A few weeks ago I participated in the BMO Vancouver Marathon. This was my 5th half marathon, third BMO race, and first postnatal half. In typical BMO style the race was top notch. From package pick up and organization, to the crowd and finish line party. The difference this year was my attitude.
Having a 13 month old and working full-time didn’t leave me nearly the same amount of time to train that I am accustom to. In addition to this I was nervous about running the distance since recovering from Symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) during pregnancy.
INside my head:
Km #1: Take it easy you aren’t ready for this.
KM #5: Wow 5 km and I’m already losing the 2 hour pace bunny. I am going to have the worst time.
KM #8 (uphill): OMG I hate this hill. My back hurts, I can barely lift my feet!
KM #10: Wow 1 hour 2 Minutes, I’m actually doing pretty good….You won’t be able to keep it up you started too fast.
KM #11: Legs are getting tired that never happens during the race……see you aren’t ready for this. You are going to hurt yourself.
Km 16: Usually I would start to feel happy and emotional….Why don’t feel any of that?? Must be because I am doing so poorly??
You get the idea. Once I had decided that I hadn’t had enough training my negative self-talk was in the driver seat. I didn’t experience the happy emotions that usually come with the accomplishment of crossing the finish -line because I had just spent 2 hours mentally beating myself up.
what is self-talk?
Imagine the little angel and devil from cartoons. The angel, positive self-talk which is supportive and motivational, “You can do it, you’ve got this!” The devil, negative self-talk full of pessimism and self-criticism. “You’ll never win, this is too hard.“ During this run the little devil on my shoulder kept using his pitch fork and knocking the supportive angel off my shoulder.
How negative self-talk slips into our thoughts:
- Focusing on past performance: “I raced so poorly last time,” or “I can’t believe I started so slowly.” Not letting go of previous mistakes or poor performances can take focus away from the current event.
- Focusing on weaknesses: Worrying about weakness can take your attention away from your strengths and erode confidence.
- Focusing only on the outcome: Focusing on the end means you miss the journey.
- Focusing on uncontrollable factors: Worrying about the hills on the course, or anything thing beyond control, is a waste of energy.
- Trying to be perfect: Every race cannot be a PB and to expect that is unrealistic.
Changing the Negative to the Positive: 4 Tips to turn it around
- Self-awareness: Listen to what you say to yourself. Are you focusing on your weaknesses? Are you being mean to yourself?
- Trying to be perfect? Are there certain points that your original motivation turns to self-doubt?
- Once you are aware of the negative talk, you must stop it, which is easier said than done. A girlfriend (you know who you are ;)) shared with me a wonderful exercise; When a negative thoughts start to creep in acknowledge it, then imagine picking it up and putting it outside a door. Close the door on that thought, it’s not welcome.
- Replace with the positive: Visualize your positive thoughts. Practice saying them out loud. Sounds easy, right? Then why do we focus on what we can’t do? I can’t pass this person, I can’t run any faster, and I can’t finish this race. Taking control of your self-talk and focusing on what you can do is a much more effective strategy. It may seem silly to say them out loud but I find its often the best way to drowned out the negative-self talk.
A lesson Learnt:
A great performance is related not only to talent, skill, and practice but mental preparation. Just as I train for endurance and speed and the finishing sprint, I can’t forget to practice controlling my self-talk. In the end I finished the race in a respectable 2:04:37 which far surpassed my expectations. Because of my negative self-talk I didn’t enjoy the journey as much as I should have.
Do you find yourself using negative self-talk? Were you aware of what you were doing? How do use positive self-talk to improve your performance?