I can't tell you how many times I started down that path and thought, "Well, maybe I'm just not a trail runner." From the burn of lactic acid that seemed to build in every part of my body to the frustrated tears that came with every misstep and ankle twist, I legitimately thought this was a thing, like so many other sports I had tried in the past, that simply wasn't for me.
The problem with "not" is that it's a way to absolve ourselves from the responsibility to take ownership of the process. It wasn't that I really thought I could not physically run on trails. I knew that all I had to do was slow down and take it easy on myself. Somehow, though, I had gotten it in my head that because I had run Cross Country in high school everything would just click into place. That I'd be cruising up the hills and flying down every descent with the same reckless abandon I had as a young teenager. But as I attempted to build mileage for my first trail race, things hurt. New things hurt. I was nervous and clumsy. I was working harder but going slower than ever. Nothing about being out there felt right or natural. But it wasn't because, as I thought, that I was "just not a trail runner."
The truth is, I didn't know if I could find the ambition or resolve to dedicate myself to the training necessary to make it feel right and natural. The "Not" was a cop-out - it was a way to let myself off the hook if I failed. I could say "I'm too clumsy for that," instead of "I didn't take enough time to practice running on tricky trails." It was too easy to give in to the idea that I was not going to run like how I used to, which would stop me from ever really trying.
All too often, we create goals based on what we're not. We're not the weight we want to be. We don't run as fast as we used to. We're not eating right.
Instead of only focusing on what you're not, I'm here to challenge you to frame your goals around what you could be - to move forward with a sense of ambition built upon a curiosity about what is possible. Otherwise, we fall into the trap of engaging in self-fulfilling negative thoughts and behaviors that do nothing to help us recognize our true potential.
Instead of, "I'm not as fast as I used to be," think "I wonder what pace I can run out of my comfort zone for sixty seconds?"
Instead of, "I don't have the same metabolism as when I was young," think "How can I make healthy eating a priority?"
Instead of, "I don't have the time to get the results I want," try, "What results can I achieve with the time I have?
There will be tough runs and hard workouts. Some sweat sessions will feel amazing while others might make you question your motives. Some will downright suck and it'll be up to you entirely to push yourself through. When the negative chatter tries to force its way in, remember that you're there to see what you can do at that moment and on that day. Success can be measured in a variety of ways, not just time ran or weight lifted, so take note of how you feel with every workout. A workout journal can be a great source of inspiration as you flip back through to see which workouts used to feel difficult that you can now perform with ease.
To this day I still have challenging runs, but I don't get in my head about them anymore. I allow myself to vent my frustrations in the moment and then move on, because the tough runs are just as important as the successful ones. That's where I build confidence that I have the mental fortitude to keep moving even when I don't want to, or that I have the grit to keep pushing even if I feel like I'm falling short of my workout goals.
So when it comes to how you think or talk about your training, try eliminating "not" from your vocabulary. It may be a hard habit to break, but when you create that positive shift in your thinking, I truly believe you'll be successful in achieving your goals!