Quick question. What would you say if I asked how you would describe yourself as a runner?
Would you tell me that you are “not a real runner” because you are slow? Would you tell me that you are a “back of the packer” or permanently injured? Would you tell me that you hate strength training or just don’t have enough time to train properly?
Or would you tell me that you are improving steadily, love to take on new challenges, or like to try new approaches to training and recovery?
Your answer to this question reveals a lot about your beliefs and the stories you tell yourself about yourself.
And whether you are conscious of your beliefs or not, they impact everything you do.
How you interact with other people, the goals you set, and how you approach going after those goals.
And believing you are not a “real runner” or could never run an ultramarathon is holding you back from becoming the best runner you can be.
Which stories do you tell yourself about yourself?
Maybe you don’t want to improve as a runner and are happy just cruising along the same route day after day that you have run for the last 5 years.
However, if you want to run faster, further, or with fewer injuries, training your mind is just as important as training your body. Maybe even more so.
If the stories you tell yourself about your abilities as a runner are negative, it will be infinitely harder to reach your goals. You will likely not achieve them at all.
Think back to when you set a specific goal you failed to achieve. What were your beliefs about achieving that goal? Do you even remember them?
Most of our beliefs are subconscious and not even our own.
We picked them up from parents, teachers, and society. For example, I have always been told that I was unathletic and was made fun of in school during PE.
Until my early 20s, I thought I hated exercise, even though I loved going for hikes in the forests and riding my bike. It was not until I started running and felt its effects on my body and mind that I fell in love with exercise.
Over the years, I have shifted my identity from believing I was unathletic to being an athlete.
Changing my beliefs about running leads me to act differently and to pursue goals I once thought too hard for me to accomplish.
Once I believed I could improve as a runner, I put more effort into my training, read more about exercise science, ate healthier, and made lifestyle choices that supported my running.
What if you changed the stories you tell yourself?
When you accept the fact that your mindset influences every aspect of your life, you can entertain the idea that maybe you can achieve your goals if you change your beliefs.
Just think about it.
What running goals would you set if you believed that you could improve at any age and no matter your circumstances?
How would you approach your training sessions if you thought you were an athlete?
What would you change about your lifestyle to support your running dreams if you actually believed you could achieve them?
I’m a massive fan of the psychotherapist Marissa Peer. Her new book is titled “Tell Yourself a Better Lie.” (*afilliate link)
Marissa teaches us the power of the mind and the importance of replacing negative limiting beliefs with empowering ones.
And if you look closely at the thoughts you entertain all day long, you will see that you are telling yourself many lies.
For example, you tell yourself, “I could never run an ultramarathon,” or “I’m too fat to be a real runner.”
Both of these statements are lies.
How would you know you could never run an ultra if you have never tried?
And why do you think you are too fat to be a real runner when no definition of being a real runner even exists?
So if you are already willing to lie to yourself, you could just as well decide to tell yourself some better lies.
It is up to you to think positively or negatively.
How to adopt empowering beliefs to become a better runner
If you are ready to upgrade your mind to achieve your running goals, then you must uncover any limiting beliefs you have about your self-image as a runner.
The easiest way I have found how to do this is to write out everything you believe about yourself as a runner.
For example, you could have the following statements on your list:
- I’m too slow to be a real runner
- I could never run a marathon
- adding strength training will make me too heavy to run fast
- It’s too hard to run fast
- training for an ultramarathon takes too much time
Once you have written out your beliefs, examine them one by one and ask yourself if you can be 100% certain that this belief is true.
Then write out opposing ideas.
Think about exciting running goals and ask yourself what you would need to believe in making them happen? How would someone who has already achieved what you want to think?
What stories would they tell themselves about themselves and their running?
Again, write it out. If you find statements such as “I can become a faster runner” too hard to believe, you can start by asking yourself questions instead.
Ask yourself, “what if I could become faster” or “what if I could fit ultramarathon training into my life”?
I found asking myself “what-if” questions powerful catalysts for change in my life. It takes the pressure off and makes the goal-achievement process more playful and fun.
For example, at 35, I decided that I finally had enough of being single and crushing on women who didn’t return my love for them.
I asked myself how I would feel if I experienced a romantic relationship with the woman of my dreams? How would I behave? How would I dress? What music would I listen to?
Every day I asked myself these questions and acted accordingly. And sure enough, I found love after being single for over 15 years.
Challenging your limiting beliefs and replacing them with empowering ones is not a process you do in an afternoon.
Remember, you have adopted those negative beliefs subconsciously and have likely been holding them for many years.
Actively and consciously, choosing to think differently is a daily practice you must cultivate if you genuinely want to upgrade your beliefs.
If you do the work, however, you may find that you will achieve running goals you once thought impossible.