjoyed it and didn't have many walk breaks.

      I don't have a solution for you, if I find it myself I'll let you know. In the meantime I hope this feeling goes away for you soon.

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. I remember back when I trained for my first half, mile 6 was a tough one to break through. But not mile .10! Like you, it's hard knowing that I once ran long distances without this issue.

        Delete
    6. I am the same way Shelley - it takes me the first full mile to get my breathing in check and convince myself not to stop. So crazy! Happy Monday!

      ReplyDelete
    7. I assume you've mentioned this to your doctor? Anxiety can be physically based... Doesn't take away the fact that it sucks :( It says a lot about your tenacity, though, that you push through and still run. A lot of people would have given up by now.

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. Doctor? Psh. Interesting that it could be physically based, but the doctor I've seen wouldn't have the slightest idea about this...and yes, I do need to find a better doc.

        Delete
    8. Is it pressure? I know that sometimes even during a workout I feel like it has to be better than the last one. I don't know how to put an end to it other than to quit tracking the time/place/whatever other method.
      Good luck - hopefully you can get back to running just because you love the feeling!!!

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. I think with racing, you always want to see a better time, so yeah, pressure probably is a big part of it, even when I don't knowingly think I care about my time.

        Delete
    9. It's performance anxiety. It's not really something that ever goes away, although you learn techniques to deal with it. I was a music performance major and this was a big thing for me. I had a lot of anxiety performing in front of people. Practicing - totally fine. Concert day - dread and nerves and with something I enjoyed. I was even nervous making my little guitar videos, too. Go figure.

      Sorry you are dealing with this, but you are dealing with it. Otherwise you would have quit.

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. Good to hear I'm not alone, and that there is a name for this...and you probably are right - it's performance anxiety, whether I realize it or not. But the mind knows, ack.

        Delete
    10. I'm so sorry you're still dealing with this. I know you know I suffer from the same thing. The bigger the race the worse it is.

      I've been trying to incorporate pranayama (breath work) into my daily routine and also right before running. It's REALLY working. It helps me to maintain a steady, focused breath throughout the run. There are many different types of pranayama breathing but here's one specific to anxiety that I really like http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/2697

      I hope you can find some relief. You deserve it!

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. I bet doing some sort of breathing exercises right beforehand might help. Thanks for the link, and I hope you get your race anxiety under control as well!

        Delete
    11. So frustrating, but seems like you have a lot of company in this!

      Good for you for staying with it and trouble-shooting the problem since you're always happy by the end. I suspect that over time you'll figure out what makes it better and what makes it worse and tweak accordingly.

      Sometimes rehearsal visualizations can help, spending some time vividly picturing what it would be like to start the race "excited and rarin' to go" rather than "nervous." (Since they both involve heart-pounding doses of andrenaline). Weirdly enough, imagining something over and over can sometimes trick your brain into thinking it's reality, or at least help plant the notion that each time will be more and more about the excitement and less about the fear.

      Good luck!

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. Interesting visualization/trickery...I will have to give it a shot this Saturday. Thank you for the good advice, Jan!

        Delete
    12. I also had kind of a panic attack training for both marathons. I always finished the training runs, but I would always start out thinking in my head "what if I can't do this?" It always took about 15 minutes for me to get in the groove and feel OK, I don't know why either?! Sorry I don't have advice, but you are definitely not alone!

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. And see? Fifteen minutes is just over a mile for me, and that's what I'm saying about it taking about a mile to get it under control. Sorry it happens to you but glad to hear I'm not alone.

        Delete
    13. Oh, I like Lori's explanation. It makes sense to me. I was like that when I was showing dogs. Only it showed up in other ways...

      I was wondering if it started out with a physical reason (your foot hurting) and then that led into an autonomic (also physical, but different system) response. I like Crabby's idea for this.

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. It could stem from getting injured/running hurt - very good point. And yes, Lori's explanation makes sense, doesn't it? I just never thought I'd have performance anxiety about a race since I don't expect to win, you know?

        Delete
    14. Hugs. Hope this passes VERY soon Shelley, and your love of worry free running returns.

      ReplyDelete
    15. Please don't shoot me, but if you need the first mile to get your breathing under control AND you are doing shorter races, you could always do a warm up mile before the race starts. Is your anxiety less if it's a course/race that you've done before? I always feel better when I know the course.

      Good luck!

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. Actually, my husband has suggested we do a warm up mile before the races. Which I instantly dismiss, LOL - but I suspect you (and he, dangit) might be onto something with that.

        Delete
    16. I totally get this. I keep saying that I just want to finish but it is a lie. I want to be fast. Yeah, the first year was fun because I got better each race and I knew so little.

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. Can we both go back in time? At least when it comes to running??

        Delete
    17. Good for you for talking about it, and continuing to work your way through it. I love the idea of leaving your Garmin off and just running for running's sake, and maybe the idea of doing a pre-race run to help get your breathing under control. Although -- do you have to do the full mile? Would a half-mile be sufficient?

      You can do it! You always do. :)

      ReplyDelete

    I love hearing from you and read each and every comment! Comments on older posts are moderated, so they won't show up right away - sorry to my real readers, but spammers love to hit old posts, so this is necessary.