What Running Taught Me About Self-Sabotage

As defined by Lisa Jeffs, ‘Self-sabotage is when we actively or passively take steps to prevent ourselves from reaching our goals.’ How many of you would consider that you are a ‘self-saboteur’? Not me. Nope. Definitely not. I always go after my goals. 

Or do I? 

Looking back, I think I had talked myself out of being able to ‘run’ before I had even laced up my trainers. I have attempted a Couch to 5K program a handful of times now and always seem to have got stuck around Week 4 or 5. And when I say got stuck – I mean given up. 

Given up because it got hard. Because I had to put actual work and effort in. 

For anyone unfamiliar with a Couch to 5K program, it is a mixture of running and walking, split over 8 weeks, approximately 3 runs per week that will get you to running 5K in that amount of time. They are usually aimed at beginners and are a gentle way to build up stamina and get you used to running. 

But, if you are definitely not a runner, as I am, the increasing run times can feel a bit intimidating. 3 minutes literally feels like 3 hours if it’s a push for you to run for a bus. I had noticed a pattern emerge every time the app clicked over to a new week. Instead of feeling proud I had completed a week, I felt dread. How would I run for 3 minutes? 5 minutes? In a few weeks it wants me ro run 25 minutes, I will definitely die doing that. I will keel over into a bush and my body will be picked apart by the neighbourhood cats. 

Then, I would find reasons not to go. I was tired. The leggings I wanted to wear weren’t clean. The weather was slightly misty. Those cats might be on the prowl for fresh, failed runner prey. 

Ok, unlikely. What was more likely to happen, as Alex explained to me, is that I just wouldn’t be able to run for that amount of time. And I could literally try again the next day. 

What. A. Genius. 

So, reader, I can’t work out why that idea never occurred to me and that I must just be broken and therefore unable to run ever again as I couldn’t clear the next level of the app. Wait, self-sabotage of course! 

I have noticed over my 29 years, unless I am good at something, I give up fast. I lose interest, because I can’t be the best at it and therefore I don’t see a point in it, which usually sucks away the enjoyment I found from it. Instead of, you know, just persevering for the fun of it? It is a miracle in itself I ever learnt to drive because I despised every moment of those lessons, whereas I actually really enjoy driving now (even the road rage).

The more I thought about it, the more I noticed things that I had half-heartedly started and given up on because they were just plain hard work. Weirdly enough, the funny thing is, if you actually just try, you may surprise yourself. Lo and behold, I ran for 5 minutes. Yes, it was hard. Yes, I wanted to stop. But did I? No. And, I felt so much pride at pushing through the discomfort to achieve that goal. Then I ran for 3 sets of 5 minutes, and then I ran for 8 minutes, 10 minutes and soon I know I will be able to run 5K. Then 10K. Then maybe even a half marathon and who knows, a full marathon! 

So, next time you listen to the little Self-Sabotage Gremlin sitting on your shoulder, dripping negative poison into your ear, brush him off and go after your goals.