How to stop running from negative self talk

Ten years ago I gave up running. Having tried for years, I decided I just didn’t have the legs for it. I thought I if I kept going I would become a sylph like version of myself, full of vibrancy and joy, feet lightly touching the pavement as I bounded along.

The reality I found was a battle, dragging myself sloth like on another 30 minute session. Fighting with thoughts about how I was tired, something ached, I wasn’t getting any better, I’m not built for it, and repeated…… I can’t go on and is it nearly over!

I tried running in pairs and always being the one holding us back and needing encouragement. I tried running clubs, who lied to me and said that they take any level, and then left me miles behind them lost and alone. I tried running on a treadmill – total dullsville. I ran 5k and 10k races for charity and having a goal helped enormously. But I still didn’t achieve the joy I had hoped for.

So I called it a day. Running became something I used to do, a distant memory in another land.

Fast forward to 8 weeks ago, when I spontaneously signed up for the colour me rad 5K run. Time to try again. I still haven’t given up on my dream sylph. But now technology has moved on and there are all kinds of amazing gadgets to support me achieving my running goals. Apps with names like Endomondo, RunKeeper, ZombiesRun! Couch to 5K confused me but I finally settled on the simple 5K Runner which requires you train 3 times a week for 8 weeks.

Week 1, Day 1 – run 1 min, walk 2 mins repeat for 20 mins. I can do this. The app offers you encouraging dialogue as you go. Fortunately I can turn this off so other more polished runners don’t hear my phone telling me to ‘go for it, champion runner!’.

Week 3, Day 2 – run 2.5 mins, walk 1 mins for 30 mins. I’m so proud that I have kept to the schedule. All I have to do is arrive at my running location and turn on the app. No more thinking! I don’t have to plan when to start or stop. I just wait for the bing!

Week 6, Day 3 – run 15 mins, walk 3 mins, run 5 mins. I understand now that Pavlov’s theory works for humans too. I hear the bing, I run. I hear the bing again, I stop. The whole internal discussion about how I feel, can I do it, it’s hard, when shall I start, when shall I stop, has been removed.

Week 8, Day 3 – 35 minute run. 35 MINUTE RUN!!! Non stop. All in one go. Just like that.

Race day – easy! I know that I can run for 5 k. I know how far it is. I find I have energy at the end.

I’m fascinated with how the app has allowed me to train in a different way without all of the negative self-talk. It has made me realise how much our internal voice impacts our performance.

Negative self-talk is too believable, and we fall for the tapes that are playing in our head bringing focus to our failings and getting us now where.

Here are some ways to break this pattern:

Notice when that same old song starts playing, and switch the channel

Self-talk is so subtle that we often don’t notice its effect on our mood and belief systems. Key things to notice are “if only or “what if” statements: one keeps you stuck in the past with regret, while the other keeps you fearful of the future.

There is nothing you can do about the past, and the future isn’t here yet, so stay in the present moment!

Visualise the good things

My image of running has now changed, I now see myself moving easily and comfortably. I’m not comparing myself and I am happy with my abilities. If we want to change the negative tapes playing in our heads, we have to visualise ourselves positively—that means non-judgmentally. Picture accepting yourself. How would that look? See a picture in your mind and expand on it.

Recognise that actions always follow beliefs

Whatever you believe, you’ll experience more of, and you’ll also find yourself behaving in ways that are congruent with your beliefs. So, start believing the best about yourself: act as if you believe that you’re a valuable and worthy person.

Pay attention to triggers

Triggers are anything that can start the old tapes playing. If a certain person is a trigger for you, set boundaries with them.

Develop positive counter-statements to refute negative self-talk

Instead of always putting yourself down in your head, think of some things you like about yourself. What are your strengths, what are you good at? Developing counter-statements requires you to have belief in their truth. Keep your counter-statements in the here-and-now, instead of saying “I’m not good enough” try saying, “I am capable. I’m good at ______. I accept myself the way I am.”

The next time you find yourself trying to do something challenging and your inner voice starts to mutter, try one of the above and then just hear the bing and start running.

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