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Conquer your Own "Lockdown Marathon"!

April 20 2020 By Justene Smith

As an avid runner and sport enthusiast, this recent lockdown has been a very tough time for me. Running circles round and round my garden brings a sense of relief at being able to get some exercise but the process of running the steady track into my lawn daily can be mind-numbing and at times, completely demotivating. I'm currently aiming to clock 100kms during the lockdown!

We all have our different passions or routines in our daily lives - these could include just going to work and doing your job, looking after your family, cooking or engaging in a hobby or sport that you enjoy. I am sure that everyone is feeling the stress right now of being so limited and not able to engage in these activities, which often relieve our stress or make us happy.

I recently read an article published by Suunto where Courtney Dauwalter was interviewed - she was the Ultramarathon Runner of the Year in 2018 by Ultra Running Magazine after winning nine of the twelve races she entered and she gave some tips on how she got through these long endurance races.  It's really interesting how these tips can completely translate into some useful tools to help us endure this tough lockdown and get us to the end, feeling accomplished.

Here are some of her tips and how to apply them:

Stay present - During this lockdown we may have a lot more time to be alone with our thoughts than usual and the danger of this is that we can get stuck in thinking about the past, perhaps happier times and then slip into negative thoughts and stressors about the future, getting back to work, end of month money anxieties, etc.  So take the time to focus on the present, what you are doing and how you may be feeling. Try to find ways to make the current situation more comfortable. If possible, do something productive like learning a new skill, engaging in something you love if you can or taking some time to just breathe.

Flip the script - It's really important to stay positive, although at times this may feel impossible! Try not to panic and be overcome by how awful the current situation seems and how terrible you may be feeling, but rather "flip the script" in your mind and start telling yourself that you are feeling great, even if you aren't...  You will be amazed at how a bit of positive thinking can make you feel better.

Acknowledge that it's tough - It's one thing to always try to see the proverbial "light at the end of the tunnel" and stay positive, but also allow yourself the grace to acknowledge, every now and then, that what we are going through is difficult. It's probably one of the hardest things that most of us have had to endure in our lifetimes. Allow yourself to wallow for a short while, acknowledge that you are definitely not alone in this and that the majority of our population right now are also feeling overwhelmed. But then draw yourself out of it!

Have a mantra - To help with both of the above tips, get yourself a mantra - something that makes you feel better. Keep it short, learn it well and keep it on a loop in your head. Say it to yourself and say it out loud when you need to hear it. These could be, "I'm doing ok" or "I'll get through this" or "This will pass".  At first, those around you may think you are crazy, but soon you'll find them saying it too! 

Remember the evidence - This one may be a bit tougher to translate because none of us have had to endure anything like this before. Think back to another time when you went through something difficult - you may have felt hopeless or overwhelmed and then remember that you got through it! You are here and present and facing this current challenge with the same strength that got you through it before.

Daydream - There will be those days where all the above just don't seem to cut it.  At these times, try to allow yourself to daydream. Allow yourself to just check out of your current space and go to your happy place! Think about your family and friends, that memorable holiday or special day, or check yourself onto the beach chair with a cocktail in your hand (but with the current lockdown rules, that cocktail is unfortunately going to have to be a virgin one!), soaking up the rays and just relaxing. Even go as far as to get your blanket out onto the floor/garden/veranda and just lie there and let yourself float away to that place. 

Remember that each day will be different and we will definitely have those up and down moments, but also remember that this is your very own ultramarathon and that you will get to the end of it. Pace yourself and look after yourself (both physically and mentally). Embrace how you feel, do what you can to get to the end and decide on what your "medal" will be at the end. I know my own "medal" is going to be a huge glass of red wine, when I can buy that again!

Some pictures of my happier times, running out on the trails!

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