Conquering Negativity on Tough Runs.

Mental Demons

Ever since I started running last year I have struggled mentally to get through the tough parts of a run.  You know the ones, where your legs feel tired and self doubt starts to creep in.  That little voice in your head is screaming, “I can’t do this”   “my legs hurt’, ‘I can’t breathe’, ‘I can’t go on any further’….. and crippling negativity continues to the point that you stop running!  

Well I got a little fed up with hearing from this little demon and decided to look into how I could switch this negative inner voice off.  There was a number of dots I had to link together to work out what worked for me.  I cannot say I have totally nailed it but it is certainly better than it was.

Giving it an identity

Firstly, I decided to give the ‘inner voice’ an identity, mainly so I could tell it to ‘get lost’!  I named my inner voice ‘Bob’.  I have absolutely no idea why I called him Bob or why it is a ‘him’ not a ‘her’.  For all you Bobs out there it is nothing personal!

By naming my inner voice Bob, it has enabled me to externalise and separate him from myself and create a different inner dialogue.  I no longer hear myself, saying, ‘I can’t do this’, I hear Bob saying, ‘you can’t do this’.  This means, In my case I can shout (metaphorically) at Bob,  ‘ what do you know of course I can’.  I start this conversation with bob just as the negativity creeps in, at the point of ‘I’ which can sometimes prevent a fully formed ‘I can’t do this’.  The more you hear I can’t the more you believe it so if you can stop it at ‘I’ my theory is your already preventing some of that negativity and self doubt.

This did prevent Bob appearing quite as often but he still continued to appear and I still sabotaged my runs, just not quite so soon in the run or as frequently.  The question remained what could I do to stop sabotaging my runs?

Visualisation and Mantra’s

I have read a lot about visualisation, in particular,  visualising the running route, and preparing for the tough parts of the run by visualising the strategies you would use to run the route successfully.  This is great if you are a visual thinker but I really struggle visualising anything, it is not how my brain works.  Needless to say this was not for me.

There is also a lot of information out there on using a Mantra to improve positive thinking and self belief on a run.   A mantra is a word or phrase that is used to provide a positive focus.  Ideally Mantra’s need to be short enough that you can recall them quickly and easily, to divert the mind away from negative thoughts.  I liked the idea of a Mantra but trying to decide on one that was relevant and powerful for me was proving difficult.    I tried a few and none seemed to work so at that time, I decided it was not for me.

 Humiliation 

So here is where talking to friends can be quite enlightening at times.  A friend asked me a very key question.  ‘Did you ever have a humiliating sporting experience at school?’  I think most people can safely say at one point or another they did.

I hated everything about sports and sports days.  I was always picked last for netball or any other sport for that matter.  Possibly, more significantly, I was made to run 1500 metres on sports day and I came last.  Not only did I come last, but I was spectacularly slow, I was that slow that the spectators cheering the runners on had left.  I therefore, came back to the school kids laughing at me and taking the proverbial!  Looking back at it now, its quite funny, however, at the time I was embarrassed and quite upset.  In reality, instead of being upset I should actually have felt proud that I completed the run!  But what had this got to do with my running prowess?

Finding the key to my inner dialogue

The eureka moment came when with the help of my friend I connected the dots.

The early sporting moments of being picked last because ‘I was no good at sport’ and being chosen to do the 1500 metres and coming last, had set me up to fail.  Although I completed the run, in my mind and in the mind of my school friends, I did fail spectacularly as I came a very slow last.

If you hear ‘you can’t’ or ‘your no good’ or ‘you came last’ enough you start to believe it and internalise it.  It becomes ‘I can’t do this’, ‘I am no good at this’ ‘I will fail’, ‘I am going to look foolish’.

As I got older I started to give myself excuses and I started to focus on the because!  ‘I can’t do this because… my legs are tired’, ‘I can’t do this because ….I am struggling to breathe’, I can’t do this because……I have been ill, the list goes on and on.

How did I address it?

For me I thought that if I was going to stop sabotaging my runs – I needed to change this inner dialogue and turn the negative into a positive.

This is when I returned to the idea of having a mantra.  I was listening to my running playlist and one particular song always lifted my spirits, Mark Ronson – uptown funk.  There is a line in the song which is,  ‘ If you don’t believe me just watch’.  This was the perfect mantra for me.

Saying this in response to Bob works really well – it sounds like this:

Bob – you can’t

Me – If you don’t believe me just watch.

It motivates me, as I am essentially saying, I can do this you just watch me prove you wrong.

Does it work?

I am not saying it is full proof but it has helped me enormously.  By not only adding a mantra but focusing that mantra at the route-cause of the negativity has made it much more effective.  It changed my psyche from disabling to enabling and I am taking back control.

Using these techniques has helped me to not only run longer but also at a faster pace.  Bob helped me get to 5K and Bob plus mantra (plus coach) helped me get to 10K.  Each time you overcome that negativity and conquer your goal, you are taking the power of ‘I can’t” away.  You are also turning the ‘I can’t’s into ‘ I did’s” which progresses to ‘I did it before, I can do it again’.

Expectations

I don’t expect to never have a bad run or never to self-sabotage but I do intend to keep trying to find the route causes and take the control back.  I will not allow negativity to continue to dis-enable me!

How do you manage your negativity on tough runs?

About totalrunningnut.com

I have been a runner for about a year and would still class myself as a beginner.   Like countless others, running has not come easily and has required a lot of hard work and gritted determination.  In truth I was never in love with the idea of running but an opportunity presented itself, the stars aligned and all came together to turn me into a total running nut, (see ‘my running journey so far’ to find out more).  Needless to say running has now become an obsession and I am forever trying to get better at it!

So being the geek I am, I have read, researched and discussed all things running. Sometimes out of interest and sometimes because I am struggling and I am looking for ways to overcome the issues that I am experiencing.  Along the way I have found out some pretty interesting stuff which has helped me and could potentially help other new running nuts.

Therefore, the purpose of this blog is for you to find a catalogue of information that I have found useful.  More specifically,  it will detail how I have used and interpreted it to try and overcome my issues.  This blog will also cover my running journey including all the highs and lows and some of my ‘inner chat’ so that it may help some of you guys to see your not the only ones going through it.

Equally, what you guys are reading, discussing and finding useful is relevant to me and other running nuts and so I am keen for you to share what you are learning and any hints and tips that may be of use.

Therefore, I am hoping this blog will provide a common platform and develop a community of running nuts to share information, hints and tips.  In the process we may be able to develop our running abilities, motivate and inspire ourselves and other running nuts everywhere.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and I sincerely hope this blog works and is of use to you all. If you have any feedback, it would be really welcomed after all this site is for all of you total running nuts not just me!

If you would like me to research a topic on your behalf and feed back to you and others please let me know.

Finally, if you would like to publish a post on this site credited to you then please feel free to get in touch and I would be happy to chat through with you.

From
Lisa a ‘Total Running Nut’

 The anatomy of my first race – Clowance  January 2017

Throughout my running journey to date I have had a lot of what I class as ‘inner chat’ going on in my head.  From what i have read this happens to everyone but I always thought that what others experienced was not as stupid or negative as mine!!  

It would have helped me in the beginning to see what this looked like so that I could have been reassured that I was not the only one going through it.   Also, more importantly, it would have helped me to see this does not mean I cannot be a runner.  

No matter what part of the journey you are on everyone goes through it,  So in the name of honesty and transparency I thought I would share my inner chat from my first ever race.  Hopefully, this will make you feel that you are not going mad and the internal battle is much the same for everyone.

 

Ready; Set; Go….

‘What am I doing here? they are all ‘proper runners’, serious runners’.

I should not be here I am an imposter, a fraud.

They all look so fit and lean – god I must look like a joke to them, unfit and fat, get me out of here….Now.  No you can’t run away you will look pathetic.

Actually are they looking at me – yes they are.  Hold on a moment that guy is smiling at me.  OMG he just wishes me luck.  Crikey how nice is that?!

This is not so bad afterall!
The Starting line – nervous and excited in equal measure.

Over-riding questions

‘Am I ready for this?’

‘Yes I am,  well I think I am’

‘What If I can’t and I have to stop?’

I can do this

‘I don’t want to be last’

‘Oh god we are starting – s–t what was I thinking????

 

First Lap…..

Over-riding thoughts:

‘I can’t do this’ ‘yes you can’.

‘My legs are already tired and it’s the first lap,  I am never going to make it round’  ‘Yes you can Lisa’

‘ I don’t want to stop but I know I can’t do this’. ‘Just keep going a little while longer’

‘ Everone else looks like they are finding it easy’ ‘ I wish someone else would stop then I won’t feel so bad when I do’

‘Lisa you can do this’

‘ I can’t believe I was only 3/4’s of the way round when the first runners ran past us on there second lap-god I really should not be here.  I suppose they have been doing it a while.  If I can make it round I would be happy.  It was nice though that a high proportion were encouraging yelling  – doing well; keep going and don’t give up.  Runners are so friendly.
Lap 2

I need to stop,  I am sooooo tired, I need to stop.

I know I am not going to make it – why bother

I may as well stop now,  why punish myself further,  as I am not going to complete without walking some of it.

I just can’t do it, I really can’t do it.

There is Sue my coach – she has finished already – if only I was that good.

What did she just say ‘ Lisa do you want me to run with you’?  ” Yes please I am not going to complete otherwise’

I need all the help I can get.

Sue:

Lisa your doing great, you have got this.  If you need to slow down that’s not a problem.  In fact slow down a bit it may help.

Me

Ok Sue, but if I slow

I am afraid I am going to stop and I don’t want to stop but I don’t think I can do this.

Sue

If you need to stop – stop and walk for a bit.

Me

No I want to keep going

Sue

Not far now lisa

Me

I thought I was going this way to the finish line – what do you mean it’s that way.  But that’s on an incline!!   With disabling desperation ‘I CAN’T DO THIS’

Sue

Stop and walk before you go round the corner to give you the energy to get up that incline.

Me

OK,  but Sue I don’t think I can do this

Sue

Yes you can – let’s go.

Me

OK.

Sue

Look lisa you can see the finish line

My friend and other coach comes running out and yells Lisa you can do this at the top her lungs.

So end up running in with two out of my three coaches cheering me on.

The Finish Line


I only went and finished it!! I am sooooo relieved that’s over.  Feeling really really overwhelmed – I think I am going to cry.  I am crying why am I crying – I am being ridiculous.  I am such an emotional mess!!

Graduation from Running Club.


What do you mean I get a woolly hat for completing the race?!!  I deserve a flaming medal!!

Ivor/Sue:

That’s OK you have completed the 5k so you now get your running club medal, certificate and bottle of fizz to celebrate..

Me/Suzie

Well, that makes it totally worth it.

What did this Race teach me:

  • You need to run your race and not think about other people’s as it increases your self doubt
  • I have a hell of a lot of negativity going on in my head from before the race starts – I need to learn how to switch it off, drown it out!
  • Always prepare for hills and the unknown like mud!!
  • Don’t walk you always regret it in the end
  • Race’s are addictive!  I am so doing another one!

I now have muddy shoes which shows what I have been through to get this far!  I have made it…..I am a runner 🙂

Acknowledgements

It is at this point I want to say to Sue/Ivor and  Heidi thank-you guys for all the coaching you have given me.  If it was not for you I would not have got through any run much less writing a blog about it.

Tim, Julie, Andrew and of course Suzie my fellow running clubbers – you are all amazing and I love you all.  Thank-you for letting me be part of your running group and becoming my friends.

THANK-YOU,  THANK-YOU,  THANK-YOU

My Running Journey so Far

The Trigger to Run

It’s hard to believe that in June 2016 I was seriously unfit, overweight and most definitely exercise adverse.

I was unwell in Jan of 2016 which forced me to re-evaluate my life. Leading with the question “what can I do to help myself?”.   I looked at the usual suspects, diet, stress levels,  and work/life balance.  The very last thing I wanted to think  about was exercise!!  However, I did and started with increasing  my steps to 10,000 a day.  Most days I managed 2000, which I had to admit was pretty poor.  My (not so uncommon) excuse was that I work in an office and obviously, could not find the time to fit any exercise in.  So instead I tried to make up for it by going for walks along the beautiful cliff tops of Cornwall at the weekends.  Although nice, socialising with friends soon got in the way and so another excuse was found not to go for that walk.  So then I thought rather than take up my precious weekends I tried Zumba during the week, but soon found out that classes are really not my thing.  Basically no matter what I tried, none of it  enthused me enough to make exercise a habit!

Then I met up with my lovely neighbour Suzie one night for a “glass of fizz” and all that changed.  Suzie told me that some of her friends were starting an after work running club.  Apart from the two running coaches none of the group were runners.  This seemed perfect as we would all be starting at the same point, so I asked to join and my running journey began.

Can I Run?

I would love to say I was a natural runner and that it was easy but I would most definitely be lying!  For an overweight,  exercise adverse person like me it was never going to be easy and trust me it wasn’t and isn’t!

Initially I only had to run 1 minute and walk 1.5 for a total 30 mins which equated to 10 mins of running overall. After the first minute I felt like my lungs were about to explode and I was struggling to find any breath whatsoever.  Quite simply I was shocked and mortified in equal measure, how had I ever got to this level of unfitness.  However, with lots of support I continued to come to the classes each week and slowly worked up to 3 minutes of continuous running.

Pain and Trainers

Then,  came the painful shin splints and muscle cramps that would try to sabotage any attempts I made to try and complete a full 4mins of running.  The coaches suggested my footwear may need upgrading and recommended a running shop called “at your pace”.

So off to “At Your Pace” running shop I went.  I walked up to the front door and thought,  oh no no no no,  “I cannot go in there – it’s for “serious runners”.  I panicked for a bit and then braved it and walked in.  This otherworld that I was being thrown into was initially intimidating.  That is until I introduced myself to the guy behind the counter.  I explained to him I was doing the couch to 5K and was not a proper runner but had been advised to come and get some shoes to overcome shinsplints etc.  He told me firstly he hated the term Couch to 5K– it is beginner to 5K and secondly welcome to running which immediately put me at ease.

He then started to talk about ‘Gait analysis‘ this is where you run on a treadmill and video your foot placement to see whether you land on the outside (overpronation) inside (supination) or in a neutral position.  This helps to guide what trainers you require.

The thought of being video’d running on a treadmill by a fit runner was not filling me with delight!   Initially I had to run barefoot and then in the trainers I usually run in, which was not too bad lasted about 30-60 seconds each.  I manage to do this without too much embarrassment thankfully and he stated that I had an over-pronation and would require stabilising shoes. Fine I thought until he came down with 6 pairs of trainers and told me I had to run in every pair, i was horrified.   ” I have to run for a minute in each pair?” ” Yes so that we can find a shoe that puts your foot in the best alignment to correct your overpronation”.  I nearly ran out the shop, heck I could only run for 3 minutes and I was going to have to run in all 6.  It’s not like I could ask for a timed break between each pair.  I did not want to embarrass myself further,  I swallowed hard and puffed and panted my way through the 6 pairs of trainers.  I chose the Brooks ravenna 8’s – he asked me whether  I wanted to run in them one last time to be sure that I was comfortable in them.  My brain screamed “HELL NO” but what actually came out was “no thanks I am happy with my choice”.

My first pair of proper running shoes and they are still my most favourite treasured possession.

I took them out for a spin and it was like night and day!  Shin splints and cramp had vanished and I managed 4 whole minutes non-stop.  To say I was ecstatic was an understatement.

Couch to Race Line-Up.

In between the weekly running club as I downloaded the app ‘ couch to 5k in 8 weeks!’  I would like to point out that 8 weeks is false advertising as it took me 7 months to get my first 5k under my belt.  But boy was I chuffed when I did.

Once I had reached my 5k I decided to enter myself and my neighbour into a “proper race” that was run by freedom racing.  The run was advertised as flat and suitable for beginners but was also a mile longer than the 5K I was used to. Despite this I felt optimistic,  after my friend Heidi had manage to get me to the 5k milestone afterall how bad could it be?

Well the big day came – Suzie and I lined up and we were a mix of terrified and excited.  What the hell were we doing with these “proper runners”.  We both felt like imposters.  But again how bad could it be?  We made sure we were at the back  so as not to hold anyone up and off we went.

Hills, Dreaded Hills

We starting off well – it was flat…… that was until we rounded the corner and found this sloping muddy field.  They said no hills…..!  Both Suzie and I fell into a blind panic but quickly got a grip and through gritted teeth ran onwards and most definitely upwards!

It was two circuits so we knew we would face this hill again which did not inspire confidence.  Once we climbed the hill and I fell into the brook at the top Suzie was ecstatic and smiling I was focusing on just making it through without killing myself.

Suzie smiling after the first lap.

Me focused and grimacing – thinking how the hell am I going to make it around another lap,  without killing myself – someone please help me!

Finish Line

I did make it around, not in one hit like Suzie but with multiple stops.  Whilst really relieved and happy I made it around, a little later, I felt disappointed and demoralised that I had not done it without stopping.

Determination and obsession

I nearly ended my running journey there,  but with a lot of moral support I continued.  I looked at how far I had come and thought to give up now would take me back to the couch potato I once was and I did not want that.

This is where my running obsession truly started, I did not want to revert back so I immersed myself in it determined to become a proper runner”.   I read up on anything and everything I could and still do in the aid of being the best I can.  Some of the topics I have read up on are overcoming shin splints, breathing techniques,  psychology of running and how to overcome the negative voices in your head that sabotage your running goals.

All of this reading has helped as I have now reached 10K and I am about to mark this formally by running Vitality 10,000 in London.  If you want to know how I get on look out for my post!

It seems that I have finally become what I never thought I would ” A total running nut”.  I have become one of those lycra clad people I had secretly envied.  Now I spend most of my time reading running magazines, searching the web and watching you tube clips!  I get so excited about new running gear and the latest tech.  Who knew this person was waiting to come out.

So if you think you can’t do it – read this story again as I am living proof that you can.