February 11, 2020
You know what it’s like. The weather is grim. Your motivation is at an all time low. But you’re training plan says 8 miles, or 10…or perhaps you don’t have a plan but you know if you don’t get out the door soon you may never again.
So you head out…but your legs feel like lead.
In you head you are like, “surely I can do better than this?” but in your heart you start to get that sinking feeling which leads to that spiralling vortex of “I’m not good enough, I’ll never be good enough…what’s the bloody point?”
That’s the thing about negative voices.
They are sneaky little so and sos, let one in and they multiply, they bring their mates along for the ride, like, “hey guys, its taco Tuesday over in Julie’s head, bring a bottle, grab your mates and head over…we are going to be here all weekend”
This was my biggest problem in the early days…letting the mind monkeys get to me. I rarely had more than one or two half decent running experiences before I would let the negative thoughts in, and that would have me giving up, or avoiding my training for too long between sessions.
I knew if I wanted to have any chance of ever enjoying the sport of running or seeing any improvements, I would have to find a strategy to overcome the persistent and multiplying negative thoughts in my head.
So here are my top 3 tips…and they all involve drowning them out.
Number 1 – Listening to audio books or podcasts.
I find that music isn’t a big enough blocker for mind chatter, somehow when I listen to music all that happens is a sound clash starts between the rhythm of the music and the voices…they battle, and not in a good way. It just becomes too much to take and ultimately gives me a headache. But audio books now, or podcasts…these work for me.
I like audiobooks more than podcasts mainly because I am a bit too disorganised to keep on top of downloading, and audio books can give you as much as 20 hours of listening time. Depending on my mood (and brain capacity) I sometimes go for non fiction, but I also enjoy quite mundane chicklit to completely zones out to…strangely enough books on science have a similar effect, but I guess not so powerful in terms of having the plot incentive to get you back out the door.
Number 2 – Practicing Gratitude
Now, this might sound a bit weird. Often when I can feel myself spiralling downwards in terms of my mindset, I look around me and think about how grateful I am for certain things. It can be anything from, “I love living in London I am so lucky to live here” to “OMG look how green the grass is” this is a great distraction.
I have also been known to play games with myself, so see if I can manifest things out of thin air for my amusement. I might go out with a list of 5 things I want to spot…a red shoe, a white feather, a stripy bag, an angel and see how many I can get. I once had “naked man” on my list and I actually found a 10 foot stain glass window image of DaVincis the naked man image. Spooky hey?
But this is probably the weirdest of my strategies
Number Three – I talk to my legs.
No seriously I do. I talk to my legs. This is useful in all kinds of scenarios. In the first few minutes of your run when your body is screaming for you to turn back and go home, in the middle section when you are seriously questioning your life choices, and also in the final few meters when it would be so easy to give up.
I have a few little phrases I use. “I am strong, this is easy” is a firm favourite. I also like the rather generic and slightly American in tone “you’ve got this” these actually make me run faster…it’s a fact…in fact they have helped hundreds of women run faster as it’s a technique from my book and online programme Scream if you want to run faster…tell your legs to go faster is the instruction…and after thinking I’m a little bonkers… the women get on with the task at hand and use the power of their words to get a shifty on.
And you should see some of the improvements they make
Words matter. We can allow the negative ones to control our lives. We can allow them to live rent free in our heads, vandalising the place, complaining about the décor, and ruining the fixtures and fittings or you can be the one in charge and set the ground rules…the you can completely evict them, or you can put up posters that say “positive thoughts only please”
It takes a whole heap of practice to chasing the narrative in our heads, especially when it comes to running…because when we run we can’t hide, we are on show, both to the outside world and to ourselves…an often it is the hiding from ourselves that feels most comfortable.
Keep talking to your legs
Keep telling yourself how strong you are
Find strategies to crown out the negative voices
Replace them with ones that feel nicer
Surround yourself with people who lift you up
Believe that you are awesome and can achieve awesome things
Run strong my friend
Julie Creffield is the founder of The Fat Girls Guide to Running blog which was launched in 2010 after she came dead last in a 10K race. Over the past 10 years she has helped more than 15,000 women through her online programmes, and hundreds of thousands more through her books and blogs.
She is currently training for her 6th Marathon but has taken part in over 200 fitness challenges in more than 15 countries.
Starting on the 2nd March Julie will be leading a group of women through her 8 week programme Scream if You Want to Run Faster, with a mixture of technique, mindset and accountability coaching to help participants improve their 5k time, to become stronger more confident runners.