Words by Pat Spencer, Mental Skills Coach and Chamois Butt'r Ambassador
We have all been there. You are out on a ride and for whatever reason things are not going your way. Maybe the hills are steeper than you anticipated. Maybe it’s a little warmer than you planned for. Maybe there is no energy in your legs. For many of us, challenges like this can snowball into negative thoughts and feelings. Suddenly our ride goes from a nice day out, to a battle with an inner negative voice.
Where does that inner critic come from?
Some say it’s a fight/flight/freeze reaction. Some say it’s related to messages we have heard elsewhere. Good news! Regardless of where they come from there are ways to handle it so our ride is not ruined!
I call this RUNER. No, it’s not a spelling error. It’s short for:
The goal is RUNER helps you to slow or even stop the snowball of negative thoughts. If we can slow down and be more present, we can get back to feeling in control of our own mind and body. RUNER is the perfect way to get back in control.
Let’s break it down.
R- Recognize: Without judgment, take a moment to identify what you thinking, feeling physically and feeling emotionally.
U - Understand: Get curious. What is contributing to these thoughts and feelings.
N - Name: Identify what you are feeling emotionally. Sad? Anxious? Frustrated? Happy? Excited?
E - Explore: Explore various options on how to respond
R - Respond: Out of the options you identified choose the best option.
When we give ourselves space to respond instead of react we actually then have choice. As Viktor Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.”
Getting Your Mind Back on the Path
In addition to giving us a choice, this model also gives us space for our body to calm down. It allows our mind to get back on track, and it allows us to be in the present instead of in anxiety. Not to get all science-y, but this allows the thinking part of our brain to stay engaged instead of being overwhelmed by the feeling part of our brain.
Now, let’s see RUNER in practice. As I write this in early-October 2023, I competed in the Rad Dirt Fest in Trinidad, Colorado just a few days ago. I was registered for the 70-mile "Anteloop" course. To very briefly summarize the day, it ended at mile 35 not 70, like I planned. A severe relentless quad cramp led to the early end of my day.
Using RUNER I was able to make a decision on what to do, and it is a decision that I am content with. I was not swept away in a flood of emotions.
R - Recognize. Oh my goodness did my right leg hurt! I immediately felt afraid I did not want to be alone out on the dirt roads in an area I was not familiar with. I also wasn’t 100% sure what was happening with my body.
U - Understand. I was halfway through the race. The majority of the climbing was done, but there were still several steep climbs. I knew I was not going very fast. I knew there was a good chance that if the cramp continued I would not make it to the next aid station before it closed. I also knew there were few riders behind me who could help. And I knew there was no cell phone service. I also knew I had cramps like this before and it takes a long time to subside.
N - Name. I was scared. I was worried. I was angry.
E- Explore my options. I could keep pushing and try to ignore the pain. I could drink my sports drink for added hydration. I could get off the bike and massage the muscle. I could get off the bike and walk some. I could double back 2 miles to the aid station I just passed.
R - Respond. I chose a combination of the options. I did not want to quit. So I did what I always do first when the negative side starts showing itself, I took a drink of my sports drink. Then I tried massaging the muscle while I rode. That didn’t help. I then got off the bike, massaged and then walked. That didn’t work. The cramp just got worse and worse. So much so, I couldn’t bend my leg for a minute or two. I finally decided to turn around and ride the 2 miles downhill back to the aid station to ask for help. Thankfully the two guys working the aid station were willing to drive me back to town.
Did I have the outcome of a race that I wanted? No. Did I get swept away in adrenaline and emotions? Also no. Using RUNER I was able to stay connected to the moment, to be in the present and allow myself to feel my feelings while also making the best decision possible.
How do you see using RUNER in your life? If can be used both on and off the bike.
Reach out to me to let me know how you use the RUNER method. I also love it when readers reach out with comments or questions. I can be found on Instagram (@gettting_your_mind_in_ gear) or you can email me through my website.