Written by Andrew Simmons for the Fall 2021 edition of our Trail Times newsletter. Simmons is an avid trail runner and the Head Coach for Lifelong Endurance.
The definition of resilience implies that you have rebounded from a difficult situation whether it be a tough patch in your job, your relationship, or even an injury in training. The many stresses of life directly affect and impact our trail running training and racing outcomes and often times require us to call on our powers of resilience.
In working with athletes, coaches commonly deal with individuals who have apprehension as they return to trail running training after injuries, return to a race course they DNF’d, or rebuild themselves after years of little or no training. Let’s focus on how to bounce back after encountering a difficulty, no matter what it is.
Anyone that’s experienced an injury or a traumatic accident will find that the return to training can be a slow process requiring methodical exposure over time while working through apprehension and slowly regaining confidence. This process can last weeks or months and requires patience and perseverance while slowly increasing exposure to risk to regain a sense of comfort and control.
Make a plan
Resilience is about creating a sense of comfort around risk and resisting your body’s natural desire to protect you from danger. Some of these feelings are logical, others are illogical to the point that you can’t always decipher or understand why you feel what you feel.
When we follow a plan it gives context to a given point in time and a process we can follow. Creating a plan of how you will train or overcome an injury gives you a clear path on how you are going to accomplish your goal. You may not think you are in danger when you’re training, but as you push yourself further and farther, you begin pushing your mind and body out of its comfort zone. When you have a clear sense of where you’re going and why you’re doing it – results come easier.
Take me with you
Trail running with other people is one of the easiest ways to build your comfort and resilience. If you’re training with another person, you will both have a mutually beneficial experience. Working out with another person gives you comfort to go a little further, push a little harder, and feel safe while doing so. Friends with experience can help guide you on your journey. As a coach and runner, I love working with my youth program – Peak Performance Running – because I get to help young runners meet and exceed the limits they’ve set for themselves. It could be something as simple as their first run over five miles, guiding them along a new trail, or building their confidence back after an injury. The African proverb has never been more true – If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go further, go together.
Understand your limiting belief
What is standing in your way of success? Do you believe you will be slower than you once were, or not as successful? Do you have fear that you’ll fail or re-injure yourself? The reality is that you’re likely exhibiting damaging thoughts and behaviors that are holding you back. Taking time to reflect, get vulnerable, and understand what is holding you back is key to becoming more resilient in your trail running training. If you believe that you’re not capable of running a marathon – how does that show up in your long run? Do you get tired and stop or walk at the first sign that you’re not holding a pace? Do you get defeated when other people are running further and faster than you?
The beliefs we hold inside of ourselves often dictate our outcomes. Take time to reflect what you’re feeling and ask why three times. For example, I’m afraid to get this 7 mile run in.
- Why? I broke my foot 10 weeks ago and I’m afraid I’ll hurt myself.
- Why? It’s my first run over 3 miles and I broke my foot on a long run. I’m not ready to do this on trails.
- Why? I’m not confident my foot can handle the terrain. I’m always slower on trails and without confidence in my abilities – I’m afraid I might set myself back.
So, what’s the best way to practice resilience here?
- Slowly expose yourself to trails – your longest run back to running isn’t a good place to start running trails. Ease your way back. (Exposure)
- Train on flat surfaces on which you’re comfortable and confident. Treat roads and trails differently as you heal. Keep tabs on “longest trail run, longest road run.” (Make a plan)
- Join a group run! Training with others always instills a sense of community and camaraderie and makes the miles fly by. (Take me with you)
Take time to delve into why you’re struggling and put these tools into practice. If you want real results, you’re going to need to dig in and get uncomfortable. You surely don’t have to do it alone, as a coach it’s a big part of what I do in helping people get over a hurdle in training. If you’re hitting a rough patch – find a guide or a coach and “go together!”
PRO TIP: Looking for more insights into resilience for trail runners? Check out this article from Jeff Kidahl for the Spring 2021 edition of our Trail Times newsletter.