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By Debbie Perry

“In the beginning, it’s hard to understand that the race is not against others but against that little voice in your head that tells you when to quit.” Charles Brenke

After all the preparation in training, the time comes to pin on the race number and herd yourself into the corral that leads to the starting line.  With a lump in the throat and a knot in the stomach, the starting gun finally is fired. And you are off! But, now what? What are you supposed to think while you go all that way? What is your plan when the going gets tough or something goes wrong? And most of all, are you going to really make it to wherever you are going?

The above questions are pretty common ones that run through an athlete’s head. So no, you’re not crazy for thinking them. And yes, there are ways to calm the troubled mind. There are many strategies that one can use to stay in the mental game. One of the most simple is to decide ahead of time what it is you ARE going to think while you are out on the race course.

You can choose what to tell yourself even in the worst of circumstances.  You just have to take some time before the race starts to actually imagine what your weaknesses are, what situations might come up to disrupt your experience and decide what to say to yourself to get through it all.  The key is to pick very simple phrases or sets of words. These predetermined thoughts should always be positive, focused on your process, focused on you operating in the present and helping you make progress. Below are some examples of some phrases or key words that you can use:

“Relax, breathe evenly”

“Make it as fluid and easy as possible”

“Run tall, lean forward, push”

“I will endure the discomfort. Be relaxed, be patient”

“I am not afraid”

“Eat enough, drink enough, do it now”

“I can race in these hard conditions, stay calm, be patient”

“Be a warrior”

“I am always moving forward”

“I can do it, I am tough enough to make it”

“I am here and I am finally free to be everything I have wanted to be.”

Plan ahead, face your fears and pick what mental phrases will work for you. All the emotional effort is worth it because it is like the opening quotation says,  “In the beginning, it’s hard to understand that the race is not against others but against that little voice in your head that tells you when to quit.” And knowing YOU, YOU are not a quitter!

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