#FitU with Phindi Gule: 'Ways to Overcome Negative Thoughts in a Race'

#FitU with Phindi Gule: 'Ways to Overcome Negative Thoughts in a Race'

Everyone has those thoughts from time to time. Everyone has had those moments of doubt, even elite runners, and you should find some comfort in that, knowing that when you are struggling, if you look to your left and right, the chances are, those people are going through those same emotions you are experiencing.

Sunrise jog

The Question then is:

What can we do to make sure we do not let ourselves spiral out of control? 

How can we give ourselves the best chance of success in a race?

1. Training the Body and the Mind for Pain

It is not so much physically, but we forget what it feels like to push through the pain (mental strength). Running may bring us happiness, but it also hurts, a lot! Like the old saying goes, anything worth having is worth fighting for.

2. Thinking about the Finish Line

When we are in that moment of a race where we have to make a decision of whether we are going to push through the pain, or give in to the voice telling you to slow down, as I mentioned earlier, we often forget why we are doing this. Remember, you want to get that feel-good, hands-in-the-air, proud moment at the finish. If you think about that moment, and how good it is going to feel, it may just be enough to kick you back into gear, and make you realise that you are actually not hurting as badly as you thought.

3. Take the Pressure Off

Often we go through these mental struggles because we feel like we are going to let someone down. We wonder about what others are going to think or say if we do not have a good race. We wonder what will happen to our self worth if we do not succeed in running. Remember, at the end of the day, it is just running. It is just putting one foot in front of the other. It does not say anything about who YOU are, and you have more to offer this world than just being a runner.

4. Run for Something Greater than Yourself

Running is an individual sport, yes, but that does not mean there are no other people involved. We each have our own support network, filled with friends, family, physical therapists, coaches, or whoever else yours may include, but those people support you and believe in you.

Here’s the deal:

Sometimes when a rough patch hits in a race, it helps to take your thinking away from 'I' and dedicate a kilometre (or minute) to each member of your support network instead. This usually works best with the Marathon - that being said, it can work in a shorter races, if you think about how much those people mean to you, and how good it will feel to hug them afterwards when you have accomplished your goal.

Another way of looking at this, is to think about your team. If you are a part of a team of runners, or running for a charity, you want them to be successful, you want them to earn the respect they deserve. By shifting your focus away from 'I', it helps you to  get rid of that whiny voice in your head, and focus on other people instead.

5. Use Mantras

This one is fairly well known, but different for each of us. We all have our own phrases or mantras that help motivate us, and which one works for you will depend on the experiences you have had in your life. For me, personally, I continuously say to myself, “KEEP MOVING FORWARD” and that is enough to motivate me most of the time.

6. Counting as Distraction

By keeping your mind focused on doing a cognitive task (DISSOCIATE), it is not able to think about how much you are hurting, or spiral out of control with negative thoughts. I actually tried this during my first Comrades Marathon and found that although it only worked for a few kilometers , sometimes those few kilometers, or even just a few minutes of distraction, are all you need. It helps you to focus on the present, rather than the future (or what you have left to go).

7. Think About How Far You Have Come

When we are running, it can be hard not to look at how far we have to go, instead of how far we have come. This can be in the sense of the race itself, the training segment or even your entire running career. Everyone has setbacks, everyone has challenges, yet it is how we overcome those challenges that makes us stronger. During that moment of doubt, you need to think about what you have overcome to get to this moment - keep that thought and push forward. Sometimes reminding yourself that you have been through worse is the best motivation.

Show's Stories