The second half of my run is always the hardest for me. That’s when the negative thinking comes through, the thoughts of, ‘Oh, I can’t do this’ and ‘maybe I should just stop and walk/run the rest of the way.’ Yep, all those bad negative thoughts that come out and are just so good at pulling you down from what you know you can do! In sports, positive thinking and a can-do attitude adds so much to what you can achieve – I think every runner in particular knows just how running can sometimes be more of a mental challenge rather than a physical one, and how powerful the mind can be over what we can and can’t achieve.
So for today, I thought I’d share some of my tips on positive thinking that I use to get myself through my run, especially those last few kms, to where that happy, blissed-out, I-totaly-achieved-this-and-I-can-achieve-anything-else runner’s high is waiting for me at the end.
Yes, I can: Obama totally inspired this with his ‘Yes, we can!’ slogan. When the negative thoughts start crowding, I know it’s time to start urging myself on with positive thoughts instead. So instead of thinking, ‘I can’t do this’, I start shouting mentally in my mind, ‘Yes, I can! Yes, I can!’ over and over again. And you know what? It totally helps.
Word games: This is something I like to play especially towards the end of the run when I’ve just got maybe one, two kilometres left to go and somehow, knowing I’m near the end weirdly just makes it that much harder for me to finish. Instead of thinking about how much I have left to go, I pick a word, a nice long word, something like ‘idiosyncratic’ or ‘electromagnetic’, and I start thinking up all the other smaller words I could create out of the letters of that one big word. I’m so busy trying to think up words that I hardly notice when I’ve reached the end of my run! And for those who aren’t a fan of word games, do the same with maths games. Multiple numbers in your head. Then divide them. Then pick a really big number and think of how many different number combinations you can use to achieve that number. It’s a great distraction from just thinking, ‘God, I’m still half a km away from the end and I just want to collapse.’
Daydreams/storytime: Sometimes, running time is the best time for me to work out knotty story plots or dead ends in my writing. Being out there in the fresh air, just pounding the pavement, is one of the best ways to clear the cobwebs out of my head and think about what’s next in the story for my characters. And when I’m not thinking out plot lines, I sometimes indulge in a little daydream. Daydreams about going away to fantastic places for a vacation, saving the world, going on tour with my famous band, carrying out an entire lifetime of romance with Prince Harry culminating in a massive royal wedding at the end of my run, etc! The world is your imagination!
Easing off the pressure on myself: Sometimes, I tell myself, ‘Okay, you know what? You think you’re tired. You think you can’t do this anymore. Well, that’s all right! You can stop anytime you want.’ And magically, just like that, the pressure and the negativity just eases off. I know I can stop anytime I want. So I just keep going. And going. And going. Do I feel like stopping yet? Because I know I can. Nope. Still going. I’ll stop later. At the end of my run.
Using markers: Set little markers for yourself along your trail and just concentrate on getting to the next one. I’ll tell myself, ‘okay, just keep running until you’ve reached that pole there.’ And when I reach that pole, I’ll tell myself, ‘Okay, that was great! Now just keep running until you reach that streetlight just ahead.’ And when I reach the streetlight, I’d be like, ‘Oh my god, you’re so awesome! Now just keep on until you get to that curve in the road just ahead.’ It helps to have these little visible goals where I can reward myself with a mental pat on the back and then keep on to that point just that little bit further ahead.
Anticipating how good the end is going to be: Anyone who’s a runner has experienced that awesome runner’s high at the end. That feel-good glow that’s with you for the rest of the day. And quite often, that alone is just enough to have me ramping up the speed, eager to get to the end and get my own goody bag of runner’s glow.
Picture the crowd at race day: Race days are always so awesome with so many people lining the sides, just cheering you on and waving signs in the air and playing music to hype you up! They never fail to lift my mood and so sometimes I pretend that either side of the path I’m on is lined with these same crowds, my own personal imaginary cheer squad, just hollering my name and cheering me on – and I gotta keep running so I won’t let them down!
What are some of the positive thinking strategies you use to keep going when the going gets tough? Let me know!