Tuesday, July 9, 2013

2 Words I Am Eliminating From My Running Vocabulary

As a runner, just as important as my physical training & strength, is my mental training & strength.  While I have always considered myself to be mentally strong, recently I have become aware of some major shortcomings in this area. For the longest time I didn't even realize it was an issue, until it really started to bother me when other people did it, and then one day I realized I was doing the exact same thing. It's an issue with how I talk about my running and a couple key words I use used that were creating mental blocks to my success and reaching my goals.  The two words, which from this point on are prohibited from my running vocabulary,  are SLOW and ONLY.  

This is a typical conversation I would have with people:

Friend: "I don't know how you do it, I could never run a marathon."
Me: "Oh yes you can. I'm slow...if I can do it then you can do it."

Friend: "What's your goal for this race!?"
Me:   "I'm slow, a xx:xx"

*there is absolutely NO benefit to me adding slow to either of those responses! If anything I'm self-handicapping and preparing myself to deal with the let down of not accomplishing my goals; setting myself up for failure before even toeing the start line. Not to mention, its definitely not encouraging the person I am talking to.

By always throwing in the word slow, I am constantly filling my mind with negative thoughts, and convincing myself that I am in fact slow and unable to achieve my fast goals. What exactly does slow mean!? It is such a relative term. For someone who started out running 12:00 min. miles, running 10:00 min. miles is a huge accomplishment. Someone else might be running 8:00 min. miles, with a goal of running 7:30 min. miles; that does NOT mean that a 10:00 min. mile is slow.  In all honesty it is smoking fast...2 minutes faster per mile is something to be proud of! I am getting rid of any and all comparison, and focusing on my own times, goals, and improvements. 

I just ran Ragnar with 5 other incredible runners, 4 of whom ran Boston this year! I hadn't met them yet, but followed and cheered for them as they ran Boston, and was so proud of each of them for their individual accomplishments.  I never once felt intimidated or inferior to be running with them...until we all met for dinner in Utah. {disclaimer: this was a personal issue of mine, and in NO WAY did any of them contribute to me feeling this way}.  As I sat there listening to each of them share their stories, part of me was there emotionally for them as they talked about their individual experiences, but another part of me was sitting there filling my mind with negative thoughts and questioning why I was even part of this team. NOT because of them, but because of ME! And my focus on being a slow runner. I had mentioned in one of my blog posts {but quickly deleted it thanks to Meghan} that I didn't feel worthy to be running with them.  Looking back, I not only see the negative effect it had on me, resulting in fear, anxiety and doubt, but also the selfishness of it! I was taking away from them, because I was focused on ME! There will always be people who are faster, and people who are slower, but I want to support, encourage and motivate everyone the same.  

I have also been thinking a lot about the impact I have on others when I say I'm slow. How insulting and discouraging is it for me to have a pity party and complain about my time or how slow I am in front of someone who would love to run as fast as I do...and I guarantee I have done that more than once.  We all have races where we fall short of our goals, and are disappointed; but we need to be aware of how we handle that disappointment. I want my words to not only be uplifting and encouraging to me, but also to those around me.  

When you start to think you're slow, remember: 

The other word that never seemed negative to me, but I am starting to become aware of the negative effect, is ONLY

"This will be easy, it's ONLY 3 miles"
{when running a relay} "I can't complain, I'm only running x amount of miles"

First of all, any amount of mileage is better than none. Enough said! When people first start running, its common to hear them say, "I'm only up to two miles." Well guess what!? That is two more than you were doing...be proud! In response to how many miles I am going to run, I always say things like, "Only {just} 6." There are so many people who would love to be able to run 6 miles;  I need to be proud, thankful and encouraged by the fact that I can get up every morning and run 6-8 plus miles. Second, I need to respect the distance and purpose of every run, whether it is a 3 mile recovery run {which is well earned and deserved after a peak week in training}, a 6 mile tempo run {which despite the distance is brutal}, or a 20 mile run in the middle of marathon training {which despite being at a slower pace is mentally & physically challenging}. I'm sure anyone who has trained for a race can relate to the negative effect of only.  You do a 20 mile run on Saturday, and then have only 6 miles on Monday...but those end up being the hardest, longest 6 miles EVER! Each run, it's distance, and it's pace serves a purpose in my training; I need to not downplay that, and respect and enjoy every run for what it is meant to be. 

As I continue to pursue my running goals, I want to increase my mental focus, be more aware of my negative thought patterns, and increase my ability to cultivate a positive mental attitude. I am starting by removing two words from my running vocabulary. 


Carrie is taking the "I Will Not Call Myself Slow" pledge. 
What negative words do you need to remove from your running vocabulary? 


  1. I think we are all guilty of putting ourselves down at one time or another. When I get caught up in the comparison trap, I remind myself that we are all putting in an equal amount of effort. I saw an obese person running 15 + min. miles and saw that he was putting in equal effort (perhaps more) to that of elite athlete. Nothing could have been more inspiring, it brought me to tears to see the look on his face as he struggled to cross the finish line. I do see some people put down those that are fast, saying they shouldn't be saying their times out loud because it makes others feel slow.. that is wrong too, we should all celebrate each other successes.

  2. I seriously repeat this to myself all day long since we talked. And I love that Lisa also commented on how she also struggles with the same thing because I think the two of you are awesomely fast. So, it is all relative.

    And, after my chiro appointment tonight and a little sobering reality check that we don't really know what's going on with my toe, I think I'm just going to be happy in the future that I can run at all.

  3. Been there, done that. I find myself in the comparison trap a lot. I'm definitely a work in progress but I'm getting better at running my own race.

  4. I really love this post! We all get caught up in this, no matter what the speed. It's so easy to do. The "only" thing, too. I had a friend say to me last week that he had "only" run 30 miles that week. I reminded him that that was kind of a crazy perspective! Good for you for turning these negative phrases out of your vocabulary and focusing on what you CAN do!

  5. Great post! We all get caught up in this kind of negative talk because it is all relative (unless you're a world class runner, and I'm sure they have their own version of it). Everyone is slower than someone, but we are all faster than that person who has yet to get off the couch.

  6. I needed this today! I had an awful training week last week and was getting discouraged about training for my first marathon. I need to remove both slow and only from my vocabulary along with the phrase "but I walked." It's okay to walk and I need to remember this!