A couple of summers ago, I was training two women, who were longtime friends, for a marathon. They were both beginner runners, but one woman was a total Negative Nelly and kept focusing on the challenges and her own personal struggles. She’d say the training was too hard, the race was too long, the weather was terrible, and she’d never be fit enough to complete a marathon. Her friend, on the other hand, approached the race with confidence and determination, knowing that – although it won’t be easy – she would work hard to reach her goal. Guess which one of them actually crossed the finish line? Let’s just say that Debbie Downer was still complaining from the sidelines, never acknowledging that her negative attitude had anything to do with not being able to adequately prepare for the race.
While no one wants to be a total pessimist, a huge, intimidating goal such as running a marathon might bring some negative feelings to the surface. But if you let those feelings take control, you’re almost guaranteeing yourself a bad result. For example, say I have a tough workout to do, and I start the run thinking, “This is going to be hard. I can’t do this.” Feeling terrible about my workout before it even starts is an excellent way to make sure that it’s going to be a difficult, miserable experience. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The way you think about a workout or race can be so powerful that it can also have the opposite effect. If you direct your thinking in a much more positive way, and tell yourself, “I can do this. I feel strong. I am strong,” then you start to believe it and the workout is much more successful. Even if you do have a bad run, look for the positive by telling yourself, for example, how you’re mentally tougher as a result. And getting a run done is better than no run at all.
Although positive energy is obviously not a substitute for training, your running will be much more successful is you think and stay positive, no matter what happens.
Get tips on how to incorporate positive self-talk into your training and racing.