How To Get Through Hard Workouts Without Breaking Down

Panic attack
Has this ever happened to you mid-workout?  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Something I’ve talked about before here on Salty Running are my track workouts and how much I enjoy them. But I’ve neglected to talk about something that has the ability to plague my tough workouts:  my tendency to have anxiety attacks.

Recently both Cinnamon and Ginger battled anxiety attacks while racing their respective fall marathons, but anxiety can come at any time. For me, workouts are more stressful than races. My nerves are at an all-time high during workouts because I feel like I have to perform to a certain standard. I have to hit my splits or immediately I don’t think I’m ‘good enough.’

Let me give you a little history — I’ve had anxiety and panic attacks since I was a kid, over things like deep water and blood tests. My first anxiety attack while running was last year during a track workout, when I was boxed in by about three or four other girls, thought they were all racing me, and freaked out. I couldn’t even finish the workout! Since then I’ve DNFed a 5K because of a panic attack and my legs buckled last Tuesday after a series of 10 400m repeats on grass. Sometimes it gets to be too much for me and I just need to stop. Needless to say, I have a lot of trouble relaxing!

So why I am I telling you all of this, especially about something I am super embarrassed about?

Because I think anxiety attacks and anxiety over workouts in general can be overcome. I’ve talked about this before in a psychological complex, but I’m just going to get a little more personal now.

Just a couple of hours after returning from fall break I had a hard track workout scheduled:  1×1000, 6×400, and 6×200. The 400s and 200s were supposed to get progressively faster. When I first heard the workout, I felt nauseated. But why? That workout isn’t impossible for me, especially at this point in the training cycle. 400s and 200s go by so quickly you almost don’t even realize that you’re doing them. Nevertheless, I still freaked out. But this time I met the anxiety head on, and it didn’t get as bad as usual. I took really deep breaths and clenched my fists out and in, even as I was running. I also stayed in the outside lanes, where I feel a little bit safer. I let myself do what I needed to do to get through it, and you know what? I had a really, really awesome workout.

Get out there and have fun -- remember that your running friends have your back.
Get out there and have fun — remember that your running friends have your back.

You’ve got to be a little selfish in doing what’s best for you sometimes. And really, you need to relax. I think relaxation is key to any good workout.

So why am I telling you this? Because sometimes even the best runners go through mental blocks. If you too are working through running anxiety, you’re not alone, I’m right there with you! I am having a really difficult time with cross country right now and my brain is not helping me out with any of it. But I’m actively working to fight off the stress, and I believe it will work!

We don’t have to let the anxiety get the best of us, we can get out there and do our best to relax and enjoy ourselves!

Have you ever been troubled with anxiety while running?  What tactics have you used to overcome the stress?

Former collegiate coffee-fueled distance runner who loves track workouts.

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1 comment

  1. Awesome post! Attacking the mental side of running can be tough. Learning how to remember it is just running is huge! Thanks for the post!