by Elizabeth Comeau, digital editor at Runner's World and Zelle
"How far are we going, and how fast?" my mother/runner friend asked me.
"I don't know," I said. "I've started just using my running watch to time myself for an hour, and whatever I do during those 60 minutes is what I do."
This is a new thing I'm trying, and it's proving exceedingly difficult.
Pressure to go far. Pressure to go fast. Pressure to be strong. To get leaner. To keep going, going, going.
I'm the woman at the back of the pack during "shakeout" runs where "all paces are welcome" (which I've come to decide is often code for "You can run slowly alone while the rest of the group runs fast as all get-out up front there.")
This summer, a time when I normally put pressure on myself to not have thunder thighs hanging out of my linen shorts, when I wish I didn't have batwings that flap in the breeze as I yank up my tankini top, I've decided to be done with all of that pressure.
And 60 minutes is my way to do it.
For 60 minutes, my whole goal is to just move.
Fast, slow, in between--it doesn't matter. Take the pressure off by taking away impossible expectations that no one but me placed on my shoulders. Just complete a simple task to move.
It's my exercise equivalent to writing something simple like "brush my teeth" on my daily to-do list just so that I can feel good about crossing something off of a list that I feel grows longer by the nanosecond.
Many people would say don't wear the running watch--just go. Or, don't wear the bikini if it makes you self-conscious, but I want to hold myself accountable in some way so that I don't give up.
So I wear my watch, with only a countdown timer showing. And when I glance down at it, instead of worrying about speed or distance, I simply think "Only x minutes until I'm done with my goal for today."
That shift makes me feel a whole lot better than saying, "Faster, come on, legs," in my head to myself.
This 60-minute rule works for other things, too: I stick with hard tasks that drive me nuts for no more than an hour before I give myself permission to stop, set the thing aside, and try something else I need to do.
Instead of viewing stopping as failure, I now see it as completing my 60 minutes of that task so that I can move on to another.
Take the pressure off.
Cross something easy thing off the list.
Give yourself a small confidence boost you need by doing this.
My 60-minute project resulted in a 6-minute improvement in my personal best for my last marathon. And I had no idea until hours afterward that I'd hit that goal because I was too busy having too much fun--no pressure involved.
Elizabeth Comeau is a marathoner, journalist, triathlete, coffee addict, mother, and writer. She worked as a journalist at The Boston Globe for 14 years, first as a reporter, then in marketing and events, and is now a digital editor for Runner"s World. To Elizabeth, being a runner means more than just racing fast or running hard: It's also about pushing herself to do things she didn't know she could do. Her philosophy is that if it seems impossible, she simply has to try it.
For more from Maria Rodale, visit www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com