Steve Taylor PH.D. in a Psychology Today article, says that "real thinking is when we consciously use powers of reason and logic to evaluate different options, deliberate over problems, decisions, and plans, and so forth." He continues to say that "we often like to think of ourselves as rational creatures, superior to animals because we can reason, but this kind of rational thinking is actually quite rare. And, in fact, thought-chatter makes it harder to use our rational powers, because when we do have issues to deliberate, it streams through our minds and diverts our attention." Boy is that ever true when you're trying to add something new in your life like running and/or fitness.
Taylor, says, that "being immersed in thought-chatter isn’t so different from dreaming — at least, the kind of associative dreaming that sorts through the impressions and information we’ve absorbed recently and sends a strange mixture of them back through our minds. We have a little more control over thought-chatter than dreams, and it comes from the conscious mind rather than the subconscious, but essentially it’s the same whirl of mental material."
The idea that we have some control over "thought-chatter" is reassuring, but the problem is that we often choose not to control it. Have you have told a friend you'd meet her for an early morning run, but when the alarm rings, that little voice in your head tells you to roll over and forget the run? Ever plan to run or workout after work, but on the way home that little voice in your head starts to list all the other things you need to do instead?
I'm not sure what Dr. Taylor would say about this theory I have, but in my own experience, whenever I come to an unknow, or have to experience something new, or something I'm not experience at, that little voice in my head turns on me with negative thoughts. When I was a kid and young adult, I missed out on some cool experiences, because that negative inner voice ruled.
As I've "seasoned" over the years, I've learned that when you tell that inner self doubting voice to shut up, you open the door to experiencing an entirely new you.
When it comes to exercise there's a quote, "The pain of exercise is better than the pain of regret" that seems very fitting. So, even though the immediate response to listening to that inner voice and rolling over is comforting, later in the day you start to kick yourself for not getting out and running. So, not only did that inner voice win, it ended up making you feel worse. Something to remember when you have that first inkling to change your plans because the little voice is making quitting sound so good.
There are other reasons people have issues with quitting with running and/or exercise. Often it's the initial pain that comes with new activity. I always tell my new fitness clients and new runners that for the next several weeks (3-6 weeks) you may feel worse that when you started and that's normal. Any time you put new demands on your body on a consistent basis as in a new fitness or running plan, you're body's fitness level is initially going to dip. It's called the gain threshold. Your body is having to adapt, rebuild, and recover. It takes time. This is why gyms are full on January 1st, and then there are tumbleweeds in the parking long on January 31st. People give up before they start seeing positive change.
So, next time that little voice, inner speech or thought-chatter starts to yack in your head, remember that you can tell it to stop. Remind yourself how much better you feel when you don't listen to it and how guilty you feel when you do listen to it. And, if you're new to fitness, remind yourself that it does get better. Consistency is the key.
Now there is a difference between don't want to and can't . And there's a difference in listening to that little voice and listening to your body. Rest is a very important part of training. If you're hurting beyond regular muscle soreness, take a rest day. If you're worn down mentally and physically, take a rest day. Sometimes you have to overdo to figure that out, but keep in mind that fitness and running is about balancing activity and recovery.
Meditation can help in dealing with that inner voice. Doesn't have to be fancy legs-crossed "ummm" chanting meditation. It can just be taking some quite time to think about your goals and what might be getting in the way. Creating a mantra can be very effective too. A mantra or slogan, if you will, is a phrase that you repeat to yourself when you need that extra encouragement. My mantra and the mantra I share with my clients is Trust. Believe. Conquer! Trust in your training, believe in yourself, and you'll conquer your goals. Take some time to develop your own mantra to help you overcome your quit.