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My Type A Runner Personality Is Great—Except When It Isn’t

Sticking to your workout schedule is all well and good—until your natural competitive streak inspires you to bump up the intensity.

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Life As A Type A Runner

I dug myself into a hole last month. I ran too fast.

While I’m generally a big fan of speedy running, it’s not always a positive thing, especially when the body needs recovery—which is exactly what mine needed after a recent race. Yet the idea of rest didn’t resonate with my Type A personality, and I proceeded to pound out the miles. My legs said “no,” but my mind said “go.” So, I went.

It’s not that I don’t understand the ebb and flow of running, the importance of listening to my body. The problem is that I feel guilty doing it. I’m the classic Type A runner: I always hit my mileage, I never miss a workout and I never fail to get the necessary eight hours of sleep each night. I crave productivity.

If I were being honest, I’d admit that I take great pride in this structure. I might confess the fact that I’m driven by the compulsive desire to go above and beyond, to squash the potential for failure. I might admit that I take it too far.

It started with one beautiful run, one crisp spring morning that propelled my legs to a faster pace than normal. I didn’t think much of it until the next recovery run, when my eyes kept straining for my watch, hoping to see the same numbers. Subconsciously, I had established a baseline in my head: The fastest easy run is the new standard. Thus began the decline.

I stopped looking at the trees and started looking at my watch. I stopped responding to my body, instead muffling its aches and pains in favor of consistency. I legalized my running.

The good news is that there’s always a remedy, and I was able to self-correct this negative pattern. But the situation continued to perplex me. Why is it so hard for me to take it easy on myself? And who says I must keep digging deeper when I realize I’ve made a mistake?

I’ve come to the realization that there are many reasons to celebrate my Type A tendencies, but there are also characteristics to be cautious of. The very things I pridefully publicize—dedication, planning, urgency—are the pitfalls of my success as a runner and a human being.

Those qualities can become very short-term focused, and we’re not in a sprint, friends. The gift of running is an ultramarathon of sorts. Whether you tend to be uptight or you’re more relaxed, it’s important to understand the value of intuitive training. In simpler terms: Listen to your body! If you run fast one day, great. If you need to run slower the next day, great. Don’t override those cues. That’s your body doing its thing.

I for one am going to take this next week easy, enjoy the miles and focus my achievement-oriented brain on the long-term success that will come.


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