How to Maintain a Positive Running Mindset

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A few weeks ago, I found myself running the hardest race I’ve ever done. In the middle of a 6-mile climb, I thought to myself, “positive self-talk will get me through this”. Spoiler: It did.

I told myself I would reach the top of Copper Mountain and I did. Then in a shortened version, I ran back down and finished the race.

A few thoughts going into the race:

  • This is new. I don’t know anything about running trails or running at altitude.
  • I’m going to get injured: I’m clumsy and can barely run on the roads.
  • What if I’m hours slower than others? Will I let people down?

All of these were negative and full of self-doubt. It was preventing me from the task at hand. No, the job wasn’t to run the race, but to HAVE FUN while running the race. I was, after all, doing the race for me.

My negative self-talk was preventing me from doing so. If you can relate, then take a step back and think: Is this mindset helping me?

Here are a few things I did that helped me

Set a goal:

Yes, running for fun or without a goal is great but setting goals gives you something to strive and look forward too! It can help maintain a positive attitude! When you are goal setting, it’s essential to have both long-term goals as well as short-term of how you will reach that.

It’s often easy to lose perspective, particularly when you don’t feel that your training is going particularly well. Remember that progress is not always measured by performance!

Your personal best times may have reached a plateau, but remember that you may have made huge steps forward in other areas of your training. That might be with your core stability or your nutrition for example. So remember to always look for and focus on the positives because you really will be able to find them.

Reframe your mindset:

This is the most psychological technique of the bunch.

What is reframing?

  • It means identifying and then changing the way that you look at a situation.
  • It means adopting a positive mindset.

Any runner can tell you about a negative thought they’ve had before, during, or after a race. The closer I was to the race, the more nervous and the more “What ifs?” came about.

Instead of letting those negative thoughts dwell, I changed them into positives. I was grateful to be running and running healthy. The overly critical self-critical self-talk was only taking away from experience.

Use positive self-talk:

Anyone can tell you, be positive but putting that plan into action is much more difficult. For me, creating a positive mantra is helpful. It can be something as simple as, you can do it! Or something complex. It doesn’t matter but find something meaningful to you.

Write down positives:

Similar to positive self-talk, seeing the positives of anything in writing will help you stay motivated and focused. Write down victories during training. This can be either physical or mental. For instance, when you mentally felt ready to take on a workout is just as important as when you physically did crush the workout!

Sometimes it can be easy to lose sight of the positive. For me, that happens when it seems like my hard work isn’t working or I’m burnt out or injured.

Don’t lose sight of success:

It can be easy to use the phrase “When it rains, it pours.” but don’t lose track of your own success. It is impossible to PR all of the time, but you are still the same runner and athlete whether you PR or you don’t. Never forget that!

There are very few reasons that a PR can’t and won’t happen again. Approach each race with a positive mindset!

These are just a few ways to conquer self-doubt. Positive mindsets can help change and grow, and it’s important to look at them like that. When you believe in yourself, you are more likely to run better and have more productive training.

How do you stay positive? What are the techniques you use?

Hollie Sick is an avid New Jersey-based runner who’s completed more than 40 half marathons. Read her blog, or follow her on Facebook.

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