Today is my final post in a series about changing our mindsets and ditching attitudes that are keeping us from personal growth. All of these are issues I have dealt with. Today is one of my favorites and the best thing that I have discovered from running.
As a child and young adult I was a competitive figure skater. I competed at the top level attainable in US Figure Skating and even competed at the Collegiate National level. I was fortunate enough to travel the United States and Canada and go to training centers and work with the best coaches in the world. Each place I went to, I was always met with a very warm response. Coaches saw great potential and many tried to convince my parents to allow me to move there. But for some reason, I never quite believed what they were telling me.
I would land triple jumps and do some incredible spins. I would nail perfect performances in practice and even during warm up at competitions. I had a wonderful coach who sang my praises. One time a national tour even came to our rink and he pulled over some Olympic medalists and had them watch me. He was so proud of me, and I gave that poor guy a serious run for his money. I was constantly down on myself. I was always denying anything positive he had to say about me and I would argue that he was always wrong. I would walk into a competition and immediately go to the roster and determine how many people were better than me; never giving myself a chance.
And in return, my performances suffered. I was never able to lay out on the ice during a competition exactly what I would do in practice. In my heart, I knew it was my bad attitude.
I worked with sports psychologists. I read the great book, “The Power of Positive Thinking.” I had all of the resources and I simply refused to change my mindset. Looking back, I think a lot of this comes with being a young and insecure girl. It is hard sometimes for a young girl to believe they are truly great or capable of great things. And the reality is, I missed out on a lot of potential success with my negative attitude.
When I began running I had a strange change of attitude. You see, when you start running long mileage and push yourself to new limits, you will never be able to move forward with a negative attitude. Try doing a 20 miler with a, “I think I can’t. I think I can’t,” attitude. You will never make it, and if you do you will most definitely be one miserable heap by the end.
At some point I started having conversations in my head. Occasionally I would even hear myself say something out loud, “Good job. You’ve got this.” Or you might hear me say something like, “Come on, you can do this.”
One thing I have always had is a very positive attitude as a coach. I was always the skating coach, even at a young age, who tried to find the comedic side to a fall or a mishap. I wanted my skaters to laugh and have fun and find a way to believe in themselves.
As my running progressed, I suddenly found myself being the coach of myself. And the only way I could get me the student to reach new levels was to speak kindly to myself and encourage me to finish.
Do you know what happened? I started to really like myself. I found a new me, a confident me. I finished a run and felt proud of my accomplishment, but also like I had made a new friend. And I liked that friend! It was so nice to find a change of attitude. If only I had made that change earlier in life, I would have saved myself a lot of time feeling insecure and down on myself.
The night before the Chicago Marathon this year, I was in a room full of 150+ athletes getting ready to run the next day. I offered what I told them was my best advice:
“If I can give you my best running advice, it is to be your best friend and your own best running coach tomorrow. Say the nicest things to yourself and encourage yourself along. Find a positive mantra and repeat it over and over. Don’t let negativity seep into your mind if you begin to struggle. A positive attitude will do more for you out there on the course than any gel or Gu possibly could.”
I firmly stand by that. As you struggle through a run, if you allow yourself to question your ability or to become negative, everything will become more difficult. But a positive attitude and some encouragement from your own best friend will help carry you across that finish line. It will bring on the endorphins and make things better.
Life is too short to try to find fault or negativity in yourself. You owe it to yourself to be the best you possible and to find all of the wonderful things you are capable of. Seize the positive!
What is your favorite mantra?
Good luck to everyone running this weekend and a few special people who are running Marine Corps: Alison our fearless leader of Team Momentum, Gloria of Harry’s Mama, and Dr. Hoprasart who helped bring Mary into the world and chatted about marathoning along the way.