Runners often struggle with negative thoughts when a run or race gets hard. Here are some strategies for how runners can think positive and overcome some of those negative thoughts that often creep into our minds. By focusing on the positive, and changing our thinking, we can learn to get over some of those frustrating thoughts!
I’m 12 days away from my marathon, and find myself thinking about it pretty much 24/7. Sometimes I am really confident and can think positive thoughts about my training and the race; other times not so much.
Being that I am a mental health therapist and I am trained to help people overcome anxious and negative thoughts, I realized that maybe I should start listening to my own advice. Keep in mind that I work with kids, so these strategies are not only simple but fun too!
How Runners Can Think Positive
When I am teaching positive self-talk to kids we call them B-L-U-E thoughts. The types of thoughts we often have include blaming myself, looking for bad news, unhappy guessing, and exaggerating. We need to start by identifying our negative thoughts so we can then work on changing them to positive thoughts. Here are some examples of thoughts I might have leading up to my race.
I didn’t train hard enough. My training plan didn’t have enough long runs and weekly mileage. I should have done more speedwork.
Looking for bad news
When the race gets hard, I am going to give up. The hills are going to be harder than I remember. I’ll hit the wall and have to walk.
The weather will probably be terrible. There will probably be a windy snowstorm in November with ice and rain too. Or it will be 95 degrees and humid.
This race is going to feel like I am running for 12 hours. I am going to have a thousand blisters and more chafing than I ever experienced in my life.
How to Change Negative Thoughts to Positive Thoughts
Ok, that’s pretty ridiculous when you look at it written out. These are pretty drastic negative thoughts, but some are not that far off. So what do we do about it? We change our B-L-U-E thoughts to TRUE thoughts! Here are some questions to ask yourself when trying to make this change:
- What is the evidence?
- Is there another way to look at the situation?
- What would you tell a friend who had this thought?
- What if it is true? Would that really be so bad?
So for example, if I was thinking “The weather will probably be terrible. There will probably be a windy snowstorm in November with ice and rain too. Or it will be 95 degrees and humid”. I would ask myself those questions.
Questions to Help Runners Think Positive
What is the evidence? There really isn’t any. It’s very unlikely that there will be a snowstorm or other crazy weather. Even less likely that it will be hot and humid.
Is there another way to look at the situation? Well, if the conditions were really that bad they would probably have to cancel the race.
What would you tell a friend who had this thought? The weather won’t be that bad, and if it’s not perfect there’s not much you can do about it. Just dress appropriately for the conditions and you’ll be fine.
What if it is true? Will that really be so bad? I’ve run in tough conditions before, and I know I will survive. Those tough races make me a stronger runner!
So this is one strategy that I will be using to survive the taper. I will also be using similar strategies while I am running the race. I am actually a little more worried about the mental difficulties than the physical!
It also really helps to have a mantra that you can say to yourself. Practice using your mantra and positive statements during your training runs so they are easier to use when you start having negative thoughts!
You may also like: Taper Tips To Get You Ready To Run a Strong Race
Coaches can help runners to think positive
Remember that a running coach can also help you with mental strategies for race day! Sometimes as runners we just need someone to talk these things through with to come up with a plan for how to stay positive on race day. You can learn more about my coaching services here.
How do you deal with negative thoughts?
Do you start to get all up in your head before a race?