Dealing with “the voices” of Doubt

So there are only a few days left until the big event. You’ve trained relentlessly (at times) for your [insert your race distance here] and you are ready to go!!  ….but now come the voices of doubt.  You know them all too well and they can strike at any time including both before and during a race. You’ve even heard them before while training. The voices are fueled by self doubt, lack of confidence, good old fashioned worry, and a host of other things that may or may not be real except when those voices start whispering. They are silent at times but are always sitting there on your shoulder right or left (right for me).  They can get down right nasty at times too!  I think mine drinks.

The voices say all sorts of things about a plethora of subjects…they include your previous training, how you’re feeling right now, “Is your knee feeling ok?” “Did you taper too soon?…not soon enough?” “Is that sneeze from the pepper on the potatoes or are you getting sick? You don’t have time to get sick!”  “Did you hydrate enough?  You should drink another glass of water just in case…dang you have to pee again?…fourth time this hour.” “Did you do enough speed work?” “What if there are hills??  Indiana is flat!…you didn’t train for hills!!” “What if you come in last?” “Was that 20 miler long enough for the longest long run?” ” What if the “lagin wagon” catches you??” “How can THAT GUY have passed you?? …you’re half his size?!?” “Should you use the GU now or wait until the time dictated on the package?? You could use one now, right?!?” “Will 10 GUs be enough for the full-marathon?” “Should you wear your iPod on the right or left?” “Do your shoes have too many miles on them for this event?…not enough miles??”  “Will you have enough time to stop for pictures AND maintain the minimum pace? You have to pee yet again???  You shouldn’t have had that 6th glass of water.”

I realized some time ago that the voices never go away…they just get a tad bit quieter over time.  I’ve also compiled tips for combating these infernal conveyors of bad tidings.

I call it “My Ten Tips for Combating the Infernal Conveyors of Bad Tidings.” Catchy title right?

  • Train regularly. Have a plan and stick to it!
    • The plan should be written down…in pencil. If you can’t get your scheduled 5 miler in then do a 1 miler…
  • Keep track of your numbers so you can celebrate every victory no matter how small.
    • Weight, speed, distance, time, heart rate, eating breakfast every day…whatever you want to track!
  • Plan your training to be a part of your life not a temporary substitute for it.
    • My day includes training. Doesn’t feel right without it!
  • Practice smiling while you train. <– This one small act may be the most important.
    • Do this especially when you’re having a rough go of it during a training session.
    • I always smile any time I run over 10 miles…can’t help it.
  • Tell people about what you’ve got planned.
    • It’s amazing what you can do when you’re accountable to others.
  • Positive self-talk.
    • This is an actual technique used by professional athletes. Tell yourself how awesome you are…try it now.  Feels good doesn’t it!?!?
  • Visualize your Win.
    • This is another technique used by professional athletes. See yourself crossing the finish line.
  • Have multiple goals for an event.
    • A PR is nice, but won’t happen every time. Enjoyment CAN and SHOULD be a goal. Consistency can be another. If you run a half or 5K at the same speed two years in a row then you’ve maintained a good level of fitness so congrats!!
  • Have a planned routine for race day.  I call it my “pre-game”.  Stick to it!
    • I even bring my own cereal with me to overnight events so as to have my pre-game breakfast
  • Relax.
    • There are 20,000 other runners who are also in no danger of winning the race. We all get the same medal and nearly every one of those 20K will say, “congrats” when they see it hanging around your neck. I will. You do the same!

Bonus Tip!

This one is a little strange. At some point the voices will come calling…they always do. My advice is to have a reply ready. Mental preparedness goes a long way to putting a muzzle on self doubt.

Examples:

The Voices: “It’s too cold out here.”  The reply: “Better get running to warm up then.”

The Voices: “The knee is feeling stiff today.”  The reply: “I’ll take a little longer warm up and it’ll loosen up. Give it time.”

The Voices: “You’re not ready for this race.” The reply: “I’ve trained for this day. Worst case, I just cross the finish line and I’m OK with that.”

The Voices: “You need another 10-miler before the race next week.” The reply: “It’s taper time now so I’m sticking to the plan. Better to be over rested than over trained.”

I hope these tips help you when the voices just won’t do the right thing and shut-up.  😉

Happy Training!

Brian

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

-Marianne Williamson

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