Perhaps it is certainty that I’m seeking.

There comes a point in any run when things just fall into place and the world becomes a bit more predictable. Maybe this is what I’m looking for: doubt to be replaced with certainty; fear of the unknown to taken over by the knowledge that the world really is as predicted when I set out. Heart rate, pace, effort, all predictable after all these years of running around. This is what running offers: predictability. When I coach, I can predict paces, efforts, race times with an accuracy that is helpful. When I run, I know to within a few beats what my heart is going to do for any given effort. I like the certainty.

We were away on the North East coast last week. It is a wonderful part of the world with its expansive beaches and wide open skies. The coast has the capacity to heal. Each run that I took along the sandy paths and among the grassy dunes helped me to get a grip of my racing thoughts, my boiling mind, my fear that life is somehow out of control. I returned feeling grateful.

But I just can’t shake the feeling of uncertainty that pervades my mind and interrupts my thinking.

The sky changed quickly one day. The morning was clear and blue and full of the promise of spring. By afternoon, the light changed and a dull greyness had rolled in from the North Sea. It’s an apt metaphor for how I’m currently feeling. 

I believe in the power of movement and in the importance of continuing to do the work when we really don’t want to. The difference between where we are and where we want to be is the work that we don’t want to do. At the moment, it is not that I don’t want to do the work, I’m just gripped with the uncertainty that keeps rolling in on the back of it. It feels like I can’t absorb the training because I can’t let it rest. I worry about the awful road surfaces when I’m out on the bike. When I swim, I’m sometimes gripped with the irrational fear of drowning. When I run, I’m hyperalert to every single little note of feedback, particularly if it is negative. 

In short – I’m stressed by the very thing that I use to deal with stress.

As a coach, I would be telling an athlete to back off the intensity a little and to focus on the stabilising effects of good nutrition and sleep. It is at moments like this that identifying the highest leverage actions can be helpful. Most often these lie within the simple routines of the day rather than the grand plans of the medium term. So it is to the certainty of daily routines that I will focus: ticking the sessions off regardless, not dwelling on the fact that the paces are well off the 12 hour target that I have set myself, and being grateful that this is something that I get to do rather than something that I have to do. 

The lesson here is this: success is action, action is success. Coaching can help us to identify actions that are helpful, focused, and strategic. Coaching can help us to stop the overthinking that can creep in at moments of uncertainty.

Sometimes we are in the situations that we find ourselves in because of our best thinking. By doing less thinking and more doing, we can often find ourselves out of the grey and back into the light.

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