Runners World Articles: Archives
Mind Games: Negative thoughts dragging down? Zap
'em with these tricks.
This is going to hurt . . . Slow down, it'll feel much better .
. . I can't do it today . . . Why am I doing this ? . . . It's over;
just walk to the finish.
Everyone hears these messages from time to time during races and
hard runs - even tough-as-nails elite runners. Blame it on that
part of your brain whose mission it is to steer you toward pleasure
and away from pain. Let's call it the "pity center." But by playing
a few tricks on this pity center, you can scramble its negative
signals, complete your run, and entertain yourself along the way.
The following tricks may sound goofy, but they really work. Next
time your willpower is on the ropes, try one of these or make up
one of your own. Before you know it, you'll be crossing the finish
The Giant Rubber Band: When runners pass me in the latter
stages of a race, I lasso them with a giant, invisible rubber band.
As they pull ahead of me, I visualize the tension building, gradually
slowing them down and tugging me along in their wake. If the rubber
band snaps (hey, it happens) and I lose my prey, I simply wait for
another runner to come along and start over with a fresh rubber
Of course, it's an absurd idea. But - especially near the end of
a hard effort - it takes longer than usual for my brain to recognize
this absurdity. By the time it does, I'm half a mile down the road.
Anti-Gravity Fluid: Your legs are leaden, and your watch
tells the inescapable truth: You're slowing down. Take a short walk
break, drink some water, and dab your shoes with the imaginary anti-gravity
fluid you've carried on your arms and forehead. The casual observer
may think you're wiping sweat on your shoes, but you know the truth.
The magic powers in this fluid work quickly, making you feel as
light and limber as a ballet dancer. Soon you're practically skimming
the ground, touching just long enough to flick off with your toes
and propel yourself forward.
Magic Footprints: Here's another foot-related trick: Visualize
fatigue escaping from your body through the soles of your feet.
Imagine leaving footprints that are damp and faintly glowing with
the residue of the fatigue that, moments earlier, was slowing you
down. With every stride, you're gaining energy.
Super Coolant: It's a sweltering day, the finish line seems
unreachable, and you're hotter than a polar bear at the equator.
No problem. At the next aid station, imagine that the volunteers
have slipped a secret ingredient into your water. This substance
soaks up heat. Take a short walk break as you grab two cups, drinking
as much of one as you need. Feel the water (and its secret ingredient)
seeping into your arms and legs, down to your bones, cooling your
core body temperature. Then lean forward, pour the other cup over
your head, and picture steam escaping. Visualize billions of molecules
absorbing body heat and then releasing it into the air.
Sidebar: Repeat as Needed
Next time your brain bombards you with negative thoughts, fight
back with some positive self-talk. Try the phrases below, or invent
your own during long runs:
Each step is bringing me closer to the finish.
The pride lasts longer than the pain.
I'm hanging in there.
I feel light and loose.
I trained hard - I can do this.
My reward is coming.
World, November 2000, p. 40
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