4 Steps to Getting Through the Grind

Long runs and long workouts tend to scare people. It can feel intimidating looking down the barrel of a double digit run or mulit-mile repeats. We’re distance runners, we love this stuff, but large quantities of miles (especially faster miles) still intimidate us.

Running and that mental component, can’t escape the mind games. Our bodies are apt to surprise us and prove our limit-setting minds wrong…BUT it’s a matter of pushing past the mind crap (doubts/fears/discomfort) before we can be ‘pleasantly’ surprised.
skulls on a track
The best thing about running into new territory, be it your longest run, the most number of long intervals, or the most volume of hard running, they’re all scariest before you do them. Once you’ve conquered the best you’ve proven you’re capable of it and you get a new frame of reference.

Example: You’re afraid of running 10 miles because you’ve never run that far. You then run 10 miles and flash forward a few weeks and 10 miles doesn’t scare you at all. But 14 miles does…sooo, you run 14 miles and the cycle continues.

See how DOING something takes the fear out of it. Let’s up the ante.

You can run 10 miles but now you’re supposed to run them hard. EEK!!! New challenge. Time to fight through it:

4 Steps to Get Through the Grind

1) Relax: the first part is you gotta stop building the run or workout up into epic proportions. Say with me, “it’s just a workout (or race), all I can is my best, so that’s the goal.” Deflate some of that pressure and take the power away from the workout…give yourself the power by realizing that you’re going to give it your all and THAT is all that can be expected. Times are there for guidance and motivation to push…but you can’t let them put so much pressure on you that you implode.
running in circles
2) Start: easy peasy, right? Funny how fear sort of get muted the second the gun sounds and you just START freaking running. It has a way of shutting your brain down for a bit or at least taking it down a few notches.

3) Segments: your runner-brain gets overloaded thinking about the WHOLE run (26.2 miles…holy crap!!!) so you break everything down into smaller segments. Think of it like a meal with a zillion courses if you have to. Get through the plate, the miles, the quarter mile, the repeat.

4) Fight and Lie: running isn’t easy and training is painful. You break it down into itty bitty ‘plates’ but even each bite is still hard. (can I push this metaphor any further?) You need to just cycle through the above three steps on repeat…relax, roll, be confident, be smooth…start, click the watch on that next interval and go, make it until you hear the magic Garmin beep of another mile and keep going…segment, make it 100 meters more, run until you pass that guy, stick like GLUE behind the person in front of you and don’t think how far the finish line is in front of you.

Doing all of the above is really a series of lies. The good lies that you use to ‘trick’ your limit-setting brain into proving itself wrong. Your body CAN keep going, you just have to fight like h*ll long enough to show yourself you can do it.

The cool thing is once you get through the grind you’ve just re-calibrated what’s ‘suuuper scary’. Whatever you just did won’t scare you so much next time…

…but don’t rest too easily, Runners, because that just means later the ante will be upped. That’s okay, because you know the drill. ;)
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“The Big Three: Talent vs. Work Ethic vs. Mental Toughness- Which matters the most?”

“Effective Mental Strategy: Race better by out-thinking your brain”

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1) What’s the longest you’ve run?
2) What’s your favorite long repeats workout?
3) How do you get through the grind?

Kill Some Stress, Run Faster, Be Happier

The last few days my Adobe was acting up, legit like a two year old heck bent on crippling me. I couldn’t finish work that NEEDED to be done, I cursed the computer and slammed some fists. It had turned ME into a toddler. Hot mess.

Stress. Frustration. Anxiety. We can’t avoid it in life and we can’t avoid it in running either. There are ALWAYS going to be things totally out of our control. My tantrum wasn’t going to solve the computer issues, and neither is the wildest of fits going to cure a stress fracture. Sometimes sh*t just sucks but you NEED to deal.
stress fractures suck
In the moment that can feel impossible but our fast-paced lives have gotten to a point where the stress, anxiety, and frustrations churning through us are destroying us. Making us sick. Clearly even if you’re not on the verge of a stress induced heart-attack or breakdown, I dare say everyone and anyone has some sh*t going on that they would do well to unburden themselves with.

What do I mean by unburdening? You most likely can’t take away or change every situation, you can’t make money float down upon you or force so-and-so to get back to you with a quote that you NEED because your article deadline is hours away.

Unburdening can be more like shifting how YOU are dealing with the situation. Adjust and learn to let go. I’m sum it up:

Do EVERY single thing you can to control the situation and make it work how you’d like it to…from there, heed to the ‘que sera, sera’.

Injury?

You get hurt, injuries come with the territory in running. Do what you can to reduce your risk but you can’t avoid them. Here are your three steps:
1) Throw your dang tantrum. You deserve it. But put a time limit on your baby breakdown. Ten minutes, a day max.
2) Get proactive. Shift to problem-solver mode (logic and reason side of the brain, move out of emotional/reactive side). Come up with a cross training and rehab routine.
3) Do it. Move through that routine and ONLY take it a day at a time. Don’t dwell on XXX weeks or months. Look at your rehab like taking your medicine…spoon full of sugar that crap down. ;)

Bad Race or Workout

Also comes with the territory in running. Ironically the steps are eerily the same as above:
1) Mild upset is allowed. You deserve to be disappointed and that’s the same feeling that will motivate you to work harder next time. But don’t be a pouter, don’t be one of those jerks who ruins everyone else’s workout/race/day/etc. Cry on the inside like a champ. Haha.
2) Get proactive. Learn anything you can from the experience, is there a reason it was bad? Reassess your training if need be.
3) Move on. Keep on trucking. Some days your legs just don’t show up for whatever reason. Learn what you can the move forward.
missing legs
Never let a bad workout or race turn you into a pessimist. That kind of perspective is what kills peoples’ passion and could ruin your love of running. No one wants that.

All that stress and anxiety [psst...don't get too nervous before races either, here's my post on that.] only makes things more of an uphill battle for you. So don’t make things worse on yourself. Unburden that sh*t.

Ironically, the more balanced and less stress you put on yourself in running the better you end up performing. There’s a little thing called over-thinking, My Friends.

Back to life because 99.9% of us aren’t running for our jobs. Which means our jobs and life events are brining us the most stress. [that extra stress will effect our running too...so if you're also wanting to run better you'll do well to unburden some life stress...logic holds there. Haha] But far too many of us let things that shouldn’t stress us out THAT much, well, stress us out THAT much.

I challenge you to let go of some little things. Lots of those things include wondering what someone else thinks about you OR complaining about someone else. A tip there, years ago I adopted the thing of not saying anything about someone else that I wouldn’t just say right to them. I’m a straight-shooter so rather than complain, isn’t it better to just go to the source and [strategically] say whatever you need to? Problem solved there.

Now for the curveballs and bigger things life will deal you often, we’ll circle back to what I suggested we do in running. Hey, like I say EVERYTHING circles back to running, right?! ;)
1) Baby tantrums. You can be entitled to a fist pound on the laptop but put a time limit on yourself.
2) Proactive mode. Do EVERYTHING you can to set yourself for the best outcome.
3) Move the heck on. You can’t control lots of things in life, namely other people. So…”let it go.” ;)
ryftreesitting
Stress makes you unhappy, it will also make your running harder. All the more reason to unburden some of that crap!

1) What is one little thing you’re going to unburden yourself with TODAY?
2) How do you handle BIG life stress?
3) Do you consider yourself a highly stressed and anxious person?

Runners Breaking Fences: Accomplish more when you free yourself

Our minds are experts in construction. They will build up fences quicker than nobody’s business. It’s actually a survival method, the brain ‘thinks’ it’s looking after our best interest, keeping us safe by setting limits.

The problem is that this survival method is archaic and antiquated, most of the fence-building is stopping us from pushing ourselves in work or running rather than stopping us from trekking too far from our caves, getting lost, and gobbled up by a dinosaur. ;)
running mental fence
In breaking down your fences you are freeing yourself. Because on the other side, THAT is where you can push yourself to your best. The other problem with fences is that they stop you from even dreaming, or imaging that something epic is ‘out there’ that YOU could possible accomplish THAT! Fences keep you safe, in a comfort zone, they also suck because they rob you of really feeling and experiencing.

We can easily relate this to running in a few ways:

1) Goals: if your goals aren’t big enough to scare you a bit, they should be bigger. That said, you should know that working towards something BIG is HARD. That’s the point, that’s what makes an accomplishment fulfilling though. Just don’t be fooled into thinking there won’t be times where you want to stop…that’s where true self-motivation and dedication is tested.

2) Going in over your head: everyone needs to be in the position of going in over their head, a few times, and get comfortable with the fact that, “Yea, I might bonk” because, “Yea, I might not bonk and break through to a new level.” There are times in races where you need to not look at the clock/watch/split and just race, get swept up in the faster group…this can be in workouts too.

Confidence is a funny thing for a runner, and the watch can do wonders for it but it can also sabotage you if you ‘think’ about it too much. Example: “Holy crap!!! We’re running XXX pace, I can’t hold this…what am I doing running with these people, I don’t belong here?!!” This runner can either be intimidated by the splits or check in with themselves and realize they were actually feeling fine until they freaked themselves out. They might blow up later, but they may not, they may have their best workout yet. Either way though, sometimes you need to just stick your neck out there, break the fence.

Important to note that, duh, you shouldn’t always go on some kamikaze mission in workouts and races. I mean, a 7 minute miler shouldn’t go workout with the 4 minute miler group…let’s be sane here. The point is that for the most part, runners DO need a little push every now and again to break through to the next level. Surrounding yourself by some faster people is a great way to do that.
dream bigger ezzere
3) Mental ‘fences’ pain signals: for runners the vast majority of fence building is stationed around hard workouts and races. Your brain wants to STOP pretty much the second you start…haha. Steve Magness wrote a really great post all about the brain, willpower, emotions, and how that relates to a runner’s mental toughness. It’s a long read but incredibly interesting, worth it, and touches on quite a few different points, tackling it from multiple angles.

He talks a lot about willpower and how fatigue is actually an emotional response rather than a physical one. Really interesting because when you think you’re ‘tired’ it’s really only your brain reacting, worrying that you’re GOING to be too tired later to finish and shouldn’t continue. He goes on with lots of ways a runner’s willpower and mental toughness to combat the pain signals from the brain are affected. Things that make us more easily swayed to stop rather than push.

Proper recovery like nutrition and sleep are two factors…another reason to think of your training in the big picture sense. But another big mental toughness inhibitor is stress. He phrases it more as using your willpower reserves up on less important matters, but the explanation is that your brain can really only handle so much. The more taxed your brain is going into a workout or race, the less it will perform. Read as: the weaker it goes into the race, the more likely you are to cave to its complaints to relent, slow down, or stop.

Go read his full article HERE because really, there’s so many interesting points that make you think. A runner’s mental toughness is something most all of us are fixated on because it’s not finite, it’s kind of like an intangible that’s hard to explain with science. But Magness is actually able to show how science is closing in on giving us some cool explanations and theories.

The bottom line is: Runners, scr*w those fences. Start breaking them down and in doing so you’ll find that’s where the truly epic sh*t lies.

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More posts on MOTIVATION
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A Runner’s Made in the Mind

Strip away the muscles, the sinew, the bones
The flesh.
Alone with yourself.
in your mind.
A step echoing amidst chatter
doubts.Refutes.
I am stronger than you say.
dirt track mile
Tissues beg for slack,
plead for mercy.
I want to stop.
But I do not.

Mind runs on.
Push forward against protest
myself and my mind.
Friend, nemesis, untrustworthy deceivers.
I must stop.
You may not.
Only one step more.

LIAR!

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The June issue of Competitor magazine features Meb Keflezighi on the cover, the story is excellent and I urge you all to read it HERE. Not all can race outside of themselves, but it’s the quest to continually push our own limits that every runner is in a similar battle. Keep rising to the occasion.

More posts on MOTIVATION
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Run Better, Erase Your Doubts

Shhhh…I’ll tell you a secret. Every runner has doubts. It’s just human nature. EVERYONE has that little voice in their head that’s willing to be insecure.
doubt and branches

The thing is though, while you can’t control the presence of doubts, you CAN control if you decide to listen to them.

Don’t. You’ll run better when you tell your doubts to shut the h*ll up.

TRUST in your abilities. Trust in yourself…have confidence.

It’s a sick irony that some of the most capable, amazingly talented people (and runners) are held back by one little thing…

…doubt.
trust yourself don't doubt
An inner self-critic robs you of your confidence, it steals your achievements, it cripples you, it institutes your limits. Quite often with us type-A runners, we can turn into our own worst enemies.

That should make you PISSED, get mad as h*ll!! Turn that rage AGAINST the inner critic. Use that fiery anger to erase your doubts and instead…

…trust.

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Related Reads:
Underestimate Me: Confidence is malleable, believe in yourself through it all

Runners, Get Your Confidence On: Workouts to build the confidence you need to race your best

#epicfailWIN: Why failures rock and shouldn’t steal your confidence

Combat Excuses and Run Mentally Tough Even When Things Suck
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1) Finish this sentence: “Today I will be confident. I will erase the doubt that I _______________”

Where Running Workouts Truly Begin

The true test of a workout is how you manage when it starts to hurt.
running motivation art
Ultimately the real benefits come when you start pushing through the pain and running outside of your comfort zone. This holds true both physically and mentally.

Physically the point of hard workouts are to demand more from your muscles. Make them give you more than they’d like to. You tear them down. Recovery allows you to build them back up stronger…but it starts with tearing them down.

Mentally a runner has to be tough. Tough as sh*t. Have confidence in your toughness, wear it proudly. Workouts are mental tests, they teach you to handle the discomfort so come race day you know you’ve been there. You’ve pushed through that pain before, you know you can handle it again.

The workout really starts when things start to hurt. How will you respond?

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Read tips from the pro’s on MENTAL TOUGHNESS for runners.

More MOTIVATION for runners.

We may be hurting but we STILL LOOK GOOD doing it! ;)

My latest RunBlogRun Article: “Danny Mackey and Racing Like a Beast”
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1) Where do you get your confidence?

Believing, Running, and Lies

A runner’s mind is filled with lies. We live in our own sort of warped reality. I’ve talked a lot about how lies are our little coping mechanism so we CAN stay dedicated and motivated to keep reaching our goals. That lies can be a good thing.

The thing is though, not all of those lies are created equal and it’s important to know which lies you should be ‘believing’ and when you need to be truthful.
believe and lies
Good Lies

* Midway through a workout: “I’m only doing 1 more repeat, don’t worry brain!”
* About to start a workout or at the starting line: “It won’t really hurt, I swear!”
* In moments of motivation lulls to just START running: “Just run for 5 minutes, if you want to stop then you can.

These are the lies that help us tune out the pain and call our brains out when they’re just being lazy. These are AWESOME lies and the ones you should be blasting from a megaphone because they’re coming from your inner rockstar runner. The runner who wants you to achiever your goals…believe everything they say, those lies will fuel your greatness.

Bad Lies

* Mid-workout brain chatter: “You can’t keep this pace up.”
* Starting line: “Holy crap, I don’t belong next to so-and-so, they’re going to kick my butt!”
* Mid-race: “They just surged, they must feel way stronger than me…I’m just going to let them go.”

These are all the things that weak, insecure, tired, lazy, annoying, complaining brain likes to shout at you. These are remarks your rockstar runner persona needs to refute and call-out as lies. “I am stronger than I think. I belong at this starting line. A race isn’t over until the finish line and I know they hurting too, I just need to hang onto them.”

Dangerous Lies

* Mid-workout: “What was that POP? I’m sure it’s nothing…I think this pain will just go away in a second…”
* After 6+ days of feeling like total sh*t and workout times getting progressively slower: “Just suck it up…I’m DOING this long run/workout exactly as was planned 4 months ago.”
* In life: “It’s totally okay that I’ve only slept 4 hours the last five nights and been existing on Sugar Daddies, Ramen noodles and Diet Coke.

You get a runner, heck-bent on proving their toughness and combine that with our own ‘stupidity’ (“It doesn’t hurt THAT bad, I can surely make it three more repeats!”) and that’s when things get ugly. Injuries, Baby, injuries. Runners are always riding a fine line between good pain, bad pain, when to push, when to ease back, and to our credit it CAN be incredibly difficult to distinguish ‘right pain’ from ‘wrong pain’ and from there the degree of ‘wrongness’. I’m sure that reads like jargon to normal people, but runners totally GET exactly what I’m talking about.

The thing is, runners usually have to just learn the hard way and suffer through times when they’ve made mistakes to LEARN. Eventually you’ll come to find it’s better to err on the side of caution. It doesn’t make you mentally weak or a lame-o runner; in fact it takes more self control and confidence to hold back and issue that self-restraint.

Think of it this way. You’re running and mid-workout you definitely know something is off.

Option 1: Either slow down to a pace where you don’t feel the ‘bad’ pain or pull the plug on the workout entirely. Follow it up with some easy days and you’ll be right back into training mode after.

Option 2: Grit your teeth, finish the workout come h*ll or high water. You limp through a cool-down and the grimace never leaves your face. You ice like a mofo the rest of the day, chomp Ibuprofen like they’re Smarites and pray you’ll somehow go to bed and miraculously be fine.

What scenario do you think wins out?? Finally, what’s the WORST thing that could happen if for some reason you could have finished the workout and been fine after? The running police won’t come and yell, “SLACKER!!” at you.

Just keep working hard and remember training works on the law of averages, that single workout isn’t going to ruin your entire build-up to your Championship race.

Why it’s Hard to Admit a Dangerous Lie is Reality

On the flip side, runners sometimes grit their teeth through the ‘bad pain’ because they are afraid that if they stop they’re going to lose the ability to PUSH through the ‘right pain’. I know you know what I’m talking about because it feeds right back into the GOOD kind of lies.

Running hurts one way or another whether you’re injured or not. You can’t let your mind actively be looking for excuses to stop. So naturally there is the fear that if you pull the plug on a workout one time, you’ll start a chain reaction that results in you never being able to finish a workout. This does happen, and it’s mental suicide for a runner but here’s the thing…

…it works on a case by case basis and for lots of runners this fear of ‘losing the ability to push through pain’ is irrational. So, be honest here…you DO know good pain from bad pain, you DO know you can push through good pain, so in those pinnacle moments of needing to decide if you need to stop or not, listen to your gut.
runner bones
If your bones tell you you’re in danger of really doing damage, stop. It’s not worth it. You can’t run at ALL if you’re injured.

The same goes for a runner who refuses to acknowledge they need to ease back and give their body some rest rather than keep pushing, and keep digging themselves into a hole. Again, all those fine lines, but if you’re experiencing chronic fatigue for a week or more, you need to adjust.

Training routines aren’t concrete and always need a degree of flexibility. Flexibility goes both ways, sometimes you need to push yourself harder but other times you need to know when to scale back.

Don’t dig a hole so deep you have to take a full-on break. Sometimes a few easy days will do the trick and breathe life back into those legs!

Wow, so many lies!! You see why I said we live in a warped runner reality, no?! But be smart.

Tune into the good lies and believe them with all of your heart. Then be secure and confident enough in yourself to recognize the bad lies for what they are and face the real truth.

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More posts on CONFIDENCE
More posts on MENTAL TOUGHNESS
More posts on INJURIES
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1) What’s a good lie?
2) What’s a bad lie?
3) What’s a dangerous lie?

Escape into Sanity. Run.

I run to escape. I run to be free. I run for sanity.

run to escape
Go, escape into your run!

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#CoreAndCake Party!!! So it’s happening THIS Friday and you’re ALL invited. I’ll be sharing a new core routine to help you runners stay strong, build a more efficient running form and reduce injury risk. Talk of cake will follow. Get the gist?
core and cake
I’d also LOVE for any and all bloggers and social media-ites to hop on board.

1) Blog: Get creative and share anything core and/or cake related. Fitness folk that could mean sharing some of your favorite core moves, all foodies you could make us all drool over your favorite cake recipes! Heck, so long as any mention of core and cake makes it’s way in there I’m sold!

2) Social: Snap a pic of you doing a #coreandcake related celebration and Tweet/FB/Instagram it!

3) Link: If you’d like to be included in some blogger link-up partying, email me at: cait@caitchock.com with your link!

Looking forward to our runner part. :)
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1) Finishing the sentence…”I run to/for…”
2) Share a time when going for a run lead you to figure out a problem, get through a tough situation, or acted as your escape?
3) Favorite dessert?

Ruling Your Fear: Running Like a Gamer, Fear be Da**ed

Let’s talk fear. Okay, I’ll break the silence and let you in on a dirty little secret: EVERY runner has fear. Regardless of how fast they are, how much they’ve accomplished, the Gold medals sitting in those shiny cases…every, single, runner has fear.

Fear isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just means that you WANT something. You have goals, you want to hit them and you’re scared/nervous/anxious because if you fall up short…then what? Fear merely proves you have goals that MATTER to you.
running motivation art
With running there is also the fear of the pain. BAM. I just touched on the TWO big taboos runners are never to speak of in the span of less than 150 words: fear and pain. Knowing that pain is going to be there, that you’re going to have to be mentally tough and push through that pain, that you’re NOT going to let that pain break you…that’s also where a large part of a runner’s fear comes from. And it also explains why, every runner, regardless of how good they are, be they professional or back of the packer will harbor some ‘fear’…every runner goes through pain. It’s part of our sport.

Now the thing is, the big difference between elite runners who race like ballers and every other runner who races like a gamer and the runners who implode is: the gamers don’t let the FEAR rule them. Gamers rule the fear. They turn the fear around, use that energy more as nervous-excited rather than nervous-fearful/worried. See the difference? It’s all in the mind.

Not letting fear rule you is difficult, even the most experience runners go through periods where they may struggle and need to get back on track. And to be honest, there’s always going to be a point in a race or workout where you’re riding a fine line between keeping your fear in check, “Am I seriously going to believe I can make it at THIS pace for THIS much longer?”

Combat The Fear

* Find Your Confidence: Not letting fear rule you means you push those doubts aside with reminders of why you ARE a gamer. Think of past workouts, know that you’re mentally tough, know you’ve survived plenty of times when you’re mind began to doubt your ability…and you proved that silly mind wrong.
* Find Your Mojo: Tap into that confidence and a part of that is just realizing WHY you’re doing something. Without the ‘why’ as a driving force it’s easy to just let the fear take over and not give a flip over the outcome. Set some goals and know WHY you’re willing fight through this fear and OWN it.
* Relax: The thing with running and pain and then running through that pain, if you try and ‘fight’ it you usually wind up running slower. Kinda like you just have to ‘relax’ into the pain, let it come, than do your best to just numb it out. If this makes sense? To put this into more ‘physical’ terms, a good way to describe it is to just make sure your form and body is relaxed, you’re not clenching your jaw or fists or scrunching your shoulders up near your neck. Relax your body, relax your mind, don’t ‘try too hard’ and don’t ‘fight it’.
#epicfailWIN picture
Everyone has fear, and that spans across all areas in life, but I’ve always found the best way to rule your fear is to DO what’s scary and prove that you lived through it. The more times you get through it, the less scary it becomes because you’ve built up your confidence.

I’ll tell you what helps me, and I’m be brutally honest, I say it like it is to myself, “Stop being a freaking idiot, just effing DO it.” Now, usually I’m not fearful of workouts, but I ultimately realize that the fear is stupid. Just effing do it would certainly apply across the board though, and with running sometimes that tough love is what you need. ;)

As for running, you can never let fear of workouts or racing turn into a monster: 1) because that sucks any fun out of running in the first place 2) you’ll implode in the workouts or races. Rather, just STOP thinking so much and freaking start. Just get going, relax, and roll with it…fear be da**ed.

The reason I feel it important to SHARE that EVERY RUNNER has fear is because you shouldn’t feel like a weakling just for having fear. You’re only a ‘weakling’ if you let that FEAR rule YOU. If that’s the case, don’t lose hope because you can always turn that around…tap into your confidence and race like the GAMER you want to be. ;)

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I wanted to do a post on fear because it came up in a really great article by Jason Fitzgerald at Strength Running. Read “7 Quick Lessons from my 16th Place Finish at the Rock ‘n’ Roll DC Half Marathon” because it’s filled with tons of important recovery tips for runners. The bit on doubts is what triggered my idea for this post. SR is a great resource for runners, so go, stay and check out all his awesome reads!

I also talk a lot more on the mental side of running and tips to tune out that pain in my ebook “Effective Mental Strategy: Race better by out-thinking your brain”
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1) Fear is ever-present in running and in life. What is the last things you had fear or anxiety about?
2) How did you deal with that fear in a positive, GAMER way? Or did you find that fear won that time?
3) The last time fear won, how did you learn from that experience and make it so you can overcome that fear going forward?
Yo, we all lose sometimes, it’s just important to learn and make that a productive ‘loss’.