Words of Encouragement

Way to go/looking good/running strong/you got this/you rock/keep up the good work: so many phrases meant to boost the spirits of runners have often had a disheartening effect on me. It has become part of my training routine to learn to accept the boost that others might offer through their well meaning comments.

No doubt my failure to welcome these utterances has something to do with intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation; a successful run is its own reward and it has taken me years to train myself to develop a repertoire of internal dialogue that motivates me and sustains me through the tough parts.

And that’s just it-my dialogue is internal, fostered by a couple of decades of running mostly on my own. When someone calls out to me, I see myself from the outside for awhile and lose the motivational conversation I’ve been having with myself. Oh, I think, I must look like I need encouragement…maybe that’s cause I’m going so slowly…do I seem on the verge of quitting!? Hey, maybe I should quit, cause now that I think of it, this is just dumb and my quads are very tired.

Recently, I joined a couple of local running groups and therefore I am training in the company of others. Doing hill repeats this morning, I recognized that another of the benefits of working out with a group is that I get to practice exercising my inner monologue while being distracted by the performances of others and by their positive words. I have been given an opportunity to cultivate an attitude of acceptance of nurturing while endeavouring to power my muscles over hills (going over hills is easier than going up them) and along trails.

Connie Sobchak Running Club

So, the trick is realizing that praise is a gift and that gracious acceptance honours the praise giver.

In a situation such as the one I was in this morning, what I needed to recognize was the effort expended by those giving praise; they were also doing their best to charge up a hill and still they ventured outside of themselves enough to give support to others.

A thank you (though it might be a nod of the head due to the inability to use oxygen for anything other than the next breath) acknowledges their effort and floods the recipient with gratitude. And studies suggest that

“the more practice you give your brain at feeling and expressing gratitude, the more it adapts to this mindset — you could even think of your brain as having a sort of gratitude ‘muscle’ that can be exercised and strengthened… the more of an effort you make to feel gratitude one day, the more the feeling will come to you spontaneously in the future.”

(How Expressing Gratitude Might Change Your Brain by Christian Jarrett. )

Kind of like hill repeat training, isn’t it?


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