Our mental training can be one of the hardest things to get in peak condition for success because our minds are filled with so many messages that come from every past experience we've ever had. These thoughts and messages can be automatic and deep seeded.
So how can we take the voices of doubt:
I don't have enough ________.
I'm not good enough yet.
They must be better than me.
I haven't trained enough.
I don't have what it takes to do _____
They must have something that I don't have.
I guess today just isn't my day.
And replace them with voices of CONFIDENCE and POWER?
I can do this!
Why not me? It has to be someone.
I'm good enough.
I'm just as good and worthy as my competitors.
I've got everything it takes to make this dream come true. It is up to me to make it happen!
I've worked hard for this and I'm prepared.
Pain is temporary...dig deep! You're better than settling.
It takes work to push those negative feelings and self-doubt out of our heads and to the curb. This can be especially hard for those of us who have those destructive and negative messages living within us for so long. Even when we think they are gone, somehow, they show their ugly heads when we we need to be quiet THE MOST.
I've tried for years to get my mental game strong when it comes to performing as an athlete. And I'm SO MUCH stronger than ever before. I've come a LONG way and this shows not only in my running but in all the other areas of my life that I've found success in. However, in high school and college I was a MESS of MENTAL. My mind is what held me back in every race. I felt suffocated with FEAR (fear of pain, not being able to hit my times, disappointing others...), SELF-DOUBT, PRESSURE TO PERFORM, not feeling good enough, and so much more. With every race or hard practice came that sick feeling in my stomach that made me dread what I was about to do. I remember a medley relay at Indoor Track Nationals where my coach was going to have me start the relay. Instead of being confident and going out there and giving it my all and being happy with my best, I panicked. I literally had a breakdown when he told me I would be starting. Fear disabled me and I was a mess of tears and feelings of inadequacy. Over a stupid race! What?!
I know, this all sounds ridiculous to be so scared and nervous about a silly track race or a few cross country meets. Right? It sure does to me. I mean, where did this fear come from?! And really? It is only a race silly girl.
What I do know now is that I wasn't entirely alone in these feelings and mental barriers that I faced as an athlete. I know of lots of runners who have experienced similar things. And these feeling translate to other areas of our lives too. They hold us back. They keep us from reaching our goals and making our dreams become reality.
After this weekend, I am convinced that I must step up my mental game if I'm going to accomplish my goals with running. I must put some big work into getting my mind in tip-top shape to go along with all the physical training I've been doing.
As many of you know, I had a 10k this weekend. As is normal before a 10k or 5k, I felt nervous and I was putting pressure on myself to perform. But it wasn't anything too much. In fact, I went into the race feeling confident and in control. I went to bed with a clear head and an excitement to run after reading several e-mails from some dear friends that helped me put this tune-up race into perspective.
Here are just a few things that went really well with this race:
- I approached the race knowing that it was a tune-up race during the peak of marathon training and I kept that in mind so that I didn't get too hard on myself in expecting to run what I might if I were tapered and in 10k shape.
- I lined up in my yellow Brooks top feeling stronger, and more confident than ever before.
- I believed that this race was mine to do whatever I wanted.
- Instead of feelings of fear and dread, I had feelings of being prepared and eagerness to see what I could do off of so much training.
- While I was racing, I felt strong and in control for most of the race. I was able to push aside some of the negative messages that appeared in my head.
- After the race, I was able to put things in perspective quickly and not let this one race discourage me and cloud-up my vision for Boston. I only spent a few minutes pouting and feeling cruddy about my performance and then I was ready to move forward and see it as a great threshold workout. A 43:02 10k (6:55 pace) is a workout that will get me one step closer to a STRONG Boston. I'll get my 41:xx and 40:xx another time.
- I WON my race! This is always nice despite the fact that I didn't run a time I was happy with.
Goals going into this race:
- To use this race as a gauge for what my marathon pace will be.
- To PR! I mean, I ran a 42:09 in January off of way less training and a few strains. I expected to at least break 42 minutes and I had no doubts that I would.
- To stay mentally STRONG and push myself HARD.
- To push away all the negative thoughts and replace them with the mantras: "Don't Puss OUT", "Ride the Edge", and "Find your strong".
Overall, I did a pretty good job at trying to stay focused and replacing the negative thoughts with positive ones. I fought back against my negative mental messages even though it was a struggle. I'm proud of myself for this. Having an awareness of my mental struggles and being conscious of the messages that creeped into my head is half the battle against them (Thanks AM for your questions that got me thinking about these things). Although I'm not proud of some of the thoughts (even a little embarrassed) that I had during the race, I think sharing them will help me conquer them. So, here are some of the messages that showed their ugly faces in when the race got hard yesterday:
- You're just not that fast.
- You must not be as good as you think you are.
- You'll just have to tell the girls that today isn't your day.
- You're not enough today.
What?! Was I really telling myself these things and planning what I would say to my friends about my poor performance even before the race was done??!! Yup. I know, pretty ridiculous. Ridiculously WEAK!
I'm proud of myself to recognizing these thoughts. I'm proud of myself for fighting back every. single. time. even if it was small. I'm proud of myself for NOT quitting even despite the stitch I had from mile 4 to 5.75 that made me feel like I would have to stop. My legs kept moving and my mind fought back and replaced every negative with a positive. It was quite the mental dialogue. Funny really. It went something like this:
"This just isn't your day. Stop it Amanda! You've got this. Quick feet, lean forward a bit, use your arms, breathe. I'll just have to accept that maybe this is just my level. Maybe I'm not capable of faster. SHUT UP Amanda! You've proven you can do this even off of little training! You've got this. Man, I feel like a bad ass in this small race...there is no competition...la la la. Here we go. Happy happy bad ass feeling. Oh crap, I'm slowing down. What is wrong with you Amanda?! You should be running faster! I'm just not there today. Maybe my threshold is way slower than I thought. Come on Amanda push it! Why? I've already lost too much time to PR...this is pathetic...I didn't even break 7on that stupid mile...."
Yup, I've GOT A LOT of MENTAL WORK to do!! LOTS. But you know what? I'm more than half-way there just by being aware of this. I've got this. Once I'm truly aware of something and I've made the decision to do something for myself...you know, because I WANT it for me and not because someone told me to do it, I usually get it under control pretty dang fast. So, here we go.....on to some big time mental work. And what better way to improve than to practice often. This means the more opportunity to race, the better!
In the same way that my dreams have come true and I've found success in my non-running life, I'm convinced that these things come from knowing what we want, believing in ourselves, surrounding ourselves with people that love and support us, being aware of our weaknesses, and doing the WORK that it takes to get to where we want to be. As with all these other parts of my life, I'm excited to push forward and keep growing!