Last month I started pondering how to make the decision about when to be tough and power through and when to give up. If you spend much time online seeing "fitspiration" then you see the constant message of how noble it is to persevere and not give up. I could go into the damaging aspects of this, but this article covers that quite well. I could also go into the specifics of when to rest and when to run, but I did find some guidelines from Runner's World to help with specifics. There are also plenty of articles with advice about how much pain you should endure when you have an injury. The thing is that with all this information in the end you still have to make the decision about how tough to be yourself.
This brings me back to the dilemma that I had. I signed up to run a New Year's Half Marathon the first Saturday in January, but during the last week in December I developed a slight cold that developed into a debilitating sinus infection. I'll spare the details, but everything from my neck up was clogged, leaking or in pain. I had to stop to catch my breath after going up the stairs, usually that was combined with a coughing fit. Now, you may be thinking that clearly I would have to skip the race because to an outside observer this is logical, but from inside my head I had a whole lot of guilt and obligation that was making me feel like I should do the race and feel bad for even considering backing out.
Why all the guilt? I had promised a friend I would run it, and I had already paid the race fee. The thing is that when I contacted both the race director and my friend they both said the same thing - "take care of yourself and I hope you feel better soon" so simple and universal that I realize that I have also said this to friends and acquaintances who tell me about illness or injury. If it is so easy to tell this to other people, and sincerely mean it, why is it so hard from me to give myself the same leeway as I would give someone else?
This is why I am proposing an addendum to the golden rule - in addition to treating others the way you would like to be treated you should also treat yourself as well as you would treat your friend. This should include forgiving weaknesses real or perceived and speaking about yourself kindly. Try thinking about what you say about yourself in the context of how it would sound if you said it to a friend. Would you say things like -
"You are a really slow runner so I'll just leave you behind."
"You have an injury so you might as well just give up, you'll never get better."
"Why did you say those things? Everyone must have thought you sounded really stupid."
If you are like most people you could think of plenty more things that you say about yourself either out loud or inside your head that you would never say about someone you care about. Running is mostly mental, so the things you are thinking will influence your performance. Having a positive attitude is one of the key things to making training successful, so make sure to focus on saying nice things to yourself. If you struggle with this like I do, here is my wish for you, in running and in life - "take care of yourself and I hope you feel better soon."