Today I really wanted to talk about something I seemed to have avoided so far on my blog – despite it being possibly the main reason I started Energised Ellie in the first place! I have to deal with anxiety/ perfectionism and, for quite a while, it did effect me a lot but I have gradually began to decrease my issues and am certainly getting better at relaxing so I thought it would be really important to share my advice and experiences on my blog. As this is primarily an active/ running blog, I thought I would start talking about how my anxiety has – and still does- effect me in running and how I plan to overcome this. But first, a little bit of backstory…
I have always been a competitive person and an “over-achiever” as you could say but about a year into secondary school, this desire to achieve suddenly expanded vastly. In the summer of Year 7, I got my first 100% on a test and, since that moment, I have been almost adamant about scoring that highly on every single exam. At its worst, in Year 8, I would be very disappointed if I did not get the absolute highest mark and occasionally even upset if I didn’t get 100% (which is ridiculous I know but I can’t say that it still doesn’t effect me). I would study as hard as I could because in my mind, if I was good, I wanted to be the best. The same applied for running.
I started running around the same time my perfectionism in school started and I was improving rapidly. I would run hard every single day and every Saturday and Sunday I would smash my parkrun PBs – it was great! Until I hit an absolute wall. I was no longer improving. Every week I would try for a good time and just end up crying for ages over the result. This started to effect my performance to the point where I would tense up and my breathing would rise. Most annoyingly however, it would make me more likely to give up when someone over-took me. I was doing everything I could think of to improve: I ate super healthily, I joined a running club, I researched constantly but I still didn’t get that magic PB. It was awful. Eventually came the time for me to start competing and immediately I was hit with the reality at how advanced my competitors were. Most of the girls I would run against had been experienced club runners for years and I was (and still am) not. My races were harder than I had ever done and I wasn’t as high up as I thought I should have been and part of this was because of my anxiety. It even got so bad that in one race, I was forced to drop out because I was overly exhausted and panicking simply because a person I usually beat was right behind me.
That was, and still is, the main issue. No matter how hard I try, it is very difficult not to compare myself to other people. Now, I have smashed those PBs and I am a much better runner but, in reality, I can’t say my racing anxiety has improved much. I no longer breakdown during or afterwards but I do get stressed if one of my rivals is nearby or – even worse- way ahead. As soon as I arrive at any race or parkrun, I will point out everyone who looks remotely fast and cower in fear. It would honestly probably be better if I could just run with a blind fold! Even more to my annoyance, this occasionally even affects me in training! My coach always notices it: the shoulders come up, the stride shortens, breathing quickens and I instantly appear strained – which, I am sure you can guess, does not help me run fast.
I know this needs to be overcome as it is really holding me back and taking quite a lot of the enjoyment out of running. I spend so much time planning how I can improve in running yet I tend to neglect the most obvious one! So, I have decided to make it my project to improve my running mentality and hopefully my anxiety in general. First and for most, I am going to try to just run for the love of running. I can’t pretend I don’t spend a substantial amount of time analysing results and I must admit that I do memorise quite a lot of them (yes, I am that obsessive) in an attempt to reassure myself but I am going to try and stop doing this and simply run for myself (although this will be a massive hurdle for me). “Run your own race” is what they all say and that’s what I shall do…or at least try to! I am also going to do more relaxation activities and just in general spend more time relaxing because I have a very contradictory mindset in which relaxing tends to stress me out but, as I have mentioned previously, I am working on it!
I hope you enjoyed this slightly different blog post! I’ll definitely keep you all updated on my anxiety progress and how I am going combat it! During this Saturday’s race, I am going to focus on my relaxation by using techniques such as counting in my head to 100 (which has previously worked well for me) and repeating mantras – I haven’t quite decided on a mantra yet so if you have any suggestions, that would be great- so I’ll let y’all know how that goes! Until then, wish me luck!