Anxiety attacks associated with running seems to be more common (or maybe just interesting?) than even I had thought or encountered judging by the hits on this series of posts. So, I thought I’d add another solution for folks.
In the second post I outlined how to overcome anxiety with counting exercises.
This time I’ll share approaches that lean towards individual styles or preferences to filtering and processing information. Of course every individual has different learning and communication styles. Along that line, we have different interventions that will work depending on our preferred styles.
Preferred styles can be divided up in many ways. Anyone who has taken various assessments may already know this. The three most dominant styles are kinesthetic, auditory and visual.
Kinesthetic learners will prefer hands-on approaches and will focus on the feel of things (i.e. want to DO the exercise to learn best).
Auditory learners will prefer to listen to “get it” (i.e. want to be told step by step what to do/how to do it before trying it).
Visual learners want to see it demonstrated before launching into something new (i.e. watch a video or someone demonstrate the exercise/drill).
*Not sure which one you are? Contact me and I’ll send you a fast one page assessment.
Knowing your own predisposition or preference (which may be more than just one – though we most often have one dominant) is a key to how you may focus best. The issue with anxiety attacks precipitated by running is that our minds are triggered at some point during a workout or race to “panic” or shut down and tell ourselves “we can’t do this.”
Those who lean towards strong kinesthetic senses should try focus on these:
Feeling your footfall.
Feeling sweat roll down your face.
Feel the cooling breeze on your sweat.
Notice the rhythm of your legs.
Feel your arm carry – back and forth.
Notice the feel of your clothing on your skin (OK I’m assuming you’re wearing clothes here!)
Feel the heat rise from the streets you are running on.
Feel the change in temperatures as you change surfaces (i.e. move over grass or dirt from pavement).
Feel the sun on your skin (summer).
Feel the cold wind against your skin (winter).
Make fist and feel how that makes a difference in how you feel as you run. Then release it and compare the feelings.
For the stronger auditorily focused, try these:
Listen to your feet as they hit the ground.
Listen to the change in that sound on different surfaces.
Listen to traffic.
Listen to passing conversations.
Listen to birds.
Listen to music.
Listen to the rain as it hits your body or the ground.
Listen to the wind in the trees and bushes.
Listen to your breathing and the rhythm it has.
If you are with others, listen to them breath; listen to their footfall.
Visually oriented individuals can focus on anything their eyes gaze upon. This is the most common stronger orientation. The key is not to make “seeing” a passive activity. You must actively engage in nuances and intricacies of everything you can see to use this orientation successfully.
Focus on the colors of the environment.
Look for textures in the surface you are running on.
Notice how that with your arm carry, your lightly cupped hands just come into view as you look ahead.
Notice the rims of your sun glasses.
Look for people’s faces as you pass them.
In all the above examples you have to understand yourself first. If your labored breathing is something that triggers your errant thoughts then you probably should not be focusing on your breathing – listening to it or feeling your chest or whatever. Sometimes it may work for an individual to focus on exactly that trigger to “break through” but this is highly individual.
The goal with everyone of these techniques is to allow you to complete your workouts without an attack. As you become confident in your ability to go beyond that “trigger point” of your training, you will also physiologically have built the conditioning to go further and faster. If you continue to stop or quit workouts, it will be nearly impossible to reach your goals.
Everything I have suggested in this series of articles is technique oriented. In the process the confidence and mental barriers are diminished over time to allow you to perform at your potential. This does not however replace professional counseling for more deep seated or pervasive issues.
By the way, you can also use the sense of smell but I’m not sure you want to focus on smelling the runner next to you.