Talking to yourself is the first sign of sanity!

Posted by on Nov 24, 2016 in Running | 0 comments

As athletes we have many different aspects of our training to consider. Firstly there’s the importance of a structured training program. Secondly (or maybe joint first) we all know how important nutrition can be. Good nutrition for an athlete can be make or break! Not just day-to-day nutrition but also during exercise and your post training nutrition. Then there’s work commitments, family life and last but certainly not least, finding time for plenty of sleep in between. 

These are all important factors in our training and vital to an athletes success.

But what else do we need to be successful? 

What if I told you that you need to listen to the voices in your head? 

No this isn’t the beginning of a Stephen King style post! 

In reality we all have different voices that “talk” to us during the day but knowing which ones to listen to and how to respond can mean the difference between a great training day or a sucky sluggish hour. 

The first voice I call “The Governor.” The Governor is the voice that wants to protect us from danger. The Governor says, “stay in bed!” and “have some extra sleep!” The Governor also says, “You’ve trained hard enough this week. Have a day off!” Sometimes during a training session the Governor will say, “Wow that sounds dangerous. I don’t think we should even try that!” The Governor is a bit like your nan. “Have an extra biscuit, you’re looking a bit too lean.” All the Governor wants to do is protect you, feed you up with lots of calories and keep you safe at any cost. The Governor would quite happily keep us in bed all day, eating junk food and watching TV if it could because that’s the safe option. Essentially all the Governor wants to do is keep us alive … The Governor sees danger everywhere. Brain scientists might call the Governor the reptilian brain. Useful for survival but not for much else.

So how should we respond to the Governor ?

I think in order to understand and respond to the Governor, it’s important to know the difference between scary and dangerous. 

This is a great concept I’ve borrowed from Jim Koch an incredible entrepreneur and founder of Sam Adams beer.

Getting out of the bed and doing an early morning training session can be scary, especially if it’s our first time but is it dangerous? Sprinting up a hill you’ve never sprinted up before can feel scary but is it life threatening? Pushing ourselves to our limits can often feel scary and make us emotional but it really isn’t going to do us any long term damage. We all know the thing that’s truly dangerous is staying in bed, avoiding exercise and living an unhealthy lifestyle. Long term inactivity really is life threatening! So listen to the Governor, that voice that keeps us safe from harm but also recognise when the Governor is being a little bit overprotective.

“It’s ok Governor. Relax. We’ve got this!”

The other voice that comes up a lot I like to call “Leeroy.” This was the name a good friend of mine gave to his own negative internal dialogue. 

The first thing you need to know about Leeroy is that Leeroy is a bully. Leeroy says, “Ha! You can’t do that! Who do you think you are?!” Oh and his favourite is “Who are you trying to impress?! Why are you even trying?!” 

It’s important to understand that Leeroy is not you. Leeroy is a business associate of the Governor voice. He’s simply trying to protect you from danger. Leeroy, like the Governor, can be useful but he can also prevent us from achieving our potential. I like to reply to Leeroy with something along these lines … 

“We’re doing this because I am an athlete. I know I can do this. I’ve done this before. I am strong. I am powerful. I will succeed and I don’t need you.” 

Over time you can reprogram Leeroy to be a little less negative by creating your own inner narrative. Try talking to yourself the same way you would talk to a friend. Be kind and gentle and you will definitely improve your performance.

I often try to talk to myself the same way I talk to my daughter. 

Here were my first words to her when she was born …

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”

Shel Silverstein – “Listen to the Mustn’ts”

 

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