'Please be careful. Maybe walk for a few minutes, catch your breath. You're awfully sweaty. Take a break, you deserve it."
I'm one week into training for my first half marathon, and within the first 10 minutes of every run, this is the voice I hear. At first I thought of it as a negative influence willing to let me off the hook too early, and tried drowning it out with affirmations about how great I'm doing and what I've accomplished. Then, a realization: This voice is my mom, in my head, encouraging me away from any kind of discomfort.
I love my mom. But she would make a terrible running buddy.
"You have to get comfortable with the state of being uncomfortable," says Jay Walker, a personal trainer at Absolute Endurance in Toronto. He's on the treadmill beside me, sweaty, but talking with ease, as he nearly doubles my running speed. My running guide, Alan Chud, stands in front of my treadmill as I complete the first run in my plan – 35 minutes at a solid, aerobic pace.
Chud's designed the first few weeks of my training based on heart rates and times, not distances (see the plan here) . And while the heart-rate monitor pumps out the information he needs about my heart-rate zones, I'm learning a lot about my inner dialogue.
As I run, we talk about foot strikes, posture and the importance of running tall. Every so often I announce that I feel like dying. Chud checks my heart rate. "You're golden, no dying here," he says.
My heart is fine and holding at about 165 beats a minute in zone 2 – where I could, he says, physically run forever if I was refuelling. Try telling that to my mom.
So I keep running, and we talk about proper running form and how to breathe when you're tired. "Runners with great breathing technique will always look the worst in those finish-line photos," Chud tells me. "With a very relaxed face, you breathe easier." I relax my face and immediately note I look stupid in the mirror, but he's right – the slack jaw helps.
With three minutes left, Chud tells me that we can start focusing on the finish. I still can't do it. There's that voice again: "What's three minutes? Just relax now – you've worked really hard!"
Instead, I trust my heart-rate monitor. I bought a Garmin Forerunner, so I can track my heart rate on my wristwatch. I can see that my body is happy in motion.
After finishing three runs this week, and nearly two hours of running, I feel accomplished. Getting my brain on board with my body is a huge step. For now, Mom, I've got you beat.