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Stop negativity in its tracks: Re-frame your thoughts to reach your training & nutrition goals

Last week I had a terrible run.


It was hot. My legs were tired and I was slower than usual.


I stopped almost every mile to fix my hair, tie my shoe, catch my breath, adjust my vest, go to the bathroom, catch my breath again... it just felt like "issue" after "issue" and a run that would never end. Mentally I was not motivated, and I couldn't wait to be done.


At the end when I hit "save" on my GPS tracking-watch, it proceeded to ask me ...

"How was it?"

My watch gives me smiley face icons to choose from after every workout :

"Excellent, Very Good, Good, Average” and “Poor”

How was your run today?!

So after this particular run, I immediately logged “poor”!


Then a couple days later, just one day after lifting weights a little too intensely, I ran again. My legs were tired! They were sore. It was hard to pick them up. It wasn't easy, and mentally, I was disappointed in myself for not feeling good and having to run slower than usual.


So when my watch asked me how the run was, again, I logged "poor!"


And then it hit me...

I just logged "poor" twice in a row.


If somebody were to only look at my subjective emotional watch icons, without any other data, they would conclude that I am a very poor runner!! And proceeded to feel even more disappointed that I had two “poor” runs in a row.


But the reality is...

I just ran, despite soreness ...

I ran despite lack of motivation...

I ran despite less-than-ideal complications…

I ran.

I did it!


And those two runs were part of a bigger goal.


I thought about my clients and how every little step in the right direction matters.


I thought about how excited I am for them when they accomplish small goals, like adding one snack to their day, or branching out and trying a new food, even if it was just one bite. Small goals like opening up to me with honesty about their eating habits and why they are doing the things they do, or even just for being open enough to listen to my feedback on their nutrition.


When my clients reach these small goals, I jump through the roof for them! Why?


It's not because we've accomplished everything "excellently" or "very good" but because the hardest part of reaching the finish line is to keep moving forward despite the adversity we face.


When we are feeling down, sometimes we can't see the end in sight. We feel like the effort we put in hasn't paid off yet, and we are very quick to be hard on ourselves. Whether it’s calling a run "poor", calling ourselves "slow", or "fat", comparing ourselves to others, feeling inadequate or unaccomplished . . . the list of self-destructive thoughts and emotions goes on and on.


One of my favorite runners to follow is Olympian Alexi Pappas because she calls all her fans and fellow runners "braveys" for being brave enough to do all the things they put their mind and heart into. One of her Instagram posts over the past year said:

"BE AS KIND TO YOURSELF AS YOU ARE HARD ON YOURSELF"

That simple quote has stuck with me for quite some time.


It's okay to be hard on ourselves. Sometimes that’s the push you need to make a change. Self-reflection is the first step in seeing the areas you can improve upon to better yourself. But if you are going to be hard on yourself, then you also have to be kind to yourself. Being kind ensures the self-criticism is used constructively. Being kind to ourselves means that we move forward with this new insight with our heads lifted up.


To begin this process of appreciating the small efforts, you can try re-phrasing your critical thoughts until it’s a kind(-er) statement that gives you a path to move forward.


In my case, after a run I thought “was poor” I rephrased my thought to:

“My mental negativity appears to be slowing me down physically. Next run, I challenge myself to stay positive even with all the annoying “issues” that arise because I know I have so much more potential with a more positive mindset.”

Isn’t that so much better??


Now, I can reflect back and be proud of what I accomplished and more importantly, not giving up on myself. I know that overcoming the mental struggle of those runs will make me more resilient in the future and mentally tougher for the races to come. And I have a positive outlook on my path ahead.


As you continue to work towards reaching your running or nutrition goals, take it one step at a time and be as kind to yourself as you are hard on yourself.


When you are still down about your weight or body image, remember that you’ve made progress in improving the nutrients you put in your body.


When you are not seeing the performance results from changing your diet, remember that change takes time and every small effort matters.


And remember that the cliché saying “the journey is the destination” holds true. After all, you cannot reach your destination without each step you take along your journey.


So if you find yourself saying “I feel uncomfortable eating this much food” or “I’m not happy with how my body looks” try re-phrasing it in a kind-(er) way:

“My body is adjusting to a new way of eating. It feels uncomfortable now because its new, but I’m going to give myself more time to adjust because I know this will help my body perform and recover.”

Go ahead and try it yourself!


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© 2019 by Lindsey Elizabeth Pfau MS RD CSSD LD/N