If I contribute nothing else to society (besides producing seven amazing nextgens) I can at least take heart that I have cracked the code to happy running. This secret can benefit everybody but it’s especially valuable to new midlife runners. We tend to need it the most.
This is not about shoes. Or form. Or pace. It’s a paradigm shift in how you talk to yourself while running. The next time that you’re out for a run ask yourself…
Would I say this to a friend?
You know those thoughts that run through your head as you run on the roads…
*People driving by in cars are laughing at me.
*I’m slower than that turtle on that log. I will always be slower than that turtle.
*I’m such a poser. I don’t belong at this race. Look at the real runners.
*I’m delusional to think I could ever run that distance.
*Why didn’t I start this 10 years ago? I’ve missed my prime. I’m just a middle-aged housewife.
Now ask yourself… If you had a friend in your identical circumstances, would you say those things to him or her?
If your friend said, “People driving by in cars are laughing at me.”, would you say, “Yep. That’s because you’re slower than a turtle. You always will be.”?
NO! You would not say that!
If your friend said, “I’m such a poser.”, would you say, “Yeah, you don’t belong at this race. Look at all of the real runners.”?
I am absolutely certain that you would never say that.
It’s not just that you’d be keeping those thoughts to yourself because you’re a polite friend. You wouldn’t even be thinking them. Here’s what you likely would say…
If your friend said, “People driving by in cars are laughing at me.”, you might say, “No way. I’m sure they’re not even noticing you. The driver is driving and the passengers are on their phones. If… IF anyone notices you, you’re just another jogger in the background.”
If your friend said, “I’m such a poser. I don’t belong at this race.”, you’d likely say, “What are you talking about? This isn’t the Olympics, it’s a Halloween 5K. Look at all of the people your age and older! There are plenty of folks who plan to walk the entire time. You do you and have fun!”.
If your friend said, “Why didn’t I start this 10 years ago?”, you’d probably say, “Because you were having babies and building your career. It doesn’t matter because it’s never too late. People our age are the fastest growing segment of new runners. Enjoy the journey and focus on it taking you into the next 40 years of your life.”.
Here’s the kicker: If what you would say is true for your friend, then it has to be true for you.
Quit thinking that you’re such a special snowflake that everyone else deserves compassion and encouragement, but you deserve derision. You’re not that special, so suck it up, buttercup. You deserve your support, too!
So this is the One Secret to Happy Running:
TALK TO YOURSELF LIKE YOU WOULD TALK TO A FRIEND!
Every time a negative thought forms in your mind ask yourself, “Would I say that to a friend?”.
You’re out for a run and you look at your watch. You think, “Dang, those splits suck.”. Stop! Picture your best friend and ask yourself, “Would I tell Heather that her splits suck?”.
“No, I would tell Heather that she was up all night with the baby and that she was a rock star just for being out here. I’d tell her to go easy on herself, stay hydrated, and give it a go again tomorrow.”
Now say those same words to yourself and believe them. If they’re true for Heather, they’re true for you.
I stumbled upon this approach after I made myself miserable when I first started running. My inner voice was an inner mean girl. The biggest bully I ever encountered was myself to myself. I beat myself up and took my milk money every day that summer.
Then I had a baby and had to take a year off from running. That meant that I had to start all over and I was not looking forward to more tears of frustration. That mean girl would be in my class again!
One day early on when I was out there going through the litany of “You suck. You’re so slow. You must look ridiculous. What makes you think you can do this?”, I had a revelation. “You would never say this to Nancy or Kathy.”
I stopped dead in my tracks.
It was so true! It wasn’t just that I wouldn’t say those things. I wouldn’t mean them. I would be so proud of them for going outside of their comfort zone and taking on this challenge. They would be rock stars in my eyes!
So from that moment forward I talked to myself as if I had an inner narcissist. It was… weird. But fun! I’d say, “You are such a rock star for getting out here!”
“So what if you took some walk breaks? You were out there for an hour and that’s awesome!!”
“It’s okay to slow down. It’s 8,500 degrees today. You’ll live to run another day.”
“You’re making progress based on your particular body’s abilities. Don’t compare yourself to a 22 year old Elite male. You’re a 45 year old mother of seven who has had multiple surgeries. You are a super awesome inspirational rock star!”
(I have no idea why I’m so fixated on rock stars.)
So please. Let’s start a movement.
I want everyone to think about how they think about themselves. If you all would pay me one dollar every time you had a disparaging thought about yourself I would be so rich!
But I would rather keep borrowing money from my employed teens and just know that you were talking to yourselves the way that you would talk to your friends. Unless that is, you talk to your friends all mean-like, in which case, I can’t help you.
I promise that you will run much happier every time if you talk to yourself like you would talk to a friend! Do you? What sorts of things do you say to yourself while running? Tell me here and then please share this with your friends.