On Top Of The World: Exclusive Interview With Lauren Fleshman

What kind of effort do you put into mental preparation? Do you practice visualization? How do you prepare for a race, mentally?

Fleshman won the the 5,000m at the USA Outdoor Championships in 2010, a race which resurrected her running career. Photo: PhotoRun.net

Mental preparation is everything. Literally. It is the catalyst for goal setting, the fuel for good training, and the bridge that takes you from preparation to rewarding performance. I use verbal and visual cues to get the most out of myself, inspired by my positive experiences with sports psychology and the things I’ve studied in yoga and energy work. An Irish Olympian friend of mine with a Psychology background (Ro McGettigan) and I spent a year designing visual cues that help put you in a particular frame of mind the way affirmations do, using the words and images that work for us in our running. It is super fun putting our artistic hats on and finding a way to communicate the messages and skills to other women.  We used this bank of knowledge and designs to create a totally unique training diary that includes both mental and physical preparation.  The diary is being released next week on BelieveIAm.com and we are bursting at the seams with excitement! It’s so fun to work in an area of uncharted territory, and to create sports psych tools that can help other people with a sustainable business model.

Elite running can be an incredibly taxing job–both mentally and physically. You’ve experienced many highs and lows in your career. Have you ever contemplated hanging up your spikes?

Elite running is the best job in the world when things are going well. But the lows are devastating. I’ve never been able to look myself in the mirror and say “I’m done.  I’m over it.”  Whenever I tried to say that, it felt like a big fat lie. So after my biggest injury challenges, when things were most bleak but I couldn’t quit for some reason, I changed my attitude and decided to be fully present where I was. I let the old me go and started over. It was like learning to be a runner all over again…a totally different experience that went beyond just running. It was more holistic I guess. I’m still competing because it’s fun and I want to see what I can do.

For the average runner reading this interview, the concept of covering 3.1 miles at sub-15:00 pace is nearly impossible. Still, you have the same challenges that all runners have, specific to achieving breakthroughs in performance. What advice can you give to someone who has, for example, been trying to PR in the 5K for several years in the search for that elusive breakthrough?

Let go of time. Identify the training and lifestyle adjustments you need to make to hit that goal, and then let go of the time. Focus instead on absorbing 100% of the benefits from training that you do by being mentally present and enjoying yourself.  Recognize the power of your mind to help or hurt you and you will break through that ceiling before you know it.

Besides running, you are a gifted writer. Any plans to ever pursue a career in writing?

Sometimes I fantasize about being a novelist in a cabin on a lake somewhere, on a roll at 3 a.m. with a cup of black coffee as the words pour out of me. Who knows; it’s a long life.

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