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Escaping Negative Self-Talk as a Runner

Posted by George Parker on

My sixteen-mile long run this weekend went horribly. I felt as if I was running in slow motion the entire time. I came back home dejected and, thankfully, saw my wife.

 “Don’t worry about it. It’s one run, and you had a long week,” my wife said.

She was right, and I’m fortunate I had her to rescue me from an impending funk. I didn’t sleep well the night before (including a few beers) because we had friends unexpectedly over. My pre-run meal was skimpy. The weather conditions were horrendous. I ran in pouring rain and darkness. I was soaked, chafed, and in a foul mood. My head was already spinning with negative self-talk and doubt.

We all need tools to break the cycle of negative self-talk before it spirals out of our control. Today, my wife served this role, reminding me to pause and create space from my thoughts. I have a good friend that does the same. But you do not always need someone else to help you in difficult times. There are tools you can implement to escape the danger of negative thoughts.

  • Practice self-compassion - Self-compassion is not self-pity. Self-pity involves feeling sorry for oneself and can lead to a victim mentality. Self-compassion, on the other hand, consists in acknowledging our struggles and offering ourselves kindness and support


  • Recognize that negative self-talk is not reality - Our thoughts and beliefs about ourselves are often shaped by our emotions and past experiences, leading to distorted thinking patterns. By recognizing that our negative self-talk is not reality, we can begin to challenge these distorted thoughts and develop a more objective and rational perspective. This can help us break free from negative thought patterns and lead a more fulfilling life 
  • Focus on what you can control - Many of the things we worry about are outside of our control, and our energy is best spent on the things we can control. Focusing on what we can control, we can develop a sense of agency and empowerment and reduce our anxiety and stress levels. For example, I can control my bedtime, alcohol consumption, and what I eat. I cannot control the weather, but I can control the gear I own and wear. How my body gains fitness is out of my control, but consistency in training is in my control.
  • Embrace the present moment – The present moment is the only reality; focusing on the past or worrying about the future can lead to unnecessary suffering. This involves letting go of regrets about the past and anxieties about the future and focusing on what is happening in the present moment. It also means cultivating gratitude and appreciation for the present moment, even if imperfect. By embracing the present moment, we can reduce our stress levels, improve our relationships, and find greater happiness and fulfillment. It can also help us break free from negative self-talk and develop a more positive and resilient mindset.

Like running, controlling negative self-talk as a runner takes practice. You have to train your mind as well as your body. It is a lifelong pursuit and a race that I am far from winning. But today was a good day, and that’s the only moment that counts.

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