A Real Life Story of Self Doubt


I am writing this post at a time I am feeling weak. I know I am not weak, and I know it is a sign of strength that I am able to share my feelings, and especially if I do release this post, it will show my courage to put myself out there. I hope you will see that this is my raw, inner thoughts, and as much as I want to be successful and pretend that life is all sunshine and rainbows, it is not.

It is Wednesday afternoon, after a week of feeling heavy and tired on my runs, I need to get my feelings out, and I hope you do not mind me sharing them with you. Todays post (Elite Athlete Eats) was an insight into Tina’s belly, this is an insight into an Tina’s mind…and let me forewarn you, I am sure it is not what you expect……

This morning, I had a horrible workout. I knew it was going to be bad before I even started; I knew my mind was not in the right place. Other than one friend (thats you, Anna :P), when you are nothing but negative before you begin a workout, you begin on a downward spiral from that moment, a spiral you very rarely can be pulled out of. This is one of the bad things about running, if that little demon in your head senses your weakness, it works hard to spiral your thoughts out of control. This was the case today.

Less than one quarter through the total volume of hard effort I had for the day, I turned to my coach and said “I can’t do this“, and began to cry. Riding alongside me on a bike, he turned and yelled “YES, YOU CAN”, and went on to tell me it was all in my head, and I needed to practice being strong. My hyperventilating was not making it easy to calm down, and it took me well over 5 minutes of concentration, but I regained my breathing, and completed that 3 mile section around the time we were expecting (although the effort level was much higher than it should have been).

I continued with the workout, making sure to not look at my watch until after each repeat, but inside my head was turmoil. Thoughts of self doubt, embarrassment, frustration flowed through my mind. During and after each repeat, I began to cry, which was instantly followed by shallow breathing and a lightheadedness that can only mean one thing….your brain is not getting enough oxygen. If your brain is not getting enough, there is no way your muscles will be able to perform.

Somehow, I managed to finish all but 800m of my workout, but then the questioning came: what is wrong with me? Why can I not get in shape? Why is every run hard right now? Why did a day off not help?…..I could go on. All this negativity flowed through my mind, a voice I did not recognize. Running brings out those demons in your mind, running is a constant battle against them, but this time it was different, I realized every silver lining or positive return to my negative comment my coach gave, another negative comment shot back at him. I was becoming a pessimist, and I didn’t like it.

I am not sure “what is wrong with me” right now, but I do know that I need to accept where I am. Focus on effort level for my training in the next few weeks, and give myself a break when it comes to what I expect. I am under a lot of stress right now, and in a huge adjustment period. Even though I now do not have half the activities I did the past two years, my body is readjusting to this, and I need to just let it be. I may not be in the shape I was at this point in my training for the Phialdelphia Marathon, but I know it is in there somewhere. Your muscles remember what they are doing.

After looking into this a little more, a research study that looked into the 2004 London Marathon found that “Anxiety is motivational when coupled with feelings of excitement and calmness but harmful when coupled with an emotional profile characterized by feeling depressed, tense, tired and confused.”Β I also found this articleΒ called “The Sports Shrink, which was very interesting to read about mental attitude and running. In particular, I loved this quote:

“Having a positive mental attitude doesn’t mean that you have to see every run as a great run, and every training session as fabulously positive experience, it means simply being able to see the potential for change: it means accepting that your abilities as a runner can never be measured on any one, single performance.” Don Macnaughton

I know this has just been one giant ramble, but I thought it would be useful for my readers who think that running is always just wonderful for me. Yes, I am able to run over 70 miles a week, but sometimes every single run is a struggle. Running never gets any easier, yes, you are able to run a faster pace, but it is always going to be about pushing through those times when every run is an effort. THOSE are the days that make the good times happen, the PRs feel so sweet, and the beauty of the sport.

This is one of those times. I am going to try to accept what my body is giving me right now, and let the path unfold before me as it will. What is meant to be….will be. And if you are having a hard time with self doubt or visualizing your goals then my Mile 20 Mental Training Course may be just for you!

Are you able to turn yourself around once you start thinking negative? What tricks do you use to overcome the mental demons running brings out?


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  • This is a great post to share (particularly following up Wednesday's eating post) because we have seen that it is possible to struggle weven when you are doing well (like the Brooklyn Half), so what happens when you really have an off day is just as invaluable. When you are “good” at something, people tend to forget that it isn't all hearts and stars and rainbows all the time. Like when you are “skinny” people think that you are just living the dream, that it must be easy to be like that. WRONG. Every thing in life is a struggle, in some way shape and or form. And this is particularly true when you are making a living based on your body's ability to perform. Great post, Tina. Now give yourself a break, regroup, and get back out there πŸ˜€

  • Tina@GottaRunNow
    August 1, 2014 11:33 am

    For me, just knowing that the next run (or week!) may be totally different and so much better is encouraging enough to get back at it. Hope for better days keeps me going!

  • Megan Jacqueline Tapson
    August 1, 2014 11:44 am

    you are amazing Tina. So honest and true. I am beginner runner and I started my blog around the same time I started running (last year). I use my blog to vent my frustrations, because I do have frustrations. Frustrations with my body, with my level of fitness, for the simple fact that i love to run but I don't run fast. I do have moments when the negativity spirals out of me. Those are trying times. Where your head is saying give up and your heart is pleading with you to just give it one more go. I find my blog and reader others stories help me to reign myself in. Negativity feeds negativity, I truly believe that. The sooner you can pick yourself up, and get back on it, the better. Keeping you in my thoughts, love and strength, Meg

  • So sorry your run was terrible! I had a Heartbreaking run before and it helped because I released all mu emotions out in running and endedup running pretty darn far.

    What was bothering you, Tina? What was wrong? πŸ™

  • Awesome post!
    I think all women think about that.
    I am pretty stinkin good to quit thinking negatively about myself. I think about all the good things my mom has said about me, and how much my hubby believes in me. That helps.
    I also see the example of how my hubby doesn't let anything anyone says bring him down. I think it's incredible–so I try to do it too!!

  • Such a great post. I love that quote. It's so true how negative thoughts can really impact your performance. I have a really hard time turning my own around sometimes. It's so much easier to turn excited feelings into a great workout. Thanks for sharing this I hope it helped you as well to express it and write it.
    Confessions of A Mother Runner

  • RunningSouthern.coom
    August 1, 2014 3:13 pm

    Such a raw and honest post. Good to know that even the elites struggle with the mental battle, although I hate that you are experiencing this self doubt. We all have our struggles; how you react to these are a true show of your capabilities. I hope that sharing this helps you get out the pessimism and turn the corner.

  • I love that you did this Tina and I really, really hope it's making you feel better. We have definitely ALL been there – although I know you compete on a completely different level, so I can't imagine where your head is and having to try and get it back. It seems like you're doing all the right things, and you KNOW that you're just going though an ugly spot (although it's probably not comforting) so your head actually IS in the right place…your emotions just need to catch up. I wish there was more I could do to help. I seriously just want to give you a huge HUG!!!!

  • Martina Di Marco
    August 1, 2014 5:05 pm

    Awww I'm so sorry to hear this girl… We all have these awful days as runners, but I can just imagine how stressful and upsetting it must be for you as an elite. Now, let's focus on the bright side!

    1) The weather has been really crappy this month (at least here in NY). Hot and humid as hell! You said it yourself in one of your posts: you have to train by effort in this case and it's gonna suck no matter what. So, although it can be a mix of many things, I'm sure the weather plays a huge role in this case.

    1.1) You're training in the summer and Chicago is in the fall… once your body gets used to this crappy weather, just imagine how great it will feel in the fall!

    2) You said you were in better shape at this point in training last year. Fair. However, it was your first marathon and it didn't exactly go as planned, right? So, you might not be in the same shape now, but at least you have the experience! Take that into consideration when you make comparisons.

    3) You have two whole months left before tapering starts. I can just imagine how much you will improve during this time!

    4)”The days nothing is easy, elements are against you, and you have to grit it out,are the days that make the victories so sweet” Tina Muir
    Do I need to add anything more to this??

    Hang in there girl and stay positive! Thank you for sharing this with us.

  • Karla Bruning
    August 1, 2014 6:39 pm

    Tina, Thanks for sharing this. I'm sorry you're going through such a frustrating time. We've all been there. I loved this quote: “Having
    a positive mental attitude doesn’t mean that you have to see every run
    as a great run, and every training session as fabulously positive
    experience, it means simply being able to see the potential for change:
    it means accepting that your abilities as a runner can never be measured
    on any one, single performance.” Yes, yes and yes. Some days, the demons get the best of us. I've SO been there. I keep on going knowing that another great run is just around the corner. I have yet to be wrong about that. It's a cliche but true: This too shall pass!

  • You are so strong for even being able to share this. I commend you for being open and honest. It's easy to assume running comes easy to the elites, but you all work INCREDIBLY hard and I can imagine there are many difficult days. I hope getting some of your thoughts and emotions out in this post helped and that everything turns around soon! Take a little time to just rest and relax and not think about running, then turn your chin up to the sun, get back out there, and rock it!

  • Ahh, Tina. First, so sorry you are in this place right now. But I know it is just right now. Second, thank you for opening up to us–I think it's easy to think it's easy to be an elite and it's clearly not. You're elite, but you're also human and having very normal human thoughts and doubts. You've got a game plan–follow it and things will surely turn around. Hang in there!

  • Sarah at Runner Under Pressure
    August 1, 2014 9:22 pm

    I'm so sorry you're here right now, but I hope you know you are not the only person who has found herself in this funk. I also hope you follow my recent trajectory; two weeks ago I was depressed and convinced that I was going to have to bail on my October 12th marathon because every single run was hard. I bailed on a workout (which I've never done before), I cried after a bunch of runs (I never do that) and I was just so frustrated. Somehow, I've turned a corner in the last few days and things feel a bit more normal again. Thanks for sharing and for not pretending that a blog is a place for only happy thoughts. Truly rooting for you.

  • Tina thank you so much! I can see that this was a hard time for you and it was probably equally as hard to hit publish. But as a newbie runner, for me this is helpful. I sometimes wonder as the miles creep up will I love this or will I hate this. Especially when I read blogs where people run 70 πŸ™‚ miles and seem so thrilled about it every single moment. And it makes me wonder if I hate it do I stop? But after what you just said I know that the answer is no. It's just that time. There could be so much going on. You are awesome and brave for sharing this! I hope things are going better.

  • Thank you for this post, Tina. I can imagine it was hard to write, but living through it is even harder! I had my own mental downward spiral towards running last weekend and felt like quitting all together. I told Mike I was going to take up yoga again. But, after a few days of physical and mental rest, I'm feeling slightly better. A few solo runs without a watch making me feel bad went a long way towards reminding me why I love running so much. I hope you find your groove soon (because I know you will). xo

  • Great post! I am going through one of those times when I am not sure what is going on with my body– its just off. So I am embracing the good things that are happening while dealing with whatever is going on but without beating myself up about it or thinking “oh, so and so are doing so much better at this point in their marathon training, and I am not”. I am different and built differently and I have come to accept that. πŸ™‚

  • when did you write this? was it when you needed rest? you know we can relate.. doubt weakens the body. Embracing the change and the process almost is healing, yes?

  • Tina I'm thinking of you! You are a strong super talented lady, I have no doubt you will shake out the doubts and come back even stronger. I think all of us not even elite struggle sometimes with these feelings.Its sometimes hard to place them or know what to do with them. I'm happy you are sharing this experiences. For everything that sets us back helps us grow and be stronger. Send you lots of love Tina! <3

  • Amber @ Mamas Blissful Bites
    August 2, 2014 12:00 pm

    Tina, I love your ended sentence: “Running never gets any easier, yes, you are able to run a faster pace,
    but it is always going to be about pushing through those times when
    every run is an effort. THOSE are the days that make the good times
    happen, the PRs feel so sweet, and the beauty of the sport.” Thank you for being real – it's why I enjoy reading your blog so much xoxoxo

  • Sarah @RunFarGirl
    August 2, 2014 1:32 pm

    I love this honesty Tina. Going to email you now:)

  • Cassie @ Rural Running Redhead
    August 2, 2014 3:15 pm

    Tina, thank you so, so much for posting this. I know it took guts to post it, but I'm so glad you did. I just came back from a terrible fast-finish long run — I was supposed to run the last few miles in the mid-6s and instead struggled to hold high 7s. I came home and sat in the grass with my head between my knees, trying to breathe and trying not to cry. I was discouraged and frustrated … and then I read this post. Seeing that such an amazing athlete as you also has terrible workouts and self-doubt made me realize that I am normal, and reading how you're dealing with it and learning to accept where you are now made me realize that I need to do the same thing. So thanks for having the courage to share. You're always an inspiration.

  • Christine @ Love, Life, Surf
    August 2, 2014 9:21 pm

    I'm sorry that you are feeling this right now and thank you for sharing this with us. I hope that in writing about this (and seeing and feeling the tremendous support from everything) that it helps a bit. We are all human and just because you are an elite runner doesn't mean that you can't have these normal human thoughts and emotions. Thinking of you!

  • Michelle@Running with Attitude
    August 2, 2014 9:42 pm

    Tina I really appreciate your being so honest – I know it was hard to put it out there. I'm really sorry your going through this right now. Please know that you continue to inspire me and I'm rooting for you!

  • Heather @fitncookies
    August 3, 2014 8:05 pm

    Oh girl, I feel for you on those runs. I know exactly what you mean with self doubt, and yet you continued and pushed through it, showing just how strong you are! I really loved reading this and knowing that it isn't always rainbows and butterflies for everyone, even an elite athlete!

  • I love how open and honest you were in this post – I know that isn't always easy!!
    I'm glad that you are able to admit how much stress you are under with the HUGE changes in your life right now. I know that you are tough and even though you are having a hard time with your running right now you will keep pushing and listening to your body! Hang in there!!!

  • I'm so sorry you had a really rough run. You're absolutely right–your mental state has a huge effect on how you perform. I hope you can get your groove back soon!

  • Kim @ BusyBod
    August 4, 2014 10:32 am

    Oh Tina this is just a raw post. I had a feeling it would be which is why I saved it to read (I tried to pick out big ones like this from everyone so I wouldn't miss them). I'm sure this touched everyone as much as it did me. My heart goes out to you and I hope you are feeling better, but it means so much that you are willing to share it. Those inner demons kept me from running for years, and I always thought they were just me. Everyone else was talking about their runner's high and their PR while for me running was nothing but a chance for this evil voice to rise out of nowhere to reduce me to a puddle of tears and self-loathing. I'm glad you are fighting through and accepting your body for what it can do today. It will get better <3

  • This was so brave to share! I often don't think about elite athletes having off days… but I feel like after an off day (or an unplanned rest day) I also have such a better run. I was having a rough few runs last week in Oregon… my heart just wasn't in it. I also thought I hated running a couple months ago… then one day it just clicked again. Thanks for being so honest and relatable πŸ™‚ xo

  • Ah, I loved this post Tina. You are an amazing (and honest) athlete and that Is why I love you so much. This is just the cycle of life. The low so we can experience the high.

  • Laura Anderson
    August 4, 2014 7:50 pm

    I really like that quote by Don M. I can so relate to this entire thing. I really can. I believe a lot of my struggles lately are more in my head than anything. I keep hearing things repeating in my head that I shouldn't, negativity does not make for good workouts or races. We all have off days, weeks, sometimes longer- but they make you appreciate the good things that much more. It takes more positive to override the negative but in time, it happens and that much I have faith in.

  • I find it almost impossible to turn a workout around when I'm in a negative headspace like that, especially something like repeats and speedwork. I always figured if I had a tough time sometimes in training, an elite runner must feel that frustration and stress and pressure a hundred times worse. I have zero advice, but want you to know I think you're an amazig athlete and just awesome for opening up and leaving yourself out there on your blog. I am sure there are so many newer runners who have a sucky run or series of runs, who will read your blog and think, 'oh, it's NOT just me! I should keep going then.' You rock, lady and I hope you get into a sweet spot with your mental game soon.

  • Love the honesty! I have a friend who is an elite runner and I used to just assume that it was always so easy peasy for her – especially when I see her zip by me out on a run looking completely comfortable while I'm a sweating, plodding mess LOL. I think it's important to get those emotions out and admit them. I sure hope your next run is a great one!

  • Thank you for your support Suzy, I definitely did give myself a break, and it worked out for the better πŸ™‚

  • Yep, thats a great way to look at it!

  • Thank you SO much Meg, what a lovely comment. I am sorry you have had some rough times, and that is brave of you to reveal them on here, but your strength truly shows through that you did not give up. You are SO right about the negativity feeding negativity, I believe in that 100%. I will be following your blog from now on πŸ™‚

  • Thanks Linda, stressing about the future, and what it holds. Feeling better now, but glad you had a good experience with stress reliving from running!

  • Thank you so much, close family and friends are wonderful for our self esteem when we needed it most. I LOVE that from your husband, you have a great one there…. as does he πŸ™‚

  • Thanks Deborah. It definitely did help, and I am sure your venting on your helps from time to time too πŸ™‚

  • Thanks Carson. I thought it would help those struggling see that everyone has bad days, even those who appear to make it look easy. It definitely did help, and I am back to myself, thank you so much for your kind words!

  • Thanks Allie, you are such an inspiration. I know you have been through this, and you are right with things working out. My emotions did catch up, and I feel a million times better…your hug would have helped though πŸ™‚

  • You are AMAZING! Thank you SO much! You are so right for all of those points, and you truly are understanding me for me to give me those pieces of wisdom. I cannot thank you enough. Thanks for thinking of me, and making me feel SO much better πŸ™‚

  • Thanks Karla, it was rough, but I somehow survived. That quote is amazing isn't it? So helpful, and so very true! You are so sweet, and I appreciated this comment so much!

  • Thank you Nicole, that truly means a lot. I know you understand how hard I work (as do you). This post definitely helped, and I did take a step back to relax….and now I am hopefully onto the “Rock it” stage πŸ™‚

  • Thanks Amanda, I know you have been there. I hope I helped you a little in your dark place, and your comment made mine just a little less bad. Thank you πŸ™‚

  • Thank you Sarah. I know you have been struggling too, but you are going to make it through. We both have 2 months to go, so that is plenty of time. I turned my corner (a few days after you), and we will appreciate the good runs so much more after this πŸ™‚

  • Thanks Angela, you are so supportive. It definitely did help, and you have helped enough with your lovely comment πŸ™‚

  • Thanks Carla, I know you have had a rough few runs recently, and you stuck at it. You will continue to get stronger, and will keep making strides. Thank you for believing in me πŸ™‚

  • Thank you Maria, hopefully you have made it out the funk by now too. You seem like you have a good mindset, and I am sure that will pay off for you πŸ™‚

  • We will talk on the phone πŸ™‚

  • Thank you lovely friend, what a lovely comment. It did help sharing it, and kind words like yours made me feel so much better!

  • Thanks Amber, I am glad it helped, and nice to know you enjoy reading πŸ™‚

  • Everything happens for a reason, right? πŸ™‚ It aint how hard you hit πŸ˜‰

  • Thanks Cassie, I am so sorry you went through that, but I know it would have made you stronger, and you will continue to improve. I am honored my post had that much of an impact πŸ™‚

  • Thanks Christine, it makes a huge difference having the support! Thanks so much for your kind words!

  • Thank you Michelle, that does mean a lot, and does help so much. I really appreciate it!

  • Thanks lovely lady, you have been there too, but made it out….as did I….hopefully!

  • Thank you Kim, you are right on, and I appreciate you caring for me. Thanks for everything!

  • Thanks Beth, I think I am starting to πŸ™‚

  • Thank you friend. What inspirational words, you always know what to say, and yes, I am feeling better πŸ™‚

  • Thanks Cassie, it was rough, but I feel so much better now. Sometimes it does just click, and some days you are just off….like you said. Glad you are loving it πŸ™‚

  • Thanks Tara, that is so lovely to hear, and RIGHT ON about the highs and lows πŸ™‚

  • Thanks Laura, it is a great one. I know you have had a rough time, but I know you will come out the other side, tougher, and ready to face whatever challenges come your way πŸ™‚

  • Thanks Heather, it was important, and you were right πŸ™‚

  • Thanks for sharing!

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