“How do I stop my negative thoughts? When I run, I’m really hard on myself!”
How many times have you tried to stop a negative thought pattern?
I’m so tired, I’m going to die here on this hill. I’m not going to make it to the top.
My lungs – they’re burning! I can’t breathe.
My legs feel like lead.
This is so hard.
I suck at this.
And how successful are you if you try to block out these thoughts (or worse yet, you begin to berate and judge yourself for having said negative thoughts AGAIN)?
Bah! Why am I so hard on myself?!
Why can’t I just enjoy this?
Isn’t this supposed to be fun?
These thoughts may believe they’re helping us by keeping us ‘the same’ or safe – but really, they make us feel stuck and not good enough.
One of the best ways I’ve seen to help my clients shift negative thought patterns is movement. By being in the present experience and having moments of enjoyment, success, and skill development through appropriate challenge, we begin to experience ourselves differently. We don’t need (often phony feeling) affirmations, because we now experience ourselves as competent, capable and confident.
And if you’re already moving – running – a lot – we add new imagery strategies.
Using imagery can help us open up to new maps and pathways, asking our beliefs and brain to cooperate and lay down new track. And the more we practice, the easier it gets as those roads are the ones maintained more often.
Trust me, there’s so much hope for the Debbie Downers of the running world. You can learn to enjoy your training challenges and meet new goals with a focused, confident mind and smart movement training.
If you struggle with negative self talk while training, here are my favorite tips:
Open up your senses
What do you hear? Explore the sights of your neighborhood or scope out new scenery. Use music. What do you smell? Be in the present by focusing on all of your senses.
Notice what you notice
Take a body scan as you run and notice what sensations are present. Can you feel your spine lengthening, your arms pumping? Observe how your breathing feels and moves. Can you enjoy the effort and power from your hips?
When you take a body scan or observe sensation, do so without attaching judgment to them. Let it be as it is, and know that observation is a skill and choice. Also, most often, the sensations change moment to moment. Impermanence can support non-attachment. Watch things change.
Give the mind a job
Imagery strategies refocus your attention back into your performance, your embodied experience.
Try positive self talk, and describe to yourself how you want your run to feel. “I am light, agile and quick footed. I am here, present. I’m breathing. My shoulders are melting and calm. My legs are powerful and my lungs are healthy. My body is strong to allow me to run right now.” Some of my clients also use mantra, counting, and breath awareness.
Focus on Progress and Process
When you get home from your run, record your progress. And if you’re driven by performance or an ‘end-goal’ like a race, give yourself permission to celebrate all the time you’re putting in now.
Focusing on the process of training can help kick a perfectionist mind back into the present.
In a nutshell, pay attention because the power is yours to influence how you think, feel, and move.
Comment below and share which of these tips you’ll implement this week.