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.

——-
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! :)
——-

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.

Related posts:

35 Comments

Filed under goals, motivation, race tips, running, tips

35 Responses to One Single Word That is Holding Your Running Back the Most

  1. in general…i am a STRONG believer in the fact that the words we choose to use can impact our beliefs about something or our performance. this doesnt mean i always do a good job of using the best vocabulary but I try to at least be aware of the impact of the words I am choosing!

    also…just noticed your runnerchick shirt button! love it!

  2. Love this post! It is so important not to let those negative words or self talk into our vocabulary. We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard in the way that we speak. If not ourselves, then who will? Thoughts become words, words become actions, and actions become character. Or something like that, I am not as great as Yoda.

  3. Yes, I ‘m in full agreement. When I say things like “I can’t” recover from a hard workout like I used to, the truth is I choose not to change my diet, stretching, and cross-training needed.

    And I lie to myself all the time during a run, either with how much distance is left, or I promise myself a month off of running if we can just keep running at this pace. (“No, this time I really do mean it, promise”) It’s been a lie everytime.

  4. I choose not to keep running – that sounds pathetic – I think I’ll keep running. My favourite mantra of all is ‘I don’t stop when I’m tired, I stop when I’m done’ – and that means completing the workout or completing the race.

    I honestly don’t think I say ‘can’t’ all that often – though when I’m feeling like I’ve taken on to much, I will say ‘I’m sorry, but I really can’t fit X in right now ‘. Otherwise my brain will explode.

    I am so glad Julia commented on this! If she can get through 50 miles… we can’t say can’t! (Also I too stole our button and put it on my blog ;-) )

  5. Pingback: It's too hard | Run with Kate

  6. Thanks so much for this post!!! I love changing “I can’t” to “I chose not to”.
    So powerful. :)

  7. I can’t (haha) recall if I say I “can’t” run this pace .. I’m a believer in “go all out” until you physically can’t keep the pace anymore. I sort of wrote about this is in my current post – one of the ways I gained speed was trying to run with a group of people that were faster than me. I’d start with them and try like hell to keep up with them. Sometimes I fell WAY behind, and other times I was just a little time. I now run w/ that group.
    Can I run a 7:55min/mile for 13.1 miles? I don’t know, but I’m going to try like hell this coming race season. I like dreaming up big race goals. My new half goal is 1:42.. my current PR is 1:47, can I shave off 5 minutes? Who knows, but I won’t say “I can’t.”

    Great post!

    • great minds think alike?? ;) and u are SO on point, i’ve said many times: one of the surest ways to improve is to run with people faster than you! keep it up!

  8. Can’t is a tough one.
    I don’t have too much of a problem with this in my running.
    But this applies to life really.
    You put up road blocks by saying you can’t…and it’s def a cop out in a lot of situations!

    • very true; lessons i’ve learned in running apply to nearly all facets of life. standing in one’s own way is a big limiting factor to soo many people.

  9. This is so up my alley. Running is 99.9% mental for me. Seems like my body constantly suprises me and only my mind ever let’s me down.

    Its amazing how such a simple change of words can sift out the cop out excuses from the sensible choices and hold us more accountable.

    Love this – thanks!

    PS do we get to have a guess of your exciting news?!?! Suspense is killing me :)

  10. I think my biggest “can’t” phrase in any running dialogue in my head comes back to “I am not fast” — I sort of thought of myself as “not a runner, not meant to be one” for so long and just played the “I’m going to run slow card, why should I try otherwise, I’m not a runner!” card for so long that I think it sometimes holds me back from what I could achieve. My mind can’t wrap itself around faster paces because, well, I guess I never thought I’d get there.

    The other “I can’t” is always “I can’t hold this pace for a long time?! I will I make it though X race at X pace?!”

    I think it is an interesting psychology for those of us who picked up running later in life. I’ve always been a good athlete, but was never the fastest (or slowest) kid on my team (just kind of stuck in the middle). So, I always thought of myself as “slow-average,” but athletic. So, the whole concept of trying to think of myself as a fast runner is, well, foreign!

    • SOO many times i hear people say, “i’m not a runner” like you are either born a runner or not. no one is born a runner, it takes a heck of a lot of work and perseverance but anyone can do it! :)

  11. This was an awesome post and a great reminder that our bodies are capable of much more than our brain gives us credit for. Thanks for the great motivation to run a little faster tomorrow morning!

  12. Amy

    I definitely believe that our thoughts guide our actions and the reality we find ourselves in. This week I have been battling fatigue, and after smashing my own weekly distance record last week (go Team Cait) I heard my inner voice saying ‘you can’t take a rest week – you have to keep up those miles’. But I realised that I need to choose to take an easier week, or at least a few days, so that I can battle it out next week in training for my half marathon.
    The ‘can’t’ word also likes to surface whenever I am staring at a deadline or a big choice in my life. I remind myself that there are other people who have walked these paths before me, and if they had let ‘can’t’ stop them, where would we be today?
    Thanks for the reality check Cait :)

    • first off u are ROCKING in two ways: for kicking butt in a new PDR record but then for being mature enough to know when u need to back off!!! that second one can actually be harder for runners. i’m so proud of u…and u have done a FAB job of kicking can’t to the curb in soooo many areas of ur life!

  13. I LOVE this! So much of our lives can be built around that word. I truly believe what you said, the word “can’t” is so definite, ending, final. It puts limits on us. Have I ever used it?? Of course. But only in a conversation with a professioal football player. No, just me?? Lol! Seriously, I have used it, but I love the idea of changing it. We were created to do so much more! With running, I have found out that I CAN do so much more. :)

    • you summed it up perfectly! the definitive, end all feeling can’t implies in our mind is really odd; psychology is super interesting, just a switcharoo of the words can refresh our outlook and allow us to push forward. and heck yea you CAN! :)

  14. Pingback: I Run For Bribes…Bribes and Blackmail too I Guess |

  15. Pingback: My Running ‘True’ Is Off, Better ‘Toe In’ |

  16. Pingback: Running Can Be Scary As He**, Don’t Let Fear Hold You Back |

  17. Pingback: The Complimented Runner: Why numbers will always trump words |

  18. Pingback: Stop Pressure From Sabotaging Your Running: RELAX |

  19. Pingback: Running Mentally Engaged: Keeping your brain in check when the pain sets in |

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>