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Dealing with Negative Thoughts as a Runner

Posted by George Parker on

Professional golf is one of the most grueling mental sports. A golfer is alone on the course with his clubs, balls, and thoughts. Sure, he has a caddy as a companion, but only one person is calf-deep in water or precariously poised under tree branches to save a hole.

Mastering the mind – fighting against anxiety, negativity, and fear – is as important to a golfer as sinking a twenty-foot putt.

I heard about a professional golfer who hired a therapist to help deal with his debilitating negative thoughts while playing golf. The therapist walked with the golfer for the first nine holes, asking him to vocalize his thoughts during the round, especially after an errant shot. The therapist said nothing and only listened.

The therapist asked the golfer to try something different as the pair stood on the tenth tee to begin the back nine.

“Now, imagine you are a golf coach. You are coaching yourself. Speak the way you would if you were coaching yourself.”

Instantly, the mindset of the golfer changed. The golfer still hit terrible shots, but his words were softer and calmer – how a coach would counsel his athlete instead of an athlete berating himself. This simple technique created space between the emotions of a bad shot and the feedback needed to improve.

Millions of fans are most likely not watching your running races or packing the bleachers for your track workout. Yet, the same debilitating, negative thoughts plague many runners.

“I’m not good enough.”
“Too old.”
“Too slow.”
“This is stupid. So and so will always be better and faster than me.”

Sound familiar?

How would those words change if your coach was talking to you? You can give yourself feedback and improve without tearing yourself down. That’s why coaches are so powerful – and that’s why channeling your thoughts through the frame of a coach can be powerful.

Best wishes on chasing your running goals,

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