How to unplug the brain when running?

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    How to unplug the brain when running?

    I've got a very talkative brain. And it is french, so it is a complaining one.

    The fact is, I finally began running last year, driven by my colleagues. We run from time to time in the woods near the company; there is a path with ups and downs. You take approx 30 min to run it and if you want to go further there are some "add-on" paths. At the first sessions, my legs were hurting and that was what made me stop and walk. Now I see that I have physically progressed because my legs are not hurting anymore.

    BUT. I still can't run more than 30-35 minutes. Why is that ? It is because of my brain. At the very least pain (heart, lungs, belly... no more legs we said), it begins to tell me to stop and walk. "Hey, it would be a lot nicer to walk there, just sent you a memory of the sensation, could be great don't you think ?" At this moment I just begin to fight it and it's endless. The dialogue goes on:
    "We are almost there, I am not stopping.
    - Don't care ! I feel pain. Pain. Pain. Pain pain pain. Stop.
    - No way, this is ridiculous, I can keep going, it's a small pain.
    - It is so much better to walk. Sending you the memory of a nice walk right now.
    <beginning to slow down>
    - But... If I stop I will be a failure, again. Colleagues will judge me. (note: they won't). Anyway you're right, I am just a quitter, I will never reach 5km like other people.
    - Yeah, ok, I give the legs the order to stop."

    This mind fight is very bothering because once it has started there is nothing I can do but finally surrender. The "not-stopping" me seems just too weak to win over the brain.

    The problems are:
    - It happens every time and largely before I am really in pain or out of breath ; at the slightest difficulty
    - I do not see any improvement on the duration (I understand everyone feels the will to stop, but I would expect it to happen later and later at each session)
    - Nothing switches it off - music is useless, does not prevent the thinking at all, podcasts work better but I still struggle to keep focus and finally loose it
    - My mood and self confidence are damaged every time, runs when I am proud and happy are almost inexistent now
    - I am pretty sure my body itself has the means to go further but I have the feeling I will never know how much! I feel like in a deadend

    I don't have this problem while doing taekwondo, because there is so much to think about, the brain is saturated and do not tell me too strongly I am tired or in pain (unless I receive a huge blow but that is just protection).

    Well, has some of you the same sh***y brain ?
    Do you know a solution, a tool, or anything else to overcome it ? (colleagues already proposed alcohol, thanks )

    Thanks for your help!

    Well, back in Paris I had a friend that had the same issue you do, we fixed it by always going on runs together so we could talk about various things and he wouldn't think about the fact that he was running. So I guess my suggestion is to try to find a running partner ?


      Unorthodox thought here: Do you enjoy running? If not, or if you're unsure, maybe switch to another form of exercise for a time, like cycling and try again later. It's not really unplugging your brain, but giving it a bit of rest.


        ... or maybe find a different route? So your brain doesn't fall back into the same pattern.

        Also, we all have plateaus to deal with every now and then. Running more isn't always the best option. Leg strength and tendon strength workouts can help you here. And be aware that the easier running will get, the fewer reasons your brain will have to complain anyway.


          I know that feeling, my brain does that sometimes too. What I'v noticed is thinking about negative stuff like "I'm a looser if I don't keep going" hardly helps on the other side positive thoughts help a lot more like the classic "only so far" or sometimes I try to focus on how far I'v already run and try to be proud about the fact that I have already run so far and then use that to keep me going. Or if I have reason to be angry at something else than myself that helps like a miracle focus .

          If it gets really bad sometimes I manage to "trick-negotiate" with my brain, like "only 5 more mins" and after that "only 5 mins more" and so on, also goes with distance or landmarks.

          Maybe some of that stuff helps, it can be really hard to convince a stubborn brain, I know.

          What helped me a lot in the beginning was the "Zombies, run!" app, it's a bit like an audiobook. It has an "interactive" story as in you are a runner in the story and experience stuff on your run. If audio books helped you a bit maybe that will help you too.


            Hi! I have two ideas that don't fit together that well, but both have to do with your taekwondo experience.

            Idea 1: maybe your brain feels that you're taxing yourself enough with the taekwondo and is very careful about adding more. In that case, it might help to make time to do exercises that are not hard or taxing at all but will help you get aquainted with your body. Like gentle yoga. This may sound very odd on a fitness page, but let's assume for a minute your arguing brain has a point

            Idea 2: maybe it's possible to kind of plug into your taekwondo brain while running. Like, try to make your brain understand that the running is an extension of taekwondo practice. Personally, I was never able or interested to keep up any routine of working out until I started martial arts (also taekwondo in the beginning). When I discovered that running (and later, darebee) actually helped in the dojo, it made it so much easier. I was able to concentrate for a longer time at practice, got tired later, was able to keep good form longer. So I was no longer doing other stuff just for the sake of doing it, but for the sake of becoming a better martial artist. (And then at some point it changed and now I really miss running for its own sake and I will do darebee for the badges, but that's a different story.)


              Good music, or a podcast? I like putting on Spotify for music, and I also launch the Zombies run! app to interrupt the rythm of the music.


                Most of my suggestions would be around playing with different ways to run. Sure, having a thirty minute run every time is great! But maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to have a few 15 to 20 minute recovery runs - maybe one or two a week, depending on how much you already run. You could also work on speed rather than distance or even toy around with interval runs. Basically, this means that you run for a set amount of time and walk for a set amount of time. Typically interval run programs start off with someone running for maybe 30 seconds, then walking for a minute, and then switching back and forth several times over the course of 20 to 30 minutes (on average). Slowly the times scale up from there, but the idea would be that it might help you switch your runs up enough.

                I know a lot of people have suggested Zombies, Run! already and they have conveniently an interval training aspect of the application and they have a 5k training application that might still be on the store to find, but there are several phone apps that can help to this end. There are also a few challenges in the running section here that could help. Maybe this one (built for helping someone achieve a longer run) could be an option. You could also incorporate one or two days a week that you could workout along the lines of Run Faster ( or Run Longer ( Lots of running programs like Strava and Runkeeper also have 5k training programs as part of their add ons.

                It may help to focus on your breathing and making sure that you take full belly breaths. Some training applications may help with this particular exercise (if you don't mind monthly subscriptions, Vi might be an option for something like this, especially as that app in particular can be tailored to learning how to run longer/faster, etc).


                  Thanks for all the answers.
                  Ryuji : actually I do usually run with my colleagues, I can't really chat without jeopardizing my breath (I try to learn to breath correctly and I have made progress so far, but not to the point to be able to make long sentences) but I can listen to them, until the point i stay behind because I am too slow ^^ (I don't try to keep up with them, the situation would be worse since it is not my pace). I confirm it is harder when I am alone. I think that's the same for a lot of people.

                  Nihopaloa : no I do not enjoy it, and of course I have not reached this mysterious phase when you feel pleasure, the phase everyone told me about... since it is around 40 min - 1h of running I cannot count on this to overcome my issue
                  I run because I want to progress on endurance and get all the benefits of running as well. The usual exercises I do are way shorter and more explosive so I want to train differently to add to my capacities as a martial artist, as MissSmilla explained for herself. The fact is, I find running, cycling and swimming very boring and that is what I struggle to overcome. Running is the most manageable of all three endurance sports for me.

                  Redline you're right, it is a kind of a plateau... just that my tolerance to this specific pain is very low for no reason and not compatible with my impatience and tolerance to myself! So very frustrating ! I just feel I have to get tougher mentally and I don't know how.

                  @all : Will try the Zombies run anyway !

                  ArtBoyo thanks, I think I will try this. I wanted to do the 5k but I am doing other programs as well as physiotherapy so did not want to overload.


                    Yurishka That's why I said partner, someone that would adjust to your pace and stick with you for the whole run


                      Different idea: You could try cursing at your brain, or maybe insulting it. Yes, I know it sounds weird and not very nice, but it seems to work really well for some people. Alternatively, curse other things, if you want maybe even loudly. I don't know, stuff like the weather, work, politics, whatever comes to mind.

                      Another idea: Try to engage your brain in other discussions. Talk about philosophy, science, literature, whatever. Just to keep it occupied.

                      And finally, as another alternative to running, cycling and swimming: rollerblading.

                      I'm just throwing ideas out here


                        Nihopaloa Well, having fights is what I try to stop, because it is mentally exhausting... The general discussions are there but "weaker" than the brain's feeling of pain or boredom, they don't last
                        Rollerblading is fun, but the terrain here is not really adequate for it, too dangerous regarding traffic. No lanes for the cycles and the sidewalk too uneven or narrowing

                        I just downloaded Zombies run, I will try on the next session ! Also downloaded the various Darebee programs. Having a firm and precise objective will help me !


                          When I started walking long distances at first, it was when I was still very overweight. That made it very uncomfortable. What I did was download a specific type of music (epic battle music) and created a story in my mind to fit that music when I was walking. Pretending to be on an epic quest in my mind was much more enjoyable than being in the here and now where my legs were aching from walking.

                          Over the years, the story I first created and its characters became so intricate that I was able to write a novel about them.

                          Maybe you could try that? I mean, it doesn't have to be epic can always pretend you are some warrior fighting zombies or whatever. Lol


                            Nevetharine cool you could write a novel !
                            Imagining a story is something I can do when I am relaxed, not sure though my brain lets me do it when "in pain" (ahah.).

                            I plan to try Zombies run tomorrow morning, at last the sun has come back !


                              Nevetharine - Out of curiosity, is this novel published/available to buy, perhaps?