Becca Gould

Designer Athlete

Training with Anxiety

by Becca Gould Running

Note: everything written here is obviously my opinion.

So yesterday (Thursday) evening during a snowy hill training session with my track club, an old friend named Anxiety decided to come out and play with me.

Problem is: that ‘play’ resulted in myself feeling overwhelmed, dizzy, and just down right scared. Hence why they call them ‘anxiety attacks’ and not ‘anxiety plays’.

I heard coach throughout the workout state that training conditions like this “build character”. Training for running isn’t all physical. There is a mental aspect to it as well.

Take the 2018 Boston Marathon for example. One of the prime reasons why many of the favourites dropped out was due to the terrible conditions. But the man and the woman that ended up winning (Japanese athlete Yuki Kawauchi and American athlete Des Linden respectively) not only had the physical toughness, but the mental toughness to persevere through, despite the atrocious conditions.

I believe the state of one’s mental toughness is tied to the current state of one’s mental health, and if the mind gets neglected during training, your body can only go so far, both in training and competition.

Going back to Thursday’s workout, the moment the snow started pouring down shortly before the beginning of the hill workout, my mind was nowhere ready to do this workout. The problem is: I didn’t realize it until I was actually doing the workout.

The workout itself wasn’t very long, but it was tough. I mean, it was hill training for goodness sake, and hills have never been my favourite thing in the world.

Even on a picture perfect running day, hills are a mental obstacle. Tie in the messed up April snow-shower we call “Springtime in Calgary” and boy, the negative reckonings was another level of mental toughness I was nowhere near ready for.

In fact, I was barely 4 minutes in when I called it quits. My chest felt hollow, my mind felt dizzy, and my surroundings felt claustrophobic, despite being outside in the open.

I felt strong physically, but I had to treat this situation like an injury. Because in reality, I was injured. Mentally.

As best said in Clint Eastwood’s movie “Heartbreak Ridge”, it was time for me to “Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome”. I knew I wanted to get a few more minutes of running into my system, but I knew I was not able to handle the stresses of high performances paces in the current state I was in. As a result, I ended up running easy around the perimeter of the hilly park for 10 minutes to not only get more mileage, but to also calm myself down.

After all, an easy run was better than no run at all.

It didn’t stop there. Once an anxiety attack hits, it has a tendency to hang around. That same night, it took a melatonin pill and an evening of being “Worry Bear Becca” to fall asleep.

Waking up this morning, I was still feeling scared. Scared that something bad was going to happen.

My mind knew that everything was going to be okay and that today was another opportunity to go for a run. However, it takes time (as well as self-care and kindness for yourself) for the sadness, heaviness, and uncertainty in your chest to pass.

My advice? Don’t ignore those negative feelings. Acknowledge them.

Those are normal feelings to have. And that’s okay.

Like a physical injury, a mental injury takes time to heal, and beating myself up was only going to make it worse.

So the next time you have to stop training early due to a mental health situation, don’t be hateful to yourself. Be kind to yourself and approach the situation in the same way you would as a physical injury.

Because your mental health is just as important, if not more, as your physical health.

For the sake of yourself, take care of yourself.