I read an article in a running magazine that explained how caffeine could enhance a runner’s performance in a race by diminishing the perception of fatigue. I tried it in a marathon, and sure enough, not only did I set an all-time personal best, but I did so after expending precious energy conversing with a fellow runner during the entire first half of the race. Had I realized that my tongue would be stimulated along with my legs and had I focused more on the race, I’m sure I could have finished even faster.
In that instance and in others since, caffeine provided a boost that translated into a few minutes' difference in my race time. I don’t take in extra caffeine during my normal training. If I did, it wouldn’t have the same effect during a race. Also, without a solid base of fitness upon which to apply it, no amount of caffeine would set any records. In order to benefit from that extra boost, I had to put in many miles of training week after week, adhere to a healthy lifestyle day in and day out, and really enjoy running.
I didn’t start my running career that way. At first my motivation was rather shortsighted. I had recently recovered from a very bad cough and didn’t want to get that sick again. Over time I discovered the following principles, which are motivational experts’ bread and butter because they can be applied to almost any area of life:
1. Set small, reachable, short-term goals. When I first began running, my goal was to put on my running shoes, get outside, and run a little every day.
2. Don’t beat yourself up when you fall short. You will have bad days and bad spells; everyone does. Negative self-talk about a disappointing performance is more damaging than the “failure” itself.
3. Be flexible. Adapt to changing circumstances. Expect surprises and flow with them.
4. Aim High. Small, achievable, short-term goals are necessary, but so are large long-term ones. Dare to dream an impossible dream.
5. Nourish your dream. Why is this goal important to you? Why do you believe it can be done? Why do you believe you are the person to do it? Write down your answers, collect inspirational and motivational quotes and anecdotes that support your answers, and review them in times of crisis and self-doubt.
6. Have patience. When clocking your progress, watch the hour hand, not the second hand.