A Runner’s Starting Line Confidence

Sometimes a runner’s already won the race before the gun’s even goes off. Questions. Doubts. Insecurities. None of these belong at the starting line; starting line of a race or a workout. A runner needs confidence. NEEDS it… no amount of physical endurance, speed, or fitness can make up for it.

How one steps to the line is what separates the GAMERS from the runners who perform at about the level they do in workouts, and then harriers who self-implode.
runners confidence
Confidence is a tricky one, it’s a mental factor of running and training. Once shaken, a runner’s confidence can be quite difficult to fully restore. Injuries, off days, strings of bad races, all of these plant seeds of doubt. Doubt is like a monster that, once you feed it, it grows exponentially in size. It’s a voracious monster that will eat a runner whole. Step to the starting line enveloped in that ugly monster and you might as well not even wait for the gun to crack. You’re already a dead runner ‘running’.

By the time you step to the starting line, there is NOTHING you can change about the past. Stop any questions of, “Should I have done…?”, “Did I do enough…?”, etc. You can’t do it, so no use worrying about it.

Don’t let that scare you off, if you’ve got some doubts, that’s only natural. And if you’re currently fighting from falling into the pit with that ugly doubting monster, THERE IS still hope for you yet. It works two ways. You CAN restore your confidence. You CAN still step to the line a gamer. It just takes some work and shifting your thinking.

Usually doubts start from one of two places:

1) An Event: Events would be after injuries, poor performances, etc…it starts with a legitimate reason to question if your fitness is off and snowballs. Usually the first race or workouts back after an injury a runner naturally goes in with a little more trepidation. You need some solid performances under you belt to steamroll that confidence train back.
To help BOOST that train, remember that your talent and fitness never goes away. Your first race back may not be your PR, but trust in the process, trust in your dedication, and trust that you’re only going to improve from here.

2) Anxiety and Stress: Anxiety and stress tend to spike around pre-race time. I wrote whole posts HERE and HERE on how to use those nerves to your advantage. If you let too much pressure, internal and external, load you up, it’s like running with a weight vest. To help unload that pressure, usually it takes the runner looking within THEMSELVES and finding that passion and love for running that brought them to the sport. If they can get back the excitement and joy for just running, eventually the times, workouts, and races will get back on track.

Ironically, the LESS you think about races and workouts, typically the better you’ll do.

Remember that NO race is the last race in the world. Yes, it can be a Championship race or a PR you’ve been wanting to pop FOREVER…but know that tomorrow will always come and another race will too.

1) Where do you draw your confidence from before a race?
2) How do you use a race day atmosphere to BOOST your performance compared to regular workouts?
3) Have you ever had a time when your confidence was shaken, how did you get it back?

Let Track Season Bring Out the Gamer in the Runner: Each event, different variables to master

Lately it feels like my brain is running way faster than my legs could ever keep pace. That’s a darn shame, because one would certainly opt for running a new PR rather than mentally shouting, “SHUT UP!” to your brain at 2am and imploring it to go to bed. ;)

Speaking of PR’s, track racing season is getting to be in full swing. Some people have a bit of a phobia when it comes to the track, others find the monotony of double-digit laps, well, monotonous. The thing with track though, is it BLEEDS speed…as a runner, how can you not love that?
runner yelling track
Each distance is unique, duh, the number of laps to the race you’ll be running presents its own challenges. The ratio of speed to endurance, the contrast between utter lactic ONSLAUGHT from the gun versus the more gradual building of the pain in the 10k. Both grueling, just in a different way.

Each race has a ‘volatile’ factor. This would be the crucial moments and laps that can make or break your race. The margins of time where if you’re not ON IT you may have very well lost the race even if you’re still got laps and laps to go.

There’s not just ONE moment in time of course, but for the sake of brevity let’s highlight a few of the volatile factors for the events:

* 1500/Mile: That dang third lap. Here is where the pain of the pace has already set in, the ‘taste’ of the finish isn’t quite close enough to kick in. Your mind starts to dauntingly anticipate that grueling last lap. COMBAT: Know that third lap is going to suck, know that it will make your race if you can pass the people letting their brain wander.
running in bunhuggers
* 3200: Right around laps 4-6 it is easy to let your brain check-out. It’s prime time to make a move, surge and establish a gap on those who either went out too fast for that first mile or the poor souls who are just letting their mind wander. COMBAT: Go out on pace the first mile and throw down a move…remember the beauty of negative splits.

* 5k: It’s funny how running that first mile can feel so easy, a breeze, too easy. The middle mile is where you need to wrangle your brain and keep it FOCUSED. Much like the 3rd lap of the mile, the middle of your 5k can lapse into a fog if you’re not careful. COMBAT: Don’t let yourself get pulled out too fast the first mile, stay mentally engaged the middle mile, and anticipate the cold slap of pain somewhere after the second mile. It’s funny how it can suddenly sneak up on you, but be prepared for it and stay strong through to the finish.

Each race has its own set of ‘volatile’ factors…that’s what makes each and every track distance so fun. It’s a test, as is everything with running, testing mostly yourself. The competition is there as an opportunity to propel your performances forward…feed off of their presence.

Track is awesome, just don’t let the distance of the race pull a fast one on you. Be prepared and then enjoy the unique challenges of each event.

1) What is your favorite track distance to race?

2) Pick a distance I didn’t highlight and share one of their ‘volatile’ factors.

3) Share a ‘volatile’ factor that I didn’t address for one of the above races.
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The Distance Runner’s Warm-up: Get your body and your mind prepared to run FAST

The runner’s warm-up is a unique time. Before a hard workout, and even more-so for a race, there’s a lot that needs to happen both physically AND mentally.

A warm-up tells your legs to ‘wake up’ because they’re about to start running fast. Gradually notching down the pace, starting with the relaxed running, prepares the legs, rather than a complete SLAP in the face…the shock of a hard 400 off the bat. Got a bit of the lazy bug or backwards thinking towards the warm-up? (ie: Thinking that you’re ‘saving energy’ for the workout/race is backwards logic…hehe)
turn left on the track
* Physiologically: Those super expensive cars can brag about going 0-60 in seconds, but your body doesn’t work that way. Sort of like you wouldn’t want to get ripped out of bed and chucked into the middle of a tempo run, your legs need time to adjust to, “Okay, time to run,” then “Okay, time to run FAST!” The science behind it can get wordy, but basically muscle function and glycogen burning (sourcing energy) works most efficiently when done through negative splits. Start slow (ie: running a warm-up) and work into those faster paces.

* Feels ‘easier’: Thanks to that science, your muscles, once introduced/eased into that pace, will make the same times feel relatively easier. You will be able to then run faster off of a proper warm-up. I think all runners are down for that.

* Mentally prepare: The warm-up is also a time for runners to get their heads on straight. Visualize what you want to accomplish during the workout, quell those nerves and keep them in check. Remember that you will stay relaxed and controlled when the pain is setting in.

What is a ‘real’ warm-up?

Studies are proving there should be more elements to your warm-up routine than just some easy running. Runners want all of those muscles alert and engaged before the hard running starts.

* Easy running: Aim for at least 15 minutes, I like at least 2 miles under my legs.
* Dynamic stretching: Do some good stretching, here is where the more dynamic ones like leg swings are perfect.
* Drills: Skips, fast feet, etc. A series of drills will wake up the nervous system and get your legs firing faster. [I did an article on that HERE]
* Strides: Here is where you start to bring the pace down with a series of strides. Stay controlled and make each one progressively faster.

By the time you hit the line for that first interval or race you want to feel loose and ready to go. You don’t want to ‘waste’ the first interval, or mile of your race, because you’re still warming-up.

girl on track

Get your head on right. ;)


A bit more on the mental piece of a warm-up.

A runner’s warm-up is a process; over time you want to have the series of elements (stretches/drills/etc.) down so well you could do it on auto-pilot. This routine establishes continuity for your muscles but it also gives your MIND something concrete to focus on.

Focusing on the routine of your warm-up is an effective way to stay calm beforehand, rather than get overly worked-up with nerves. Especially on race day, by the time you start your warm-up you should feel ‘safety’ with it…it’s something that is the SAME, that you’ve done over and over again. Proof that you’ve made it through plenty of hard workouts, managed to fight through the pain, and you’re capable of doing that again.

A runner’s warm-up is the little cup ‘o joe the body needs to perk the heck up and get ready to run fast…it’s also a time to get your head on right and ready to tackle that workout or race! :)

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The Boston Marathon tragedy is still haunting our thoughts and flooding runners with emotions. I am continually reminded of the good in humanity, in stark contrast to the horrifically dark side. While we will never be able to understand why or how a person or persons may be driven to lash out in this manner, hold tight to the reality that for every ‘bad seed’ there are many more with good intentions and of a benevolent manner.

Keep running united, keep running for Boston, and keep supporting all effected as best you can!
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1) What’s your warm-up routine look like?

2) How do you use your warm-up to get your head screwed on right and ready to roll that workout/race?

3) How has your warm-up evolved over the years?
For most it’s gotten longer…haha.

4) What is something you’ve seen/heard/read that help shed some light over this recent tragedy…or given you some hope for humanity?
The immediate coming together of runners all over, and not just runners either.
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Running Mentally Engaged: Keeping your brain in check when the pain sets in

Running is tough. Racing is tougher…downright painful. The brain has a funny little way of dealing with that pain, it gets sneaky and tries to coax us into slowing down.

Runner Brain: “I want to run a PR, dang this hurts, but I’m going to put the work in and stick this out.”
Annoying Tired Brain: “Well, fine, if you’re not going to listen to my complaints and willingly slow down I’ll just find other ways to trick you into it!”
your brain on running
Oh the brain, you slippery little eel, you.

* Self-Defeatist Thoughts: This would be when you’re running and your mind starts screaming in your ear, “You seriously can’t keep this pace up for any longer.”
* Dwelling on the Future: This is when your mind has on repeat, “Umm, and HOW much further do you think you’re going to be forcing me to do this? Think again buster, you CAN’T last that many miles more!”
* Bargaining: When your runner brain and your sane tired brain get into a war, your lame-o brain argues, “C’mon, just ease up a little, trust me you’re not going to feel guilty or regretful about it, just ease up.” This is also known as a lie, because your runner brain knows you’ll feel regretful.
* Wandering: This is when your brain full-on goes on vacation, if you catch yourself mid-race thinking, “Wow, I really like the zebra print on that lady’s shirt, you see her, the one sitting on the 20th row of in the stands.”

A Wandering Mind = A Slowing Body

See, when the mind decides to check-out and wander like that what inevitably ends up happening is the pace starts to lag. Running through pain takes a special kind of focus, focus on forcing yourself to relax, to keep pushing, to stay ENGAGED in the race.

When your mind wanders it is sneakily distracting you from the battle race at hand. My latest article at Competitor.com is all about staying focused during a race so you then, race your best: “Got a Wandering Mind? Here’s How to Stop It”

Read the article, but I’d like to add that a wandering mind is much different from zoning out during a race.

tired runner

Aww, c’mon, I’m only joking…kinda. ;)


I’ve talked about how zoning out is a mental trick to pushing through the pain. Zoning out:
* Locked Eyes Ahead:
Find a runner ahead of you, stare at a single spot on their back and refuse to let any distance open up between you and the spot.
* Breathing and Form: When you zone out you think only of the tangibles you can control and NOT the pain from lactic acid. Thinking about standing tall, keeping your form in check, and breathing controlled are all tangibles to think of.
* Think Relaxed: When you zone out you want to let go of any tension; don’t have your fists and jaw clenched, don’t have your shoulders in your ears.

Finally, zoning out is the epitome of being ENGAGED in the race, you’re single-mindedly in it.

A wandering mind is where you’re brain is anywhere but in the race. It is, in reality, just a backwards trick that your tiring brain is using to get you to slow down.

Don’t fall for it. Running often comes down to mentally ‘beating’ your own brain. Push past the pain, get through those intervals, drive for the finish line, and stay present in your race…because THAT is how you improve as a runner. THAT is how you set those wonderful PR’s. ;)

1) What is an example of a trick your brain has tried on you to get you to slow down?

2) How do you one-up that slippery little eel of a complaining tired brain?

3) What is an aspect of zoning out? How do you stay zoned during a race and stay ENGAGED throughout?

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Rule Your Running Terrain: Because races aren’t done on a treadmill

Unless you’re racing on a track, there’s SOME kind of terrain you’ll need to be prepared for come gun-time. Even during track season athletes have much to gain from varying the terrain on their workouts.

  • Power and Speed: Hills build strength and when taken to flats that translates to speed. That same kind of logic applies to doing repeats on grass, the times may be ‘slower’ but you’re working harder and building strength.
  • Injury Prevention: Running on softer, more forgiving surfaces helps reduce impact and thus lowers your chances for injuries in the long-term.
  • Diversity: Running is a very repetitive action and mostly only working in a single, horizontal plane. At least by varying things slightly you’re able to give your body a bit of diversity; if you fail to do this, smaller muscles get weak and imbalances become injuries in waiting.

Those are all general reasons why mixing up your running terrain is a good idea, but if you know your actual race course will have key elements you’ll need to be prepared for, it’s even more important to introduce those same obstacles in training.
turn left on the track
Hilly Courses

  • Uphill Repeats: It take power to get up those hills; including uphill repeats into your routine may seem like an obvious but not all runners actually DO hill work, or they don’t mix-up the kind of work that they do. Think of hills in a three-pronged approach, similar to your regular running workouts. 1) Do 100-200 meter hill bursts, allow for full recovery between each repeat; this is your speed session for the week. 2) Longer, 600-1600 meter hill repeats for your endurance-focused interval sessions. You could also do tempo runs uphill (on a treadmill set on a grade if you don’t have an actual course). 3) Including rolling hills into your easy days ‘sneaks’ hill work in.
  • Downhill Repeats: Many can overlook just how taxing a lot of downhill on your race course can be. If your race has a significant amount of downhills (Hello, Boston Marathon!), be sure to get used to running on the decline; your quads will be working even if you don’t ‘feel it’ right away. You can include some downhill repeats in your training; just be careful in terms of injury because downhill running does increase the forceful pounding of running.
  • Form: Running hills makes it even more important to have good form; when running uphill maintain the same effort that you would but decrease your stride length. When running downhill, make sure that you’re not tensing up and causing yourself to ‘brake;’ rather, relax and let the momentum of the decline help do some of the work for you.

trail runner
Trail running

  • Ankles and lower legs: Trail running is about as diverse as running can get, twists, turns, awkward foot-plants aplenty. Here is where you need to be sure your ankles and feet are used to landing in various positions. The way to do that is, well, running trails, taking turns, and including mobility work outside of running.
  • Core and Mobility: To reduce your risk for injury when running, you want to have a strong core, be flexible, and have as much range of motion as possible. Schedule time for strength training, dynamic stretching, and drills; not only will it help safeguard you against injuries it will improve your running performance.

Tracks, Roads and the Elements

  • Tangents: Some math logic here, but running longer adds more time to your race results. Road races are measured off of the shortest possible marked distance, so look for those tangents and don’t run wider around turns than you have to. On the track, unless you’re going to be boxed in, do your best to not needlessly wander into outer lanes.
  • Drafting: Even on the calmest of days drafting makes a difference, mentally it’s much ‘easier’ to sit behind someone else and let them do the work. If it’s especially windy, find a body and tuck in behind them!
  • Weather Conditions: The conditions of race day can make a HUGE difference in your performance; not only should you take these into consideration for your race-day pacing goals but train in the same kind of conditions. For cold races be extra certain you do a full warm-up to make sure your muscles are properly warm and ready to hit those faster paces.

Until the day that all races are held on treadmills, runners should be mixing up the terrain of their workouts and runs. By tailoring your training to your specific race course you’ll be setting yourself up for even better results. And hey, who doesn’t want to run that much faster and have a bit of an edge over their competition? ;)

1) How do you train for your course? If it’s for the track, how do you add diversity to your workouts?

2) Do you prefer road races, track races, cross-country, or trail races?

3) How do you plan, adapt, or prepare for various weather conditions?

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Running and ‘Craming’: Race day ready with not as much time as you would have liked

The results for the ‘cramming method’ when it comes to running are a pretty mixed bag. Admittedly there are those lucky few blessed with a fair chunk of talent and with minimal training can whip out a rather remarkable performance given the circumstances. That’s not the norm and I’d like to also point out that the craming method = the hazing method. Read as: be prepared to suffer the consequences by way of pain uncomfort and soreness. Hey, you have to pay the price some way!

finish line face man running

Trust me, he’s hurting, but I think he ditched the can’t beast at mile 2.


Running rewards the consistent and the hard-workers BUT there are circumstances where you’ve got less time than you’d like before race day and you want to do all you can to make the most of that time available. My most recent article for Competitor: ‘How to Get Race Ready in Four Weeks’ shares how to get the most bang for your buck in 4 weeks of training.

This article pertains to 5k and 10k races; generally the shorter races are a little easier to ‘gutt it out’ and surprise yourself with a better than expected race. True fact: you really can’t fake a marathon, even with months of warning…haha.

In getting back to running a race with a deadline looming, different scenarios will offer up very different prospects:

* Coming off of injury: We’ve all been there and if you’re injured early in the season, or during the point where you’d be doing the ‘meat’ of your training, you would be surprised just how WELL cross-training like a demon can prepare you for the race. Take your running workouts and just adapt them. By the time you get healthy enough to run, transition smartly and with even just 4 weeks of ‘real’ running you can have a really great race.
runner legs
* Running but not training: Say you’ve been consistent but not doing any real workouts or mixing up the paces. Then your 4 weeks of training will mostly be getting those legs accustomed to faster paces and the mental training component of embracing the hurt of training, it’s different from just straight running. The good news is that ultimately if you’ve been consistent and are not out of shape, you’re tuning up and you may not be in PR-busting shape after 4 weeks but you’ll be well on your way and then motivated to keep that momentum up.

* Slacker: Okay, got to call out the runners that show up after summer vacation to report to their schools’ teams having not run a single step. Here is where that nice hazing term comes in, I know of some runners who, having diligently trained over the summer, take a sick kind of glee in watching others pay for their slackerdom. Like I said, you have to ante up somewhere and usually slackers have to pay double for their little hiatus. That said, at least if you’ve been a runner you have the muscle memory on your side so with 4 weeks of actually focusing you could wind up at least not totally embarrassing yourself. Then just keep up the hard work and hopefully learn your lesson just once. ;)

Along with sharing the workouts that will give you the most bang for your buck (spoiler: threshold workouts) the article has a 4 week training program guide too. So if you’re looking nervously at the calendar, take a breathe (hopefully you’ve been cross-training! Hehe) and know that you STILL can make it to the start and finish line with your ego intact and have at least a respectable showing…and potentially a really awesome one! :)

1) Was there a time where you were on a time crunch for your race; what was the circumstance, how did your training end up going, and then how were the results?
I had been injured for pretty much all of one cross season but was able to get in some land runs and workouts a couple of weeks before one of the big races. Since I was really good with my cross-training I actually did PR, so again, don’t underestimate cross-training! :)

2) Was there ever a time you feel to slacker syndrome?

3) When is your next race and what are some of your staple workouts in your training?
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The Race Isn’t Over Until YOU Say It’s Over: How to decisively pass your competitors and come back from being passed

The race isn’t over until the finish line is crossed. Okay, while that sounds like it merits a, “No sh*t, Sherlock,” snarkism…hold off for just a tick and read where I’m going with this. However long the race is you’ve signed up for, there is always time to make a move on your competitor. Don’t give up until you have, in fact, crossed the finish line.
run to beat you
Racing, as with running, isn’t just a test of who is physically superior. It is also a test of who has the mental capacities to FORCE their body to its limits. There is also a test of who is a ‘smarter’ racer, who can put up a poker face the best or who can tell when their competitor is just bluffing. Then you put the hammer down at the moment when your competitor is at their weakest and hopefully crush them mentally. Force them to give up.

How do you crush your competitor mentally? Decisive moves. What’s that mean? It means when you pass them, you don’t just pass them, you blow by them. You gather yourself right before you pass, drop your shoulders, look at relaxed as possible, breath as evenly as possible, hide how tired you are and surge. Run hard and fast straight past them and keep up the pace to immediately put distance on them. PROVE how strong you are feeling, SHOW them you are obviously feeling stronger than they could possible be, and FORCE them to give up right there. DO NOT, ever, look over your shoulder or give them a shadow of hope that they might be able to keep pace with you. Sounds mean, well, racing can be mean. It’s a test of who can get to the finish line the fastest.
fast women
The reason you want to surge and instantly put distance on them is because if you weakly pass someone, if they are smart they will just tuck right in behind you. As we know from racing and running, it’s FAR easier to let someone else do the pacing work and just pull you along. If you weakly pass someone you’re potentially just doing them a favor. If they are smart, they will gather their own reserves while you lead and decisively pass you and try to drop you. See why it’s all about decisive passing?

Now, on the flip side, here is how you should handle getting decisively passed yourself. I wouldn’t leave you left hanging without some strategy for the other side of things, because we’ve always got to be prepared for anything.

When someone makes a move on YOU and passes, know that they probably planned this. This is their attempt to CRUSH your mentally. Get mad, do whatever you have to to get fired up and determined to stick with them. Don’t give in and be the person who gives up before the finish line is ever crossed. Like I opened with, unless you’re crossing the line there is still distance left. Stay FOCUSED.

FOCUS on their back. Burn a hole into their shirt with your eyes.
RELAX, shake your arms if you have to, control your breathing and do a form check.
DECIDE if you need to make up any lost distance to match their pace NOW or if there is still a long ways to go, hold off and gradually reel them in. Here is where you need to check in with yourself, see how you’re feeling, assess your pre-race game plan, and make a choice.
SURGE if it’s late in the race and you haven’t got time to reel them in. Make up the distance you can and make it your goal to be able to tuck right in behind them.
MOVE. Make a move of your own if you are able to get to them; and remember you want it to be DECISIVE. If they ‘spent’ themselves the first time they passed you, it might be easier to crush them mentally; they probably didn’t expect you to come back.
runner winning
Back and Forth: Passing is a two-way street and you can get into a back and forth sort of game; which can be fun, infuriating and incredibly mentally taxing in addition to the physical. Here, just keep thinking, “It’s not over until I say it’s over,” and don’t let any of their passes crush you mentally. Far easier said than done, I know, but that’s just how running is. Sometimes you do wind up being the one who got passed and dropped. But each time that happens you get a little bit stronger, physically and mentally, and hopefully it ignites a fire in you to keep training. That way you’ll be the one doing the decisive passing and crushing your competitors.

The race isn’t over until you cross the finish line.
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In case you missed it, check out: ’5 Ways to Make Sure Your Race Doesn’t Suck’

After all that passing, if you’re a runnerchick, be sure to get yourself my Get Chicking shirt! ;)
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1) How would you describe a DECISIVE pass versus just merely passing someone?

2) How do you handle getting passed and how do you stay mentally focused and not give up?

3) Do you have a good story of a back and forth passing situation? Do share!

4) Who raced this weekend?? Who ran?? :)

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5 Ways to Make Sure Your Race Doesn’t Suck

Ah, the thrill of race day is what some runners live for. Take all that adrenaline and exited-nervousness and it’s a schmorgesborg of energy. With race day comes the (hopefully mostly) self-imposed pressure, expectations and hopes to run your best. You’ve got big goals you want to achieve and you hope that by the time you cross the finish line you’ve hit those. Here are 5 ways you can stack the odds in your favor to step away from the line satisfied.
runner angel
1) Game Plan: You need to go into any race with a concrete idea of how you’re going to run and the goals you want to achieve. You don’t want to have to try and make decisions on the fly; in the middle of a race you don’t want to be wasting mental energy on wondering what to do. Plan how you’re going to run, the splits you want to hit, how you are going to react if someone surges or your competitors make a move. Go in knowing if YOU plan to make those moves and what you will do if someone covers them. With race plans you need a few because you don’t know what others may do; you don’t want to be surprised in the middle of a race and freeze-up. You also don’t want to mess up your entire race by poor pacing. When you’ve got your race plans it’s even better if you’re able to use mental visualization to ‘practice’ them.

2) Consider Conditions: If you’re running amidst a hurricane you should obviously be drafting off of people! Not funny, I know. But when you show up to a race you need to check the conditions and adjust your race plan if need be. If it’s really hot and humid you may have to chuck the times you had planned and race off of effort. If it’s really windy you may want to hold off on taking the lead until later so that you can tuck in and conserve energy. The race day weather and conditions don’t DEFINE the race and you can’t let less than ideal conditions be an excuse for you to still not put the effort in; it just means you may have to adjust your goals and plans.

running in a tornado

That girl’s drafting! ;)


3) Use Your Competition: Don’t ever be afraid of your competitors, embrace them because they will force you to step up your own game and race your best. Always be looking for that person faster than you, key off of them, sit behind them, focus on their back and don’t let a gap develop. Pick people off; if that back you’re focusing on is slowing down or you feel better then blow by that sucker and move onto the next person in front of you…always keep looking for that next person.

4) Avoid Mind Mutiny: There are SO many sub-topics here, for the sake of brevity I’ll give pointers here and direct you to other posts. Getting stuck in no-man’s land in a race stinks, but there are ways to salvage the race; don’t let feeling like it’s just you on the course be an excuse to give up…hey, the clock is always there! The middle of a race is the hardest, don’t let your mind check-out here…this, 99% of the time, leads to your pace slacking. Keep applying the pressure and focus. Do NOT focus on, “dang, this really hurts.” Duh, running hurts…that’s a reality, you knew that going in. So stop the self-defeatist thoughts and focus on what you CAN control (form, breathing, stride count, etc.) as a means of distraction.

5) Not Your Day, So What: Does that sound heinously tough love-esque? Well so be it…but the truth is we ALL have races where the legs just don’t show up that day. If the gun goes off and you feel like you’re pulling bricks, don’t automatically throw in the towel and give up. You NEED those mentally grueling races and workouts because getting through them makes you mentally tougher; then the days when your legs SO show up, you’ll be able to apply that toughness and you’ll be running faster. Overcoming the crappy runs are a huge mental test; give up too often and you set up a really bat habit that is tough to break out of. So if it’s not your day, yes, you may need to adjust your goals and plan but STILL put in the effort. Also, you’d be amazed at how your race can be salvaged even with ‘dead’ legs; that and miraculously your legs could show up mid-race…it’s happened.

So there you go…five ways to make sure that race you’ve been running your butt off for doesn’t suck. Of course there are many more…but I guess you’ll just have to keep reading (and running) to get more. ;)

1) What’s one way you make sure your races don’t suck? Or a tip you’d like to share?

2) What has been a time you had to adjust your plans due to weather conditions?

3) When has been a time that your legs really didn’t show up that day; how did you react and still put in the effort? Or, if you gave up, what did you learn from that experience and try to make sure you did better next time?

One Single Word That is Holding Your Running Back the Most

…is can’t. Before you start rolling your runner eyes and think, “Great, she’s going all annoyingly Hallmark-motivational on us,” stop! Come on, do you not give me more credit than that, have you really not read enough snarky or sarcasm from this runnerchick to give you a little more faith in me?

girl on track

She’s thinking something…it better not be the can’t word! ;)


So hear me out and prepare to have your mind blown. Well, maybe not exactly blown but I hope going forward you start to sandblast the word CAN’T from your inner dialogues. Can’t is like the lame excuse your body likes to use when it’s too tired, the task at had seems like it would take too much work or it’s scary to believe that you are capable of achieving something. Can’t is the lazy runner’s excuse, and what IS scary is that this can’t business is going on all the time in our brains and, for the most part, going unnoticed.

“I can’t hold this pace. I can’t believe I have a whole 16 miles ahead of me. I can’t keep up with this runner next to me. I can’t do cross-training today instead of my run just because of this stupid [insert injury] I’m going to do running regardless.” There’s a 100% chance that you’ve thought some version of these. The can’t beast really likes to rear its ugly head in the middle slog-fest of hard workouts and races. Just thinking can’t, or at least not quickly refuting it, can throw your race or workout down the toilet. But it’s just a thought you argue…

Thoughts are the driving force behind actions. Running is incredibly mental and to perform at your best you have to have ALL elements on point; letting your mind play the weenie ‘can’t card’ is like starting your run with a shoelace untied. It seems not too bad at first but then your whole shoe gets super loose, it starts sliding around, the heel cup slacks and your foot is popping in and out of the shoe for the duration, then you get blisters that last for days…all because of something that you didn’t think was all that big of a deal.

finish line face man running

Trust me, he’s hurting, but I think he ditched the can’t beast at mile 2.


Change the ‘Can’t’ into an ‘I Choose Not To.’ We may not be able to always control the thoughts and words that pop into our brains, but we CAN choose to argue with them or change them around. Replace all of those ‘can’ts’ with ‘I choose not to’ and let’s see what happens: “I can’t choose not to hold this pace. I can’tchoose not to believe I have a whole 16 miles ahead of me. I can’tchoose not to keep up with this runner next to me. I can’tchoose not to do cross-training today instead of my run just because of this stupid [insert injury] I’m going to do running regardless.”

It’s far easier to see the flimsy excuses for what they are when you remove the can’t. Can’t seems to definite, black and white, defeating, not even worth arguing with. By inserting the word ‘choose’ you recognize that you do in fact have a choice in the matter, a decision at hand. You can CHOOSE to go after that hard pace, cling on for as long as possible and gut it out. You can CHOOSE to tackle that 16 miler, take it one mile at a time, use all the mental tricks in the book and make it to the end. You CHOOSE to be a stubborn, stupid runner and run through an obvious injury until it is infinitely worse just because mentally it is too hard to acknowledge you shouldn’t be running.

Ditching the can’t isn’t a one-time thing and it takes practice, just like your running. The first step is just being cognitively aware just how much your brain relies on that stupid can’t word and catching yourself when you hear it. As soon as you do, rewire your brain to use the same sentence but with ‘I choose not to’ and then think about the new version. See that you have a choice to make and decide what is in your best interest.

Do you choose not to dream big and go after goals that will be hard, take a lot of work, and probably scare you? There is a choice there, it’s not merely because you can’t.

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Stay tuned, this post is one part in some exciting news I have to share coming up later this week. It’s all about self-motivation, believing in yourself and running towards goals that may scare you! :)
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1) How often do you think you rely on the word can’t or use it in your daily mental dialogues? Do you use it a lot actually spoken aloud too?

2) Take one of the last sentences that you used can’t and replace it here with ‘I choose not to’. Can you share your new sentence and explain the choice that is presented?

3) Can you come up with a great rebuttal for the next time your brain thinks something along the lines of, “I can’t keep going at this pace,” during your next hard workout or race?
Changed to: ‘I choose not to keep going at this pace?’
Rebuttal: ‘Fudge that, I can at least keep going for one more half mile at this pace. I’m way tougher than this runner next to me, and they’re doing it!’ Then obviously just say the same thing the next half mile…keep lying to yourself with the ‘one more’ thing! Hehe.

Finish Line Face: A runner’s grimace-smile as they head for home

You’re running toward the finish line, eyes dead ahead and your face is contorted into some kind of grimace-smile. You’re digging for that extra gear, the lactic acid feels about up to your eyeballs but you spot the line, incentive to keep going. Enter Finish Line Face.
finish line face woman running
It’s strange how the very last bit of your race, the bell of the last lap, the view of the finishing line is at both the most painful yet ‘easiest’ part of all. The end is in sight, you can taste it, the competitive drives kicks in and the desire to push it overrides the built up muscle fatigue.

Now, not all runners are blessed as ‘natural kickers’, or the ones who possess enough fast twitch muscle fibers and raw speed to easily find that extra gear at the end. However, everyone can work on their base speed; yea it’s unfortunate that tapping into that extra gear will take some more work (ie: searching)…but isn’t hard work what defines distance running?
finish line face man running
Speed sessions and short intervals aside, there are other factors that can improve you finish. You’ll probably still have a touch of Finish Line Face but next time you’re barreling for home remember:

* Relax: Don’t clench your jaw, make sure your shoulders are dropped, your arms are swinging front to back and are ‘loose.’ Holding tension in your face, shoulders, and fists is energy being spent, and it’s not being spent productively; it’s also doing damage to your form.

* Form Check: Nice segue, because your form can naturally start to slip as you tire. Working on your form, with core strength exercises and drills, ensures you’ll be able to stand up tall when you’re tired, like at the end of a race.

* Strides: Counting your strides, or thinking about your stride rate does two things: it makes sure you’re being an efficient runner but it also helps distract your brain from thinking of how much pain you’re in. A stride is counting on a single leg, as it makes a complete running cycle. Think strides, not pain. Aim for 90 strides per minute.

* Dead Ahead: Don’t lose sight of the finish, it offers motivation and by looking forward you’re helping keep good form too. Key in on runners you can pass at the line too and go after them!

Finish Line Face…so long as you’re not clenching your jaw, embrace those grimace-smiles and find that extra gear!

1) Do you tend to make a particular face while running or racing?
I’ve been called Popeye before.

2) How do you make sure to keep yourself relaxed when you’re trying to run hard?
I shake out my arms and make sure my shoulders are relaxed.

3) What’s your form pit-fall, the thing that starts to slip when you get tired?
My arms start to swing like a hummingbird. :P

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