They are one of the best mental tricks you can use as a runner. I actually wrote about it in a post on 9 mental strategies for Runners Connect. Mantras are the word or short phrase that gets you through a moment in a run or race where your mind is screaming at you to stop.
Ever since I started running I have used mantras….actually now I think about it, I have not shared my running story with you, idea for a new post? Let me know in the comments!
Anyway, back to my point, mantras have always been a part of my running life. When I first started running my mantra was one word, “dig”. I am not sure who came up with that, probably my coach Brad, but I remember that used to be effective, to remind me to dig deep, and give my best. I have never really been afraid to push myself to my limit, so this one worked out for my school career.
It was a few years later, I was introduced to the Rocky movies. For some reason, those really hit (no pun intended) home with me. I have no idea why as I HATE fighting, and I think boxing should be banned, but punching in the face aside, I loved the idea of the underdog winning through sheer grit and determination.
Over the next
few years decade, my mantra was associated with these movies. It started with “no easy way out”. I would listen to my iPod on a lot of my “longer” runs of 5 miles (:p), and I would take off into a sprint whenever I heard it. Not quite the point of a mantra, but it also helped me in a race when I needed it to. I then moved on to “hearts on fire”. I still LOVE this one, and I could listen to the song everyday for the rest of my life, without hating it, I am sure.
In my last year of college, while Rocky was still very much a part of my life, and I would watch the movies regularly, I moved through my gangster rap stage of mantra. My mantra became “remember the name”, yes, the Fort Minor song. Look at this photo of me standing on the start line of a race (second from the left), I think this stance became somewhat in-famous in our running community…..and not really in a good way. But it worked, and I was running well, so it was worth it.
As I began my journey as a post-collegiate elite runner, Steve and I returned to Rocky, and we honed in on “keep moving forward” or “it ain’t about how hard you hit”. This one really impacted me more than any of the others, this really summarized what I was going through, and I could always rely on it to get me through the struggles.
Steve and I always thought of me as Rocky in Rocky 6. I know many of you are laughing right now, YES, there is a Rocky 6, and YES, in my opinion it is the best one. I actually even went to the cinema ON MY OWN the day it came out in the movies! How cool is that? 😉
Anyway, we saw my training as Rocky’s in that movie; all the odds are against you, but, ” what we’ll be calling on is good ol’ fashion blunt force trauma. Horsepower. Heavy-duty, cast-iron, piledriving punches (or workouts in my case) that will have to hurt so much they’ll rattle his ancestors (help me run fast).”….”Let’s start building some hurtin’ bombs!” Steve particularly liked that last part. We likened that to my powerful legs and grit pushing me past people who had better resources, places to run, and well, quite frankly, ripped-ness. (You know I am ALL about Be Brave, Be Strong, Be You!).
We chose “keep moving forward” as my mantra, and it worked so well. I could always rely on it to go hard, and cross that finish line knowing I gave my all. We also used it when things would go wrong, to reassure me that if I put my head down, and
kept keep working, I would will get the result I deserve d in the end.
Promise I am wrapping this story up here. It was not meant to be this long, but there is a reason!
Last week, I did a track workout without Steve being there. It was just me and my thoughts.
Later that day when Steve asked how it went, I responded that it went very well, and I kept telling myself “quick feet” (something he had been telling me in the last few weeks during workouts), and that seemed to help propel me forward with my form being how we wanted it to be. This is very different to any mantra I have used before, especially as it is focusing on form, rather than battling those mental demons.
I then thought about it a bit, and in the build up to Chicago a few years ago, as you know, I had repeated “Take what your body gives you”, in the build up to London a few years ago, I had been thinking about “Enjoy the journey”.
It was then I realized that my mantras have changed. My mantras used to be very negative, for most of my running life, they were about pushing hard, about pushing through that pain barrier. You know, the traditional kind of motivation that we see everywhere on Pinterest and Instagram, the one that makes you want to take off in a sprint, or lift heavy weights making a ARGHGHGHHHH noise, but over the past few years, mine have become more positive, and more focused on doing what is right.
Rather than pushing through, no matter what, forcing my body into a place it was not yet ready for. Now I want to do things right. If that means running a little slower, taking a little longer to get to where I want to go, that is what we will do.
This post ended up in a completely different direction to which I initially intended, but with all the motivational messages we are bombarded with on a daily basis, I just thought it would be a good time to remind you (and me), that your mantra does not have to be aggressive, it does not have to be about pushing yourself so hard you throw up every time, but about enjoying the journey, and being deeply satisfied about how you are going about your life.
I think I have made my point pretty clear, but just in case, here is another example:
You could reach the top of the career chain while climbing over (and hurting) everyone else to get there, but you are unlikely to stay there, as your past actions will come back to bite you, and besides, that is NOT the kind of person most of us want to be.
Your running career does not have to be about getting to your destination as quickly as you can. As they say, the journey is what counts, and as long as you celebrate the small accomplishments on your way, do what you can to give yourself the best chance of success, and most important of all, enjoy it, then you WILL get there, and you will probably feel much better when you do reach it, because you did it right. And to make sure you did it right, I have a specified course to work on your mental game for your next race.
Okay, I will get off my soapbox now. Thank you for letting me share my thoughts, and allow them to tumble onto the
page keyboard how they came out of my head. This post was not planned. I just felt like sharing.
I hope it reminds you that you do not have to listen to those “no pain, no gain” messages all around us. Those were made for other sports, but our sport is different. Our sport requires more thought than that. Keep listening to your body (I wrote about how to do that for easy running last week), and the result will take care of itself.
Train Smarter, Not Harder.
What is your mantra? How has your perspective changed over time?