Mind games

I was going to title this post “the power of positive thinking.” Then, I

This magnet, with its cheesy motivational message, helps keep my brain ready to train.

This magnet, with its cheesy motivational message, helps keep my brain ready to train.

almost vomited, and realized it would have the same effect on you.  I opted instead for the slightly less cliched and cheesy “mind games,” because that’s what I successfully played with myself pre-swim yesterday.

I was slogging through my Monday, actually dreading my afternoon swim break, when I found Surfing the Waves of Motivation by Alison Arnold, a “mental toughness trainer” for a host of Olympic athletes,on active.com. Read this for a mental boost in training and in life.

The first insight that gave me a light-bulb moment: “It’s normal for all athletes to question their participation in sport once in a while.” Yeah? ‘Cause we don’t always talk about this unfortunate aspect of the sport. The more seriously we take ourselves as runners or swimmers or whatevers, the greater the chance for burnout. And nothing can knock you off a serious training schedule like burnout. Finding the balance between pushing yourself and killing yourself is a part of running we often neglect.

The second “omigosh, she’s in my head” moment came when I read this: “Negative thoughts and feelings are poison to motivation. Watch your thinking and change negative thoughts quickly.” Duh. That’s SO obvious.

Except that it’s not. How often do I find myself hopping on a long, ugly train of thought that takes me from lamenting the fact that my long-suffering hip is sore to wanting to hide under a blanket rather than swim or run? Worse, I then beat myself up for not wanting to swim or run, and wonder where this lack of motivation comes from.

Arnold suggests a simple trick: “Surround yourself with positive affirmations that remind you of your goal and passion. Put uplifting sayings on your logbook, bathroom mirror and screen saver.”

Before training for a marathon, I shunned this kind of sincerity. But something about those 20-mile runs made me  scour YouTube for marathon videos, clip ads for the Nashville Country Music Marathon from Runner’s World and post motivational quotes all over the house. A whimsical magnet on my fridge still suggests: “If you’re going to doubt something, doubt your limits.”

Remembering that process made me realized how lazy I’ve let my brain get. I’m signed up for a host of races for which I’m training pretty hard. But I’ve been sitting back and waiting for motivation to strike me. Makes me think of the Peter De Vries quote:

I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.”

Before I went to the pool yesterday, I took a minute to really think about one of the aforementioned motivational quotes I long ago taped to my mirror. It’s Eleanor Roosevelt:

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

Then, I went and kicked butt. I pulled out a roughly 4,000-yard workout I used to train for the Bay Bridge 1-Mile Challenge open-water swim last year, with a few added twists. Also, thanks to the sore hip, I did this with a pull buoy.

2,000 free, each 500 progressively harder

6X300 free, with six hard strokes every 50 yards (new favorite trick)

5X25 sprint, 5X25 no breath. That’s right. I added extra 25s. It was just that kind of night.

What’s motivating you lately? Share your favorite quotes, mantras or other thoughts by posting a comment below.


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6 responses to “Mind games

  1. I had my first workout last night in what will be a long road to training for the Bay Swim next year. I found this extremely timely and very interesting. I shall seek inspiration from this site from now on!

  2. Alexis Milam

    good timing on this post…totally non athletic training related, but I’m gearing up for 2 big presentations. Normally I feel totally comfortable and could blab on to complete strangers for hours (if they’ll actually listen to me). But for some reason, I’m lacking motivation/enthusiasm today. So here’s to positive thinking – I’m gonna knock em’ dead tonight and you’re gonna have an awesome fulfilling workout! And sorry, I don’t have any cutesy quotes to contribute 😦

  3. “I keep running and when I get to a place I can’t run anymore, I turn around and I run home.” -unknown Trail Runner

    I like this one because it shows that we can push ourselves without even having to worry about it. Once you have hit your max distance, turn around and run back home.

    “Grip It and Rip It.” -Hanzel, from the movie ‘Zoolander’

    I like this one is because we tend to over think things too much (Hanzel wasn’t much of a thinker), especially with work outs and races. Stop worrying about what you ate the night before or how tired you are. None of that has any bearing on your race performance once you toe the line. It is what it is. All you can do is perform you best. You can’t worry about things that you can no longer control. All you can do is learn from them and move on. Negative thinking has never helped anyone.

  4. trialsoftraining

    last october I was wayyy too into training for a half – took it way too seriously and it ended up being my slowest time yet. Even looking back, I didn’t enjoy the race AT ALL.

    Glad you had an awesome workout – thats what makes everything worth it 🙂

    what motivates me? changes every day. sometimes its a song on the iPod, the fact that I woke up Before my 5 a.m. alarm (love that feeling!), signing up for the next event, or my “runners world quote of the day” email. Just to name a few! AND reading kick ass bloggers keeps me goin most of the time too! haha

  5. Pingback: An exercise in motivation « Amy’s Training Blog

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