January 29, 2020

Running 10km for 10 Days is the Ultimate Mental Toughness Reboot

On the first day of 2020, I went for a run. Not because I wanted to, but out of necessity. I had consumed a few drinks the night prior, at a New Years celebration, and had wisely left the car at the venue. As you can imagine, the run wasn’t particularly easy; I was hungover, it was breezy and there were a few inclines along the 10km route that make the profile of this run a challenge at the best of times. This was exacerbated by the fact that the temperature in Perth during the summertime can be pretty brutal. On this particular day, it was already creeping into the mid-30s. I struggled through the run, retrieved the car and proceeded to refuel and recover.

Later that day I saw that my friend Rob, who is based in the UAE, had posted a challenge on his Instagram page, encouraging his followers to run 10kms a day for 10 days. I considered the challenge: “Well, I’ve already run the first 10kms, I may as well run another 9. It can’t be that hard, right?”

HOW WRONG I WAS.

What followed was an interesting experiment in fitness. During the process, I learnt much about self-motivation (or lack thereof) consistency, priorities, mental toughness, recovery and accountability. Here are the 8 things I have taken away from my 10km a day challenge.

Lesson 1 – Commit!

Committing to something on social media creates a high level of accountability. I guess this is a no brainer but for those of you that may not see the benefit of this, think about how a public commitment can be a motivational tool. By telling my community / tribe that I was committing to this I was also allowing them to hold me accountable for completing it.

Lesson 2 – Schedule!

When you commit to something and then schedule time to get it done it reinforces the importance of that commitment. I’ve said it 1,000 times before, but “show me a person’s schedule and I’ll show you their priorities.” I’m a busy guy. Much of my activity is self-driven. I have to schedule things to manage competing projects and priorities. In many cases, if it’s not scheduled, it’s just not getting done. I scheduled time from 5:45am to 7:45am every day to get the run and other associated tasks completed. If it’s important you will schedule it. If it’s in the schedule, then it’s a priority and you’ll get it done. Time is the cost and time is your most valuable commodity. You can’t buy more…and the clock is ticking.

Lesson 3 – Set yourself up for success!

If you have committed to something and then scheduled it, the rest of your day starts to support that commitment. The runs took me, on average, 55 minutes, give or take 5 minutes either side. I didn’t just roll out of bed and start running, though. I needed to organise my morning routine to support the schedule. This involved laying out my running gear the night before, taking a quick drive to an area that I like to run around, writing in my gratitude journal and having a black coffee – setting myself up physically and emotionally to tackle the run. Then there was the post-run Instagram post, data check-in and connection with those supporting me. Remember, it’s not about proving your doubters wrong – it’s about proving your supporters right! And so is the case with life.

Lesson 4 – Create the right habits!

Running 10kms a day is about recovery as much as the actual running. This should be pretty easy for me given I ran all through High School and the Army loves to make you run; I’ve got the volume in the legs for this challenge. Honestly, I did find it tough though, which I will admit and I will go into in a moment. As I immersed myself deeper in the challenge, I realised that I needed the right habits to recover properly, so as to be successful. This involved foam rolling and stretching, something I had never really done before this challenge. I never really saw the benefit to it; being sore was just a part of training for me. There was also the requirement to hydrate properly during the day and at night, so as not to tank during the run. I needed to build these habits throughout the day.

Lesson 5 – Mental toughness as an opportunity.

Mental toughness and the endurance needed to complete 10kms a day are of equal importance. Some of the days I struggled to put one foot in front of the other. On other days the accumulation of the distance felt like it was taking its toll and I had to check my internal negative dialogue. At one point I let my ego get the better of me and hung onto the pace of a person who overtook me. This proved disastrous on the return leg. I hung on to complete the run, but only just. I can’t emphasise enough to just get to the starting line, put one foot in front of the other, trust the process and maintain a positive outlook for the duration of the 10kms. A metaphor for life.

Lesson 6 – Same bat time, same bat channel.

I don’t usually like setting patterns – call it a learnt survival instinct. However, running the same track each day at the same time was a grounding experience. I got to experience the sunrise, the changes in the weather, people and even the changes in the light. It’s great for perspective on the ever-changing experience that is life. Despite the route being the same, no one day was the same as another. The light was just different, the weather; especially the wind was different. The people were different too; as you can imagine, there was no one around on the wet days and the further from January 1st we got, fewer people were out, sticking to their resolutions. It gave me a sense of grounding, being outdoors at the start of every day.

Lesson 7 – Wins lead to winning!

Running 10kms a day for 10 days is about the little wins for the big win. Waking in the morning is a great start to the day, the first win…..I’d reward myself with an espresso at my favourite café that’s close to the start line. Then getting to the start line: the next win. The first step into my run and so on. I would break the run into its component parts: Make it up this little hill; Catch up to the person in front of me; Maintain 5min/km pace for another kilometre. All of these are little wins. Getting to the 5km mark (the turnaround generally) I would then reward myself by taking my t-shirt off. This became a driver for me; regardless of the heat up until that point, I wouldn’t take the lid off until the 5km mark – another win.

Lesson 8 – Now what?

I finished the 10kms for 10days and felt the sense of achievement on completing the mission. The next day I woke up and I felt that something was missing. I slept through my normal wake up time. My sense of purpose wasn’t really there. I didn’t fill out my gratitude journal, nor get my morning coffee. Discipline and accountability were over and emptiness took its place. I went for a walk and then felt like I just wanted to run. It wasn’t my body that wanted to run, it was my mind.

Running 10kms for 10 days; it’s not really that big of a deal. However, I found it a great reset of my cardio fitness and my mental toughness too. A new frame of reference, if you will. I learnt through the process about commitment, consistency, scheduling, and mental toughness. Finally, it reinforced in my mind once again that consistency is what matters; consistency builds champions not motivation. Once the discipline is over, emptiness takes its place.