Running Through Negative Self-Talk

9 Sep

Here is the truth: I am not as confident as I seem sometimes.

I try hard to be though, because I LOVE being strong and happy and I LOVE doing my best to lift others up. But every now and then, self doubt creeps in…especially with my running. While I love running, I would certainly not be described as a “natural runner”. Running is something I really have to work at and even my “best” is still considered “slow” to some. It never bothered me though because I always knew I was giving my best.

Lately though, with all the walking I have had to do, I have had negative thoughts try to creep into my head. When I look in the mirror at my body I think…

Good grief, there is no way my body will look the same ever again.
It cannot be possible that I will ever race with good times again.
If I can do it, will it take me a million years to get there?
There is no way these legs will EVER look as strong and as toned as they used to.
Can I even do this anymore? Should I even try?

And my favorite…
If all I’m doing these days is walking, can I still legitimately call myself a “runner”? AM I A FRAUD!?

It’s that last one that really gets to me. Am I…a…WALKER!? EGAD!

But you know what, I am determined to not let this temporary situation keep me from thinking I am any less of a runner. There are runners who have to sit on the sidelines all the time for days, weeks, even months at a time. They are still runners, and so am I.

A while back I got my husband a business book and it had a section about negative self-talk. While it was not specifically aimed at runners, it had a basic lesson that I think is totally applicable. It makes the analogy that letting negative, unconfident thoughts enter your brain is like allowing it to tune to a USUCK Radio station. What we need to do is the opposite. Tune into UROCK Radio and get grooving!

Finding your mental toughness and your UROCK Radio is hard. For some people, especially those just starting their running journeys or returning from a sabbatical, this may very well be a daily task. I have heralded the benefits of group/social running before as a way to find support, but you cannot rely on them 100% to keep you going.

There will be times when it is just you…staring down at your running shoes…needing a push…needing some motivation…and no one will be there. No one will be there to hold your hand. No one will be there to give you a pat on the back and say, “You can do it!” No one will be there at the end of the run to congratulate you. There will be no sweaty hugs or cheerleaders. Even worse, there may even be people telling you it is okay to quit…that it is okay to not try so hard…that it is no big deal to let yourself down and not reach your goals.

You will have to get out there and get the job done because YOU want it and YOU know you can do it. YOU have to have the gumption to reach over and turn off the USUCK Radio.

I've posted this before but it is fitting today...

So how do you do that? How do you find your UROCK Radio?

Quit with all the self-limiting statements and questions. (I’m talking to myself here, too!) Stop adding question marks to the ends of your statements. Instead of thinking, “Can I do this?”…think, “I CAN DO THIS!”

Use less-harsh wording. For example, if you have a run that wasn’t your best, don’t get pissy and say, “That run sucked.” (I am so bad about saying that.) Instead, go with “Well, that obviously wasn’t my best. What can I do differently to give it my best next time?”

Write on your mirror. I am a dry-erase marker wielding monster. I leave notes all over my bathroom and dresser mirrors. I may or may not have drawn a little box on the mirror where my face goes with the phrase, “This is what a runner looks like.” over it.

Remind yourself what makes YOU feel good about running. If you are motivated by nice gear, pick up a new running singlet. If rockin’ tunes get you going, update your playlist. If weight loss or keeping weight off is your goal, put photos or your former self everywhere to keep you going. If you have a competitive spirit, find a race online you have never done before and sign up for it. Keep the routine fresh! Letting things go stale will only get you down.

Whatever you do, don’t think it is just you. Running is a relationship. Every runner (and walker) goes through peaks and valleys and we all struggle with negative self-talk sometimes. You just have to work through it.

What are YOU dealing with in your mental running game? Are you at a peak or at a valley? What do YOU do to push down the negative thoughts and bring up the positive ones?

20 Responses to “Running Through Negative Self-Talk”

  1. Courtney at 11:45 AM #

    I SO needed to read this today. I had a bad run last Saturday in the height of my marathon training and all week have been plagued with self doubt –can I do this? What am I doing to myself? Am I setting myself up to fail? I love how I can have 70+ awesome runs during a training cycle, but it’s the one not-so-good one that consumes my thought. I CAN DO THIS. Thanks!

    • katieRUNSthis at 11:55 AM #

      Isn’t it funny how we can kick butt at so many things, so many times and then we have one or two “off days” and then all of a sudden we feel like giving up? It is important to be confident in your training! You can do it!

  2. David H. at 12:07 PM #

    I have dealt with more mental issues this summer than ever before, but I feel like I’m able to fight through them and sort through them more. As with everything else with running, just know you’re not alone with the mental issues.

  3. Michelle S. at 12:15 PM #

    Thank you for posting this. I’m just getting started with running so I have a lot of negative talk going on at times, thinking I’ll never be a real runner. It may seem so simple to some people, but it’s really nice to read ways in which we can think positively. Sometimes we need a bit of a wake-up call. Sure I’m just starting out and I’m not very good yet, can’t do distances yet, BUT, I’m out there doing it! I’m going to keep improving for some time yet. Thank you for reminding me of that.

  4. Suzy at 12:29 PM #

    it’s amazing how you can be your own worst critic. i am not a fast runner, so my negative inner monologue runs something like, “omg, you’re going to be last! LAST!” Not really all that helpful, when you think about it. So I try not to. I blast the music, talk to my running buddies, or just get moving… because, then! THEN! Something great happens – like, when you get into a groove and you just keep hitting the pavement and next thing you know you reach mile 10 and you’re done! Before you even knew it. 🙂

    Also, I love your dry erase marker trick – I’ve got post-its up but they sometimes fall off from the steam in the shower. I’ll have to get some fun colored dry erase markers now! 🙂

  5. Susan at 12:50 PM #

    We all have it…. and we all battle it. This is why I have pinned above my desk at work (I usually run after I leave work) the quote (don’t know who said it) “I am a runner because I say I am. And no one can tell me I’m not.” It took me a long time running before I felt like walking during my runs was really okay. that quote helps me remember that I am a runner because I am a runner, no matter how much I walk or how much time off I have to take (for whatever reason).

    Katie, you are ROCKING this pregnancy from my standpoint and I admire and respect you for every bit of it!

  6. amandasvids at 1:30 PM #

    Great post, much needed. I am having knee issues and it is leaving me a little insecure. I need to remind my self of my determination and not let this set back get in the way of my goal.
    Thanks for this post:-) I bookmarked it and will for sure come back to it often!

  7. Adrienne at 1:36 PM #

    I know all too well exactly how you feel.

    But your running, your body and your life post-baby will be different, but possibly even BETTER. I think I came back faster and smaller than ever because I was SO focused. I know you can do it .. and I’ll be right there with you along the way.

  8. I don’t mean for this to come across as a bad ting, but I needed to hear you say that you have self-doubt. Cause the Katie I see and read all the time is a rock star who is on the verge of being a super hero. You’re always motivating, pushing forward, and really making every day count. It’s good to know that this person i look up to has the same struggles and what her advice is for when she has those self-doubt days.

    Thanks for this and just as you said running is a relationship and at this moment in your relationship with it you two are “taking a break” 🙂

    • katieRUNSthis at 3:35 PM #

      Me and running are not only on a break…apparently we have had a knock-down drag out fight. But we’ll get back together. We always do. We’re dysfunctional like that. 🙂

      Girl, I am no super hero. There are good days and there are not as good days. Some days my brain is FILLED with doubt, other days I feel like I could run up a mountain. Ebb and flow. 🙂

      And everyday DOES count…some days count for racking up miles, while others are better suited for racking up ounces on the scale at the fro-yo joint. 🙂

  9. mom27g at 3:36 PM #

    Great post – thanks for sharing that – I definitely needed to hear that.:)

  10. Stephanie at 3:41 PM #

    Oh gosh lady, first one for you. Maybe instead of being negative say – I am running for two, that is two times the energy, two times the safety, two times the effort i need to be putting in right now and I am doing the best i can for me and my baby right now and soon we will run together with my new baby stroller yayy.

    but i am totally there. the worst is when i can’t get myself out of it. when i just say today is not the day for positive talk. that is the hardest. this is great. i love it. i need to work at this

    • katieRUNSthis at 9:08 AM #

      Thank you for being so encouraging! It is so easy to look at photos from just months ago and longingly think, “Man, look at what I USED to be able to do.” I just need to remember that I will be able to do those things again…possibly even better!

  11. Tisha at 5:09 PM #

    I’m a mirror writer too! I write my weight on it with the date, but only if it’s a new low. I like to see how long it takes to get to the next one, and if it’s been a couple of weeks with no new number, I know I need to switch up something.

    BTW, my scale measures in fifths of a pound so if today I weigh 150 and that’s a new low, then tomorrow I weigh 149.8, they both go up, every little bit helps!

    • katieRUNSthis at 9:02 AM #

      When I was trying to lose weight, I would write my weight down too to keep me motivated. Some people don’t like weighing everyday, but I know that for me, it is what keeps me accountable. Writing on the mirror works!

  12. Elmar Duiveman at 2:21 AM #

    Nice blog! Thank you!

  13. Ryan Wiggins at 12:53 PM #

    Katie, this was an awesome blog. Being a mommy makes it even tougher and all new mom’s struggle with body issues. Running has given me the ability to turn on the UROCK station as had the running community on twitter and facebook. Here is my story. Maybe it will help you after your baby is born. 🙂

    • katieRUNSthis at 1:10 PM #

      Hi Ryan! I totally enjoyed reading your story! You are definitely one bad @$$ motha! I am totally ready to be a mommy. Well, I think I am. Okay, I am so not, but…I know the when the time is ready, I’ll be ready! *fingerscrossed*

  14. Sylvie at 8:39 AM #

    Katie what can I say, to me you sound pretty awesome really lets face it.
    I am pretty much at a peak and low as tomorrow I will be running (well I hope the whole way) my first half marathon. I am still surprised when people who walk are actually slower than me when I am running! I am pleased I am putting myself out there regardless of how I will manage to get to the finish line and yet I can’t help but imagine people staring and laughing at me (not with me) trying to run (if not in real life, in their head…okay slight paranoia creeping in but hey ho! it’s the carbs talking today lol!).
    So to push these nasty thoughts away I am mostly cleaning my house and I can tell you the house is looking pretty good right now !

  15. Dhitri at 10:49 PM #

    Katie, just stumbled across this one. Good to hear that you’re human after all 🙂 I have gone through (still am) all those doubt filled days towards the end of my pregnancy, particularly about fitness and the way my body looks. One year after decided to take up running and now here I am running faster and further than ever have before in my life. Those doubts creep in on a daily basis, especially when all you wanna do is run but you are stuck with loads of housework and looking after a sooky baby! But in the end I take comfort in the my own conviction, I am a runner, because I say I am 🙂

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