Out There: Absence Of Negativity

Blocking out negative thoughts is crucial to good athletic performance. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

It’s amazing what the body can do once the mind gets into shape.

Last weekend, I was in Las Vegas to cover a race for Triathlete magazine. At a pre-race press conference, I was talking with professional triathlete Heather Wurtele about her season — one she has called “her best ever.”

“This year, your run speed seemed to improve overnight!” I pointed out. She smiled broadly. “So … what’s your big secret?”

I expected the typical “professional athlete” answer, a canned statement vaguely describing lots of speedwork, extra time in the gym, or even a new nutritional philosophy. But instead, I got an answer that took me by surprise:

“I started believing in myself.”

At 6-foot-2, Heather’s lanky frame has been treated as a liability when it comes to running. Since becoming a professional triathlete in 2007, a Greek chorus of sorts has followed her: That height makes her an amazing cyclist. Too bad it works against her on the run.

After hearing it for so long, Heather started to wonder if maybe they were right. That pessimism became a big roadblock, standing in her way of becoming the racer she wanted to be.

RELATED: Out There: Running And Hoarding

This year, though, she’s changed that. By choosing to ignore the voices (on the sidelines and in her head), Heather’s stuck to her training plan and trusted hard work and persistence would lead to a faster run.

“I didn’t improve overnight; there’s been a progression. It’s not so much an increase in my self-esteem as it is that I’m easier on myself. Belief is the absence of negativity.”

The self-fulfilling prophecy is a powerful thing. Just by believing something — regardless of its truth or lack thereof — you can alter an outcome, for better or for worse. Sadly, most of us err on the side of “worse.” More often than not, I hear negativity from the mouths of my fellow athletes:

I’m too old to run. I don’t have the right body type. I’ll never qualify for Boston. I feel fat and slow. This is not going well. Why does my coach keep telling me to run this pace when it’s so obvious I can’t do it?

Wurtele was “too tall to run fast” until she decided she wasn’t going to stand for that kind of talk anymore — and as a result, she’s fast. Not “fast for a tall girl” — just fast.

Imagine what would happen if you decided to confront the negative chatter in your head and tell it to shut the hell up.

I bet it’d be pretty amazing.

RELATED: Out There: An Open Letter To Runners Everywhere

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About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke

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