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How cognitive distortions are leading to poorer performance and less happiness with your running

First, what are cognitive distortions?


Cognitive distortions are negative and unhealthy thought patterns that are based on your interpretations or perceptions of something rather than facts or reality



Let's look at some examples


Black and white thinking

This one is VERY common with runners. This is either/or, right vs wrong, perfection vs failure, only opposites exist and there is no middle, thinking. This type of thinking is binary, where there are only two groups or two sides, with nothing in between. Everything has to fit nicely into once side or the other.


Why this is unhelpful: Most of the time, there are no absolutes and things are not binary. There is a middle and it is healthier to live in the middle because it leads to less extremes in emotions and provides more room to have SOME DEGREE of positive emotions vs no positive feelings at all. It also allows us to CHANGE how we feel and think vs being stuck in really rigid thinking patterns. Change helps us grow and become our best selves, but rigid thinking interferes with that.


Black and white thinking examples

  • Either I need to do the full work out OR it's not worth doing so I will skip it

  • Minimalist shoes are the only right shoe for runners

  • Heel striking is bad

  • If I take a walking break, then it doesn't count

  • Either I am a real runner or I am not

  • My ideas about running are right and all other ideas are wrong

  • I have to do a 20-mile run for it to be real marathon training

  • If it don't hit x pace, then I am slow


Emotional Reasoning

Emotions = facts


Our emotions are real and true. They need to be acknowledged and validated. Unfortunately, we get into trouble when we misinterpret emotions as facts.


Why this is unhelpful: Emotional reasoning makes it hard for people to take a step back from their emotions about a situation and look at the facts. This includes the facts about WHY they are feeling the way they feel. Facts allow us to see the truth about a situation, allowing us to evaluate it more effectively and then make decisions based off of the facts vs only what our emotions are telling us. Again, we need to acknowledge our emotions and understand why we are experiencing them, but they represent our interpretation of an event rather than the event as an objective thing. For example, anxiety tends to lead us to interpret the world with fear and worry, where we then choose to flea or fight. If we take a step back from our emotions, we allow ourselves to evaluate the facts of situation making it possible to respond in a variety of ways vs just fleeing or fighting (like problem-solving and approaching the situation).



Emotional reasoning examples

  • I feel like a slow runner, therefore I am a slow runner

  • I feel slow today, therefore I am out of shape

  • I feel like I will fail at reaching my goals, therefore I will fail

  • I feel like trying to train is hopeless, therefore there is no point in doing it because it is hopeless

  • My anxiety says that the other runners don't like me, therefore, this must be true and I will skip the group run