I’ve never been nervous before a sporting event before.
I played football from age 4 until I was 21. I fought Thai boxing once. MMA four times. Competed in a submissions grappling tournament. And ran two half-marathons.
For all of those events, I was excited. I looked at them as an opportunity to go out and showcase the fruits of my labour.
On the football pitch it was an opportunity to get the better of my direct opponent and to lead my team to victory over another.
In the ring/cage/on the mat, it was an opportunity to prove that I trained harder than my opponent. That my skill level was better. That my coaches and teammates were better. And that I was prepared to endure more than he was.
In the half-marathons, running was simply something I did in my time off training as a form of moving meditation. I started upping the distances I was running and figured I’d enter a race just to see how I’d get on.
The reason I’ve never been nervous, and always excited, is because I’ve always been physically and mentally prepared for the upcoming event.
I’ve always worked as hard as I possibly could and left no stone unturned when it came to preparation.
On the 1st of May, for the first time in my life, I’m entering into a sporting event that I am nervous about: the Belfast Marathon.
I’m nervous because I’m not physically ready, and here’s why:
1. I didn’t give myself enough time to prepare
2. I borderline crippled myself at the start by training far too hard, far too soon
3. My motivation majorly dipped when I realised the two points above
Back to the story…
Just 8 short weeks ago, I decided I needed a kick up the ass and something to work towards. I spent about 15mins, walking from the gym to a cafe, thinking about what I could do.
A marathon seemed like the most accessible option, given that I didn’t need an opponent, teammates/training partners or anything else other than a pair of trainers.
As soon as I got into the cafe, I looked up the UK marathon schedule and saw there was a marathon in Belfast on the 1st of May. I figured I could tie it in with a catch up with one of my best mates, entered the race and booked my flight.
Much like the majority of people when they set their minds on something, I was on fire. Motivation was oozing out of my pores and nothing was going to stop me.
I wrote a blog about it, told my friends/family/members and then wrote a training program for it.
This is when it all went down hill.
Whilst the majority of people in the world don’t think they’re as good as they actually are, I’m the polar opposite. I look at myself as Superman in normal clothes. Like The Rock, but with a Glaswegian accent. (Seriously, check this out for more on how I built my self-confidence.)
My first run should have been about 3-5 miles, given that I hadn’t ran further than that for years. But, with memories of a 1:27 Glasgow half-marathon finish (around 5 years ago!!!) I decided that 12 miles was an appropriate starting point.
It took me a few hours and literally had me contemplating going to the hospital the next day to get crutches. Four full days later, I could walk without a limp. And on day 7 I decided to take it easy with a 3-5 mile run…
I went ran ran 16 miles (and walked another 2 making it an 18 mile trip).
The silver lining here was that the pain that night and the following day wasn’t as bad as it was the previous week, but I was still in a bad, bad way.
My head went down and motivation vanished.
“I’m an idiot. This is way too hard.”, I kept thinking to myself.
Thing is, though, it wasn’t too hard. Training for a marathon, that is. I’d have been fine if I’d have started off with short runs, nailed them every other day and gradually built my distance up.
What was too hard was the fact that my expectations of myself were far too high. I really though I was capable of much more.
“Why didn’t you just pull out?”
I just really don’t have it in me to quit – even when I know the odds ain’t in my favour.
My mantra is essentially: Show up and do your best.
That’s the message I aim to instill into anyone I meet with regards to anything they’re about to do.
Going on a first date?
Show up and do your best.
Going to work?
Show up and do your best.
About to train?
Show up and do your best.
It’s the same message for everything, because as long as you do those two things I don’t really think there’s anything to be ashamed of.
If I chose to pull out, I wouldn’t be able to look myself in the mirror. And I wouldn’t be able to look anyone in the eye when I told them.
For me, suffering for somewhere around 4-5 hours is a far lesser penalty than the hit my pride would take telling people I decided not to go through with it.
“Why aren’t you physically ready…you’re a Personal Trainer for gad’s sake?”
I thought that because I only had 8 weeks I had to get the long runs done as soon as I could. When, looking back, doing four 6 mile runs per week would have been far more intelligent than doing one 12 mile run and crippling myself until my next long run.
This happens all the time with people when they start training. They set a blistering pace for themselves, training 5-6 days per week…sometimes 2x per day. They then inevitably burn out and jack it in altogether, resigning themselves to the ‘fact’ that they’ll never ‘get there’.
The reality is you’d be far better served training 3x per week, every week for a year. As opposed to smashing 6 days per week for a few months and then fizzling out, only to repeat again next January.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though.
Since signing up for the marathon – barring the first two weeks when I crippled myself – I’ve trained a lot more than I did the 8 weeks prior to signing up.
I’ve fairly consistently hit 1-2 runs per week, as well as 1-2 gym sessions as well. So my training has gone from one or two sessions every two weeks to 2-3 sessions per week. That’s a decent win.
I’ve also, gained a better understanding of why people get frustrated and quit, which will improve the quality of advice I give people when they first get started training with us.
Lastly, I’ve given myself a platform to push forwards from.
I’m fitter than I was 8 weeks ago, which was kinda the goal. So rather than revert back to a less physically active state after the marathon, I’m going to set myself a new challenge.
I’ve kind of already done that as I’ve committed to doing a photoshoot in 12 weeks time. The purpose of this is more to give our members the opportunity to get some photos of themselves doing some cool shit. But I’m going to double it up with some ‘taps aff’ shots for some accountability over the next few months.
Much like the marathon where at the end I’ll have a medal and a time, with photos I’ll simply have a visual representation of my efforts. If I don’t look better than I do now it’s simply feedback that I haven’t done enough work (i.e. training, daily activity and eating mindfully). If I do look better…which I should do…it’s a pat on the back.
I know that I need something ahead of me to keep me training. Something to focus on to keep me progressing. And, if nothing else, to give me a straight wake-up call if I haven’t put the work in.
The main things I want you to take away from this are:
1. Give yourself plenty of time
Don’t cripple yourself or crush your own motivation like I did.
2. Make yourself accountable
Tell as many people as you can about your plans/goals. Simply knowing that people are going to ask me how my training’s going and how I got on on the day push me to train more than the outcome itself.
3. Have something already in place to work towards before you even achieve your initial goal
It’ll not only keep you motivated to continue pushing once your initial objective is complete, but it should also make the ‘first’ goal seem a little less daunting knowing what you’ve got coming next.