Battling the Negative Thought Demons as a Runner


fighting negative thoughts as a runner

Despite personal fitness and health accomplishments, I still find myself battling negative thoughts while running, which is itself a form of mental training.

Growing up I never aspired or thought I would be someone who loves running. I’ve written in great detail about my lifestyle journey of going from a 300 lb offensive lineman in high school into someone who loves to run long-distance races. While currently on a quest to complete a marathon in every state, I am often complimented on my discipline and dedication to health, running, and embracing the challenge of getting up to run even in harsh weather.

Yet there are many times I find myself fighting a mental battle. Despite being able to run long distances (and love doing it), there are times my mind wants to go to a dark place. If I find myself having a particular difficult run in the morning, my mind will begin to throw negative thoughts into my headspace. I can hear some of them now in my head saying:

“You will never be a TRUE runner as you didn’t start running until you’re 30s.”

“You do not have a runner’s body and you will be forever the fat kid.”

“Qualify for the Boston Marathon? HAHAHAHAHA…Never!”

“You are at the peak of your running. You will never get better or faster.”

When thoughts like these begin to creep into my head during a run (or even sitting at home), that is when another type of training begins…building a positive mindset. To me this is just as important as physical training as your mental state plays a HUGE role in your performance. There are studies out there showing how smiling while running can boost your performance. In following the SEALFIT philosophy and training, the Navy SEALs speak constantly about positive self talk to keep yourself going through immense physical training and suffering.

In my opinion it comes down to two main points to remember when negative thoughts creep into your mind:

1. Your WHY

Know and embrace your WHY. What is a WHY? It is WHY you choose to run or physically train. It is WHY you want to get out of a warm bed at 5 a.m. to go out in the cold rain and run or workout. However your WHY must be strong. It cannot be a simple statement like “to lose weight” or “to fit into my bathing suit”. The weaker the WHY the easier it is to give up and push aside. My WHY is that I look at each run or workout as a new challenge for the day to complete…and that if I complete it I grow stronger in mind, body, and spirit.

2. Positive Mantra

Have a positive mantra, or statement / slogan, that you can repeat to yourself when the going gets tough. It can be something as simple as “One step at a time.” or sprinkled with a sense of humor like “Looking good, feeling good, outta be in Hollywood!” (which is my personal favorite taken from Mark Divine, former Navy SEAL and leader of SEALFIT and the Unbeatable Mind Academy). By reciting your positive mantra over and over again during a hard point of a run or workout, it gives your mind something to focus on so it does not have time to let negative thoughts of failure creep in.

In my opinion negative thoughts affect everyone from the recreational runner up to the elite performers. It is my belief that those who are able to push them aside with a positive mental state are the ones that succeed at not only meeting their physical training goals, but achieve greater success in all aspects of life as well. 🐷

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