How do your thoughts impact your running?
This year, I have noticed a lot of negative self-talk from others regarding their running, training, general fitness, how their bodies look, etc. Being that I am an overly caring person, hearing what people say about themselves makes my heart sink. This year has been really hard with so many social stressors, social isolation, COVID, and a lot of change all at once.
I encourage everyone to take a few minutes to reflect on your own thoughts about your running and how it impacts you. Our thoughts impact how we feel and then what we do (the behavior). Our brains like it when things match up, so if we think something negative, that is going to lead to a negative feeling, and then doing something negative. For example, if I think to myself, "I can't do anything right," that is going to lead to me feeling anxious, depressed, defeated, hopeless, etc. Those emotions and thoughts will lead to me responding in a specific way, such as not trying as hard at work, isolating from others, and not taking care of myself. I use the pronoun "I" in this example to make this pattern in thoughts, emotions, and behavior that we all demonstrate easy to follow.
So, how does the thought “I am slow right now” impact your emotions and behaviors? How can we change that thought into something that will lead to you feeling good about yourself and where you are at with your running and fitness right now? How can it lead to running that you are proud of?
Another point to consider is: How do your comments and thoughts about your running impact others? We are social creatures and we look to others to learn how to respond to our environment. So, by communicating to others "I am slow" or other negative messages about your running models to other runners that this is also how they should be evaluating their running or that it is an appropriate way to respond to their current fitness. Now, this does not mean that we do not have a choice with how we think or act. My point is that we have an influence on others, especially if the other people see us as similar to them in some way, such as being a runner!
Keep in mind that only 0.6% of the population finishes a half marathon on any given year. Only 0.15% of people finish a full marathon on any given year. If you are an ultra-marathoner, the percent is even lower. No matter if you are in the front of the pack or the back of the pack, you are accomplishing something that a very small percentage of people can say they have done.
So now what can you do if you find yourself in a place of cycling negativity? The first place to start is awareness. Become mindful of your thoughts and how they make you feel and then act. If we are not aware of aspects of ourselves, then we cannot change them. The next step is to focus on managing your thoughts. It is much easier to control our thoughts than our emotions. If you have a negative thought, refocus your attention on something positive or something factual. Thinking about something positive will lead to a different thought-emotion-behavior cycle. Thinking of something factual will take you out of an emotion-focused mindset and will reset your mind to being in a more neutral place. This will allow you to then decide where you want to go from there. What thought-emotion-behavior cycle will be best for you in that moment?
This takes practice, so don't get frustrated if you feel your negative thoughts continue to plunge into your mind uncontrollably. Just like with running, it takes training.