Meet My Alter Ego, Anxiety Girl

Sassafras’s alter ego in running Anxiety Girl. img via awesome webcomic
I think everyone has a running super power. Mine happens to be planning and analyzing just about everything. Researching race reviews? Check. Figuring out my goal pace and my ideal splits? Check. Helping to plan a 5K, be in charge of making tutus for a 12 person relay team and making information packets for my spectators? Check, check and check. (I will admit that the information packet may have been a tad overkill, but I like to think it’s part of my charm.) This crazy over-planning trait of mine means that I’m frequently in positions like group organizer, captain or aid station coordinator.

But just like in the comics sometimes super powers can turn against us, and our greatest strengths can become our greatest weaknesses. In most scenarios my planning every detail is great, but in matters of injury my over-thinking gene goes into overdrive! It feels like my inner superhero has turned against me… She becomes my evil alter ego, Anxiety Girl, who comes up with worst-case scenarios everywhere she goes! Let me offer you a little peek into this warped, anxiety-filled part of my brain.

Scenario: My ankle is bugging me a tiny bit, even when walking around the neighborhood.

Rational person response: Take a week off, nix all the cute shoes for comfortable ones, and if running is still hurting, get checked out at the sports medicine clinic.

Anxiety Girl response: OMG! It’s a stress fracture and I’m going to have to drop out of the marathon that’s five months away even though I already paid and I never will run again and my running friends probably won’t even say hi to me when they see me on the street.

Beyoncé has Sasha Fierce, and I get stuck with Anxiety Girl? Anxiety Girl gets her power from a combination of Google self-diagnosing, a feeling of waiting for the other (running) shoe to drop and well, just anxiety. Marathons are about the risk, about putting it all on the line.

It’s pretty nerve-wracking to think of all those miles put in the bank gone to waste. All of the early mornings, the ones drenched in humidity and sweat, the early nights and plans to which you’ve sent your regrets in anticipation of weekend long runs. You put your body through intervals and race pace miles, and invest your hopes for months, maybe even years, into this one day going well, and when it looks like you may not even make it to that day it’s easy to panic. I like things to be a certain way, to have them planned to the nth degree. When I can’t do that, Anxiety Girl comes out to play.

Unfortunately, Anxiety Girl is sometimes right, which is the root of her power. In the scenario above I was diagnosed with Achilles tendinitis at the end of this past January. Once I was able to resume training, I was so far behind schedule for my planned May marathon so I decided to err on the side of caution and switch to the half. But… the world didn’t end. I can still run. I still have other races on the horizon. And my running friends may have started out as running friends, but regardless of what happens I know that we are friends for life.

Oh, and even if I hadn’t been able to run the race at all, the miles would have never been a waste!

Everything WILL be alright (Detroit)
Maybe not today, but eventually… (img used on creativecommons lic. via flickr)

Maybe I have more in common with Beyoncé than I originally thought. She announced that she killed Sasha Fierce because she didn’t need her anymore. Me, I’m working on keeping Anxiety Girl in check. As you may have noticed in my training log this week, I felt like I strained something early in the week. I responded with stretching, heat, rest and a massage. While I did freak out to a few people (including Salty and Cinnamon), I wasn’t as worried about my marathon (7.5 weeks out at the time), as I was about my upcoming overnight relay in 2.5 weeks. But I didn’t make any sudden, race-dropping-out moves or drastic announcements. My massage therapist verified that yes, I did have an issue, but that it would heal quickly. Hallelujah! I’m still playing the wait-and-see game for a few more days, but I’m listening to actual experts instead of Anxiety Girl, and feeling reassured that It Will All Be Okay.

Have you had to deal with injuries during the peak of your training? How do you handle them?

Southern transplant who loves 90s boy bands, outdoor adventures and college basketball, although not necessarily in that order. Recovering running perfectionist.

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  1. Girl, I feel you! Last year around this time I awoke in the middle of the night in a cold sweat panic because my shin hurt. I might have even jumped on Facebook and announced to all the world that my season was over with a stress fracture. Somehow I made it back to sleep and woke up with no pain. Yeah. That’s marathon training for you 🙂 Hang in there. The end is in sight!!!

    1. Thanks, Salty! My little freakout to you guys the other day was mild in comparison to normal AG antics. Remind me to tell you sometime about my infamous race flip flop… I changed my mind three times in 24 hours! (Although there was an actual injury that time, and I just pushed through.)

  2. Your dialogue box had me laughing out loud. I have also been known to jump to the “never run again” conclusion when enduring anything from an injury to a head cold. Funny how these barriers render me completely irrational! I find it super helpful to talk to a running buddy or my husband about the anxiety to help keep it in check. And even though some of my running buddies are just as anxious, they are able to calm me down. And I’m able to return the favor when they overanalyze their way to anxiety. That’s what friends are for! I think it is also what makes “running” friends, friends for life!

  3. The longer I run (and it really hasn’t been all that long for me), the more convinced I am that if one is only running so that one can peak on a certain day and have an amazing experience on that day, not only are they setting themselves up for potential disappointment and recurring (if not non-stop) anxiety, but they are missing the experience of just being in motion, of….Just. Simply. Running.

    Running in the dark on a Tuesday morning because, well, you love to run, the stars are out, and other people are…not.

    Running in the rain because its just a bit crazy, and crazy is fun.

    Running around a track because we want to see just how fast we can go.

    Running up and down hills because it increases our bad-ass quotient.

    Running when it is “freakin’ cold” because (once again), its just a bit crazy (and BA :-).

    I’m certainly not against planning for upcoming races and setting myself up for success. But at the same time, I run because I love running. I don’t suffer through training so I can have a glorious race. I enjoy my training, and if I happen to peak on a race day, that is cool. If not, I got to be out doing what I love with others on a course I don’t typically run (I’m not anti-social ALL the time :-). And with the self-imposed pressure off, I find that I actually have not only better race experiences, but better race efforts and times as well.

    When your alter-ego pops out, you might just take her out for just a simple run… 🙂

    1. That’s a great point, Michael! Many of us serious runners tend to be type-A goal-oriented types who have a hard time focusing on anything but the end result. It’s the process of running where it’s really at. Case in point: our other post today!

  4. This made me laugh, especially the cartoon. I have similar super powers. My best recent example was having heartburn at night time and deciding within minutes that I was having a heart attack. I kid you not. I googled the results and miraculously, got each symptom as I read about it. Joking aside, I was terrified. But I eventually went to sleep and woke up and went to see my cardiologist who smiled gently, did some tests and told me to take a heartburn remedy!!

    So I’m with you on the anxiety.