Seven tactics to stop comparing ourselves against others

Race resultsIn sport comparison is inescapable. If you are racing or competing there will always be numbers ranking us, digitizing us, making easy comparison to anyone else. It is a very quick way for athletes to lose confidence and develop low self-esteem. This social comparison can be harsh as someone else will always be better than you. Even Bolt got beaten. And Research has found that the harder we are on ourselves the harder it is to regain our motivation and we are less likely to achieve the goals we do set so, the more we compare, the worse we will do.

You can only compare effectively if you are starting from the same starting blocks as the person you are comparing to. We are each too unique to compare fairly. Even identical twins will have different personality traits, different talents and different motivations. But we never are. So comparison puts focus on something you have absolutely no control over putting yourself in an unwinnable, and very frustrating situation. To get on top of this negative comparison here are seven tactics to try:

  1. Focus on temporal comparison where you look at how you are doing compared to where you were in the past and where would you like to get to. You can then make clear steps and plans to get where you want to go and this helps you feel much more in control. In doing this we become more self-aware and can understand our motivations and ambitions better. If we tie this in with our own values we can feel authentic in the route we take. To identify these values ask yourself three questions:
    • What do you want to be remembered for?
    • When you look back over this year what will you need to achieve to feel proud?
    • What are the three values that matter most to you?

Once we look deeply at the ‘then, now and the future,’ and understand our values which support that then everything is in the open it is much easier to confront and deal with it.

  1. Remind yourself that the perfection you see in others is just an illusion. We only see the instagramable perfection of other’s lives. Research found people more likely to show positive emotions than negative ones and that we each tend to overestimate the presence of positivity in the lives of others. This means we a comparing our lives with an incomplete picture of someone else’s. You may see the great race result a club mate had but not the pain they have gone through in training. You see the picture perfect family day posted on facebook but not the mega tantrum two minutes before the shots were taken. There is always a far more realistic story behind it.
  2. We beat ourselves up for not ‘trying hard enough’ yet we are on a different journey in life to other people and were born with different advantages. There is a great saying – don’t measure yourself against someone else’s ruler. If you compare yourself to other people around you those people start become enemies, instead of your friends. Benchmarking their successes to evaluate ourselves against will make us jealous and bitter rather than supportive and excited for them. If you find yourself succumbing to this then a good point to remember is that we become like those we surround ourselves with. Surrounding ourselves with successful, ambition and hard working people and some of those elements will brush off on us – so it is not just altruistic, it is actually in our own interests for those around us to do well.
  3. Celebrate your uniqueness. What do you love about you? Forget being humble. What is great about you? What values do you have, what traits do you love, when do you feel proud?
  4. Remember and document your successes – keep a diary or a ‘jar of joy’ and note down when you have been proud of something you have worked hard towards and achieved. When you find yourself starting to compare with others pull out a note and read through it.
  5. Find things that matter to you which cannot be measured. Race times, school grades, work appraisals all use numbers and are very easy for us to use to compare to each other. But some of the loveliest things in life can’t be compared. Seeing an amazing view from a mountain you have climbed, drinking the perfect cocktail on a lovely beach, eating fish and chips with your best mate on a park bench putting the world to rights, a run along the river where you come up with a solution to a problem you’ve been ruminating over, taking a picture of a friend or child that completely captures their personality, making someone’s day by baking them a cake they weren’t expecting. All things which have no measurement, but will bring you, and often someone else a little piece of joy.
  6. If you can’t help yourself comparing then study the person you are envious of and understand what it is you envy and then work out how you can achieve that. If they are famous then read interviews or autobiographies. Pull out the envy element and make a plan for how you can develop that. Write down three things you could learn from them to help you get closer to what they have achieved? When you find yourself starting to get jealous look over these, remind yourself you are on a different journey to them, and pick one of the things you can learn from them as your goal for the next week.



The six rules of being a great sports parent

parent pictureSport is really important for children. The physical benefits are obvious but research has also found school children who exercise improve their sociable behaviour, their classroom conduct, control their emotions better and perform better on school tests. It also increases their self-esteem and confidence, improves their sleep, reduces stress and anxiety and helps improve communication skills.

So pushing kids towards sport can have tonnes of benefits. And yet often sports parents have an awful reputation. Taking Tennis as an example, Steffi Graf’s dad had her down to be a tennis star from birth. At 3 she was expected to hit the ball back to her dad 25 times before she was allowed ice-cream. At five she was competing. Andre Agassi’s dad was no better. He hung tennis balls above his cot. By seven he was expected to hit 2,500 balls a day. The dads of Bernard Tomic, Jennifer Capriati, Mary Pierce and Jelena Dokic all got into fights over their kid’s tennis – including at times directly with their kids. These players were successful despite their parents’ behaviour. Thousands of others aren’t including the 70% of kids who drop out of sport by the age of 13. Many because gentle encouragement turned into parental pushing and the sport they used to love becomes full of pressure and stresses and absolutely no fun.

So here are six simple rules to help you get the balance right so your child can become a positive, confident and motivated young athlete who loves sport long into adulthood.

Rule 1 – Help them develop a long term love of sport

Many adults do sport to release the pressures of everyday life. Kids need to do this too and sport should be a stress relief, not something that adds to their worries. So there are three ways to help your child develop this long term love of sport in a healthy way:

  • Give them a range of sporting options. It keeps sport fun and their minds fresh. Trying lots of sports creates the building blocks for success in terms of health (movement, coordination, balance, techniques, strength) and life skills (working to capacity, understanding the science of practice, learning to accept and use feedback, learning from and moving on from mistakes and self-reflection). Even if you want your child to turn into the Federer or Williams of their generation, research has found that those who specialise in their sport too early are less likely to make it as an elite athlete than those who competed in a range of sports in their early teens.
  • Remember children are not mini athletes. They are children. If they develop a self-identity as a type of athlete early in life it may stifle other facets of their personality.
  • It is much easier to cope with the tough times in sport if your child is intrinsically motivated and really loves the sport they do. If they are competing because they love the rewards or accolades or to keep you as parents happy then they will be fine when they compete well but when they go through a bad patch (as almost every athlete inevitably will) they will really struggle and may well drop out.

Rule 2 – Be supportive but let your child take the lead

The need for intrinsic motivation means you want your child’s involvement in sport to be self-led.  The Paralympic swimmer and now cyclist Sarah Storey has said her parents always made it clear they would never wake her up for swimming. If she wanted to go to training at 5:30am it was her job to wake them. So if your child is pushing to go to training then fantastic. If you have to issue threats to go then the intrinsic motivation is not there and eventually those threats will backfire and the child will refuse to continue playing. But go too far the other way and they will think you don’t care or don’t want them to do well. It is a difficult balancing act so here as a few ways to let them lead while making it clear you support them:

  • Help them pack their kit before training or competition
  • Encourage them to get a good night’s sleep and make the sleep environment as conducive to this as possible This will put them in a more positive frame of mind, feel more creative and help their concentration.
  • Encourage them to eat breakfast as they will need the energy both physically and mentally to help them concentrate when playing and make good decisions.
  • Be early to competitions so they don’t panic or get stressed.
  • If they are worried about letting you down just remind them you love watching them compete and that no matter what the score is you are proud of the way they have shown up and put lots of effort in.

Rule 3 – Learn how your child performs best and create that environment

One of the biggest difficulties all athletes struggle with is comparison. So many compare themselves to each other. This is hard enough as an adult but in school, when you are continually being ranked in educational results and tests and are all developing at different speeds it is really tough. So it is important to help children understand we are each different and all bring our own talents and skills to our sport. Chat with them about all the things that make us different (age, genetics, medical history, bone, muscle, tendon structure, length of time playing sport, sleep, nutrition, school pressures, training history and our personality traits) and how this will mean they should not compare themselves to others in their sport.

Rule 4 – Focus on the process not the result

This is important for all of us – whether 6 or 60. We should focus on praising the effort someone has put into their sport rather than the outcome. Focusing on results simply creates pressure, stress and anxiety and increases risk of drop out. In focusing on the effort they put in, the way they played and their sporting behaviours they will continue to improve and develop a growth mindset. There are three ways as a parent to help your child learn this:

  1. Don’t focus on or discuss scores in depth. Focus on the skills they used, how they behaved, how well they bounced back from a difficult period.
  2. Help them reflect and self-analyse their competitions. What did I do well, what could I do better, what will I continue doing, what will I do differently. This makes every competition becomes a positive learning experience.
  3. In competitions your job is just to watch. Not shout advice, or yell at officials. Cheer and applaud when you should and celebrate hard work and effort.

Rule 5 – Teach them sporting failure is not the same as personal failure

Every time you catch your child making statements like ‘I failed’ ‘I’m a failure’ ‘I’m rubbish’ ‘My team sucks’ pick them up on the words they are using and reframe them to show that the behaviour that day, or the outcome of that single competition, wasn’t great but that it does not reflect on them as a person. Tell them it was a bad result, but that doesn’t make them a bad player. Dramatic language often comes into play when we feel we’ve not done our best but separating out the sport from the child helps to put it back in its place.

Rule 6 – Use evidence based research to keep them injury free

Finally, staying injury free will help keep your child active and improving. Research has looked at how to minimise the risk of injury to kids and following the six tips here will help:

  • Total hours of organised sport each week should be less than their age
  • Incorporate some age appropriate strength and conditioning work
  • Compete in only one sport a season
  • Make your child take at least one day off a week from organised sport
  • Encourage them to take a month off after their competitive season ends
  • Hold them off specialising in sport until 14 (as early specialisation increases risk of over-use injuries, burnout and losing motivation)

Seven steps to give you a mindset for success in any sport

DeathtoStock_SWEAT-2It is competition season. Working mainly with athletes in individual summer sports means everyone is currently slap bang in the middle of their seasons. While the sports call for very different physical skills many of the issues the athletes are dealing with come down to the same fundamentals prompting me to reflect on some universal tactics used by athletes performing at their very best.

  1. 80: 20 Training: 80% of your training sessions should feel doable and shouldn’t stretch you too much. They are building fitness and skills. 20% of your training should be pushing you into places you are not sure you can go. These are the adversity sessions which physiologically build your top end performance but most importantly from a psychologist perspective help develop your mental toughness.
  2. Build lots of little successes: We get our most robust confidence from two areas: knowing we have the skills we need and seeing the evidence of when we have done well before. So in your training find lots of small wins, lots of little things that you can tick off and feel confident you are getting closer towards your goal. That usually means breaking down your goal into the smallest elements possible and achieving each part bit by bit.
  3. Make as much as possible feel familiar: To reduce our anxieties we need to make the environment we are going into when we perform seem as familiar and welcoming as possible. So training on the course we are going to race on, or practicing at the club our next match is on helps. If crowds make you nervous get some friends and family down to watch a training session. While uncomfortable at that time it will make everything feel much easier come competition day.  
  4. No black and white: If competitions become seen as a win or a fail you will have a miserable time. If you see each competition as an opportunity to learn you can extract far more from each competition, find far more benefits and possibly win along the way.
  5. Find your motivation first, then support: Having everyone else tell you how good you are is lovely – but it doesn’t give you the intrinsic motivation that is so important to mobilizing your drive to perform. So start with that drive, understand what it is that makes you love your sport, then go out and find others who share that passion to help you improve.
  6. Control the controllables: There is so much in competition you have no control of. And worrying about those things just wastes the energy you should be putting into your sport. But lots of elements you can control and worrying about those things, and doing something about them, is often what makes your competition successful. Winging it may give you a neat excuse for not doing well but it rarely creates the ideal environment for a successful performance. Instead, meticulous planning so no kit is forgotten, knowledge and having trained specifically for the course ahead and self-awareness to design the right mental strategies will all be beneficial and improve your chances of success.
  7. Stop focusing on winning: You can rarely control an exact outcome, there are too many variables involved. But you can control the processes you need to follow to be in with the best chance of winning. So focus on the processes, the day to day elements of your sport you will have been working on for years. This keeps you focused, stops you freezing when you realise the big picture of what is at stake and keeps you grounded in good, strong technique. If you get this right the results will follow.

You can do anything – but not everything

Anything EverythingThis is my favourite phrase. It reminds me that that much as I’d like to be a superwoman there just aren’t enough hours in the day to be one. It suggests I’m not a failure if I don’t achieve everything – just that time is limited and no-one else could either.

I thought of this phrase when I went to chat to a group of new mums who are soon to head back to work. Having 6-12 months out of work to bring up a new baby is an amazing experience. But it can also leave us feeling rather vulnerable when we go back to work. Not only are there many questions floating round our heads about whether we remember what to do, how we will ever see our baby, will flexible working be possible, do we need to prove our work commitment all over again and whose job takes priority when baby is ill, or childcare falls through but we may have lost a little work confidence too, making it a nerve racking time. Before baby we were able to stay late, work weekends when projects required it, and have a good gossip over lunch. When nursery hours are limited and we want to get home for baby hugs we need to remember that ‘superwoman doing everything’ goes out the window and prioritisation comes into play.

So I chatted with the girls in my NCT group and we came up with five areas where a bit of honest reflection, some planning, and a dash of performance psychology techniques could help us get back into working life as comfortably and stress free as possible.

Feeling out of the loop professionally:

Lots of us were worried about things having moved on in the time we were away. It could be systems, computer programs, teams, colleagues, line managers, senior staff and, particularly for those in legal, HR, clinical and accounting professions, regulations and laws having changed.

Some tips to cope if this is an issue for you:

  • Ask for a KIT (Keep in Touch) day a few weeks before you go back so you can reacclimatise to the workplace, understand what has changed and prepare yourself for it.
  • Be open to learning new stuff – you have just learnt from scratch how to keep a baby alive so picking up computer changes will be well within your capabilities!
  • Instead of thinking you are going back to your own role maybe try to see it within your head as starting a new job – mentally it will feel less frustrating than going back to the same job with lots of changes.

Feeling out of the loop socially:

If you have been away from an office or your work environment you will not just have missed processes or systems changing but people. When you start in a new company going on staff nights out or lunches is a great way to get up to speed. But if you are working compressed hours to get back in time for nursery or childminder shutting or would rather spend your evening with your little one than networking in a pub then this isn’t possible.

Some tips to cope if this is an issue for you:

  • A baby commodifies everything. You are constantly prioritising and working out the value of something again the cost of childcare and whether you genuinely want or need to do something over seeing your baby. So accept this rather than fighting it or feeling it is unfair. I’ve found it helps me make decisions about what I value doing and prioritising becomes simpler. Would I rather go to X event or spend my evening with baby. Baby wins a lot!
  • Agree with your other half on how you will deal with evening events. Do you have one evening a week each to use for yourself; work, networking sessions, seminars, gym, drinks with friends? Or agree to own certain nights as your bath / bed nights for baby where the other one has more work or social flexibility.

Having to prove yourself again:

If you have spent a long time building your reputation in work, particularly in companies which have a long-hours culture or are very heavily male dominated, you may feel you need to re-establish your reputation and deal with some of the stereotypes that may be banded about around where your priorities will be.

Some tips to cope if this is an issue for you:

  • This one can feel really unfair and can be a real issue in some industries. Write a stock answer you use for all the annoying comments. Something like: ‘Work will feel easy after looking after a baby 24/7’. Repeat it over and over again until they get bored of winding you up.
  • Don’t try to prove yourself to anyone except the people you have to. It just causes lots of stress. Use your lack of time and flexibility to your advantage and be really focused on just what you need to do and who you do that for. This means being really clear from your line manager what your objectives are and what they see as priorities. Stick to these. Goal setting can be really helpful here. There is a template and worksheet you can use here. It is based on athletes but works just as effectively for mums heading back to work.

Justifying decisions:

Many of us fear being judged. We want to do the best; for ourselves, for our babies, for our companies, for our society. It can be difficult being questioned or judged about the choices you make, or even thinking you will be questioned. Many of us worry if we have had too much time off or too little? Should we go back flexibility or ask for fewer hours? And not only do we question ourselves but very unhelpfully lots of other people feel it is ok to question us too.

Some tips to cope if this is an issue for you:

  • Everyone has an opinion. Either because something genuinely worked for them and they think they are being helpful, because they want to validate the choices they made or sometimes just trying to make conversation. But it can feel intrusive, personal and judgemental – especially if you are questioning any of your choices yourself. Expect the opinions. Makes it feel less personal.
  • When you are offered advice, nod and smile and say “that sounds interesting I’ll think about that.” And then forget it instantly. They feel important and listened to. You get them off your back.
  • Internally, in your own head, have a mantra. This is a short phrase you repeat over and over to yourself and can block out some of the negative or guilty thoughts we have. It could be ‘I’m here so my baby has a great role model.’ ‘Baby is learning great social skills at nursery.’ The mantra needs to be personal and honest but can help you block out the naysayers outside and inside your own head.

Staying robust and resilient:

Finally, it is hard to stay robust and resilient when you lack any confidence. And if you have had a chunk of time away from the workplace it can be easy to let your confidence slide. Add to this fears about the choices you’ve made for childcare, the fact you may be surviving on very little sleep and simply missing your little one and your confidence can be knocked very easily.

Some tips to cope if this is an issue for you:

  • Actively build your confidence. Confidence comes from many sources but the two most robust ones are knowing you have the skills to do what you want to do and feeling you have the experience and evidence of this experience to do what you want to do. So grab a piece of paper and write down all the skills you already had in the workplace and the ones you have added by learning how to look after a baby. The mums I chatted to had some great strengths they had developed over their maternity leave including procrastinating far less, an enhanced ability to multitask, a new sense of perspective on what was really important and the ability to do everything on very little sleep.
  • Create your ‘what if’ plan. Every Olympic athlete does this but it can work really well in our daily lives too. Down one side of a sheet of paper write down all the things you are worrying about happening, then what you can do to prevent them happening, and what you will do if they do occur. This means you front up to everything that is weighing down on your shoulders and you feel much more prepared if something does happen.

We prepared a couple of examples:

Fear To prevent it happening I will… If it does happen.…
All the regulations in my field have changed. I’ll have to learn everything again. Ask if there is a junior or intern in the office who could pull together info on any regulatory changes in the last year.

Sign up to email updates for my profession to keep updated.

Get hold of the last nine months of magazines for my profession and read them during baby’s nap time.

Agree with line manager that I can have a session with them on changes in the sector while I have been away.

Ask line manager if I can attend a professional conference where many of the recent changes will be discussed.

Ask for someone to mentor me back into the workplace while I find my feet again.


Being new to the team I worry I still have to prove myself and I can’t do this if I have to leave by 5pm to pick up my baby from nursery. Work out with my other half that one of us will do drop off and the other pick up so we can work hours needed at one end of the day.

Log on after baby is asleep so you can show you are working flexibly.


Explain to line manager that you feel you are being judged on time in office rather than productivity and ask for their support.

Find another parent in the office and discuss how they have been able to prove their worth and be there for their children (People are really flattered to be asked for their advice so this can work well)

So hopefully there are some ideas above that can help you feel a little bit more like superwoman -while remembering that you don’t have to. The most important thing to do is to reflect on what is worrying you and prepare for it. The more prepared we are, the harder it is for something to knock us over so we can be strong for ourselves and our babies.

1 week to Marathon – confidence booster

confidence-boostersWhether you think you can or you can’t, you are right.

This famous phrase amplifies just how much of whether you succeed is down to your mind. Over the last seven weeks I have blogged some ideas you can use to stay on track and ensure your mind is fully prepared for the London Marathon. This post, with one week to go, suggests you put the icing on your cake by creating your confidence booster.

Self-belief and confidence make achieving our goals far easier. One of the best ways to boost your confidence is to find the evidence and remind yourself of all the fantastic things you have done in the build up to the marathon to get you into the best shape.

So, like in the picture above, get a piece of paper, get out your training diary and write down:

  • Your goal for the Marathon
  • Your mantra which you will use when it gets tough
  • Your strength that you will be able to draw upon when you struggle
  • 3 sessions you did in your build up which give you evidence that you are well prepared

Keep this paper in your wallet, or kit bag, or by the side of your bed and when you feel the nerves creeping in, read through it and remind yourself how hard you have trained and how much you deserve to achieve your goal.

Have a fantastic marathon day. May your goals be hit and your celebrations fun!

3 weeks to Marathon – reframe your thoughts

reframingOver the eight weeks’ final build up to the London Marathon I am blogging some ideas you can use to stay on track and ensure your mind is as prepared for the race as your body is. This post, with three weeks to go, suggests you practice reframing some of those negative thoughts you’ve found creeping into your head when you have been running.

When you have a bad run you may start to notice negative thoughts sneaking into your head. We have thousands of thoughts each day and it is not surprising if some of those are negative ones. When we are struggling, our body hurts, we feel we don’t have much energy and we are not achieving the times we think we ought to these thoughts quickly turn negative and we start to beat ourselves up. Instead of trying to block these thoughts – something which is incredibly hard to do for a very long time (and most of our training at this stage of marathon preparation does mean we are out for a long time) – instead try to reframe those thoughts into more positive statements.

A way to do this is to write down the negative thought you find yourself having most often. And then, with that list in front of you, consider how you could change each phrase into something more positive. Perhaps from:

  • ‘I am too slow to be a runner’ to ‘I am running – that makes me a runner’.
  • ‘I can’t do this’ to ‘I am doing this’.
  • ‘It’s too far’ to ‘It is just a parkrun to go. I’ve run that dozens of times.’
  • ‘They are laughing at me’ to ‘I’ll have the last laugh – I’m getting fit and healthy.’

The more you practice reframing these thoughts the easy it becomes doing it when actually out running.

And if you are wondering if something is actually negative or if it is a valid point ask yourself one question:

Would I say this to a friend?

If you wouldn’t say it to a friend then you shouldn’t say it to yourself. And this Buzzfeed video (excuse the language used) brings this idea to life so well.

Marathon done – Banish any post race blues

medal-displaysIn the build up to the London Marathon I blogged some ideas that you could use to stay on track and ensure your mind was as prepared for the marathon as your body was. Now the marathon is over there is one final thing to keep in mind; how to savour your success and stay happy with what you have achieved.

Not everyone needs this. You may well be rocking the comedy walk this morning and have trouble removing the incredibly well deserved grin off your face. That grin may even be pasted on for the next few weeks – and that is fantastic. But for some people, when they have lived for a specific date, focused so hard on their training and achieved something amazing, they can actually feel quite deflated once it is all over. So, over the next few days if you start to feel a little down, don’t worry – this is not unusual. Post-race blues have been experienced by many athletes.

If you do find yourself in this position here are four things to try:

  • Create a momento of the marathon; something which collates your medal, race number, photos and any mantra’s you used that you can put up in your home and remind yourself of what you achieved.
  • Plan something exciting you can look forward to in the week or so as your post marathon treat.
  • Consider which goal you want to go for next. Is it to go longer, or faster, or to try a variation of road running like a triathlon, cross country or some track events? Set that goal and enter the race.
  • Find a way to payback all the social support you got during your marathon training from your family and friends. Social support of your training and racing can make a big difference to how successful you are able to be so now you have some time off after the marathon use that time to thank them and to support them in their sport or hobby. It will make them feel special, and earn you some brownie points for when you enter your next race!

2 weeks to Marathon – make your mantra

logo-bottleOver the eight weeks’ final build up to the London Marathon I am blogging some ideas you can use to stay on track and ensure your mind is as prepared for the race as your body is. This post, with two weeks to go, suggests you create your marathon mantra.

As you approach your taper and start to focus on the marathon itself it is a great time to reflect on your motivation for running the marathon and what you want to achieve, whether it is to finish, to finish in a certain time, to finish having enjoyed yourself so much you want to do it again. With this in mind you can create your mantra. This is a short phrase or even a single word that you repeat over and over again to keep positive thoughts in your head. It will often be about your goal or your motivation for your race and it works best when it is personal to you to remind you why you are doing the marathon. Repeating this mantra over and over when you start to feel the nerves on the start line, or even struggle during the race, will keep your mind positive and you motivated and stops those negative voices creeping into your head.

The justification for incorporating a mantra into your race tool kit comes from the well researched benefits of self-talk. Self-talk is the way we all unconsciously talk to ourselves in our heads. What we say to ourselves can impact our behaviours and if we consciously make our self-talk positive we can behave it a way which is much more beneficial to our racing ambitions. It has been found to boost confidence and increase your perseverance.

A great piece of research presented recently came from Alister McCormick who was at the University of Kent. He worked with a group of ultra runners training for a 60 mile race. He taught half the group to use self-talk and half a different skill. The self-talk group finished their ultra race 25 minutes quicker than the other group. They had no additional training. Just used this one technique.

You can create your mantra from one of three areas:

  • Something which reminds you of your motivation for racing (‘I’m running for those who can’t’ or ‘I’m running to raise load of money for my charity’)
  • Something which reminds you of your goal (‘That medal is mine’ or ‘I will get that PB’)
  • Something technical and helps keep your technique on track (‘Pick up your feet’ or ‘shoulders back airways open’).

In all three areas it has been found to have positive impact. You can have something you use every race, or something which helps you in specific types of races.

So how to pick your mantra?

  • It needs to be personal to you.
  • It needs to be positive.
  • It needs to be memorable – so it is front of mind and easy to remember when you need it.
  • It needs to be short – so you can write it down when you may need a reminder; on your gel packets, on your hand, on your drinks bottle.

A wonderful example which is short, memorable, motivational and personal comes from an athlete who attended a workshop I ran last year. He had previously been overweight and unfit. He had worked really hard to lose the weight, build up his fitness and enter a triathlon. As he ran past his dad who was watching him race he overheard his dad proudly boast to another spectator: “that’s my son.” This pride he heard in his dad’s voice made him realise he could never quit the journey he was on and that with each race he was achieving more and more.  Every race he now runs, when he starts to struggle, he hears the words ‘that’s my son’ in his head and knows he will always make it to the end.

4 weeks to Marathon – Distraction technique


Over the eight weeks’ final build up to the London Marathon I’m blogging some ideas you can use to stay on track and ensure your mind is as prepared for the marathon as your body is. This post, with four weeks to go, suggests you spend some time deciding which distraction technique will work for you.

As you may have discovered during your long runs, sometimes you have a bad day. Your legs hurt, your motivation is through the floor and you wonder if getting round 26.2 miles is realistic. When you have this horrible run, instead of feeling your heart sink, think of it as a great opportunity to practice how you will overcome the bad periods you will go through in the marathon. For many people the distraction technique works well.

You may already have a distraction technique you use when you want to take your mind off how many more miles you still have to go, or off the soreness emanating from your legs. There are hundreds of ways to do this and we each have our own preference. When I have asked athletes what they use I am always struck by how varied the responses are.  Here are a bunch that I’ve seen athletes use and have found successful.

  • Counting up to 100 and back down again in another language
  • Writing your race report in your head
  • Thanking every volunteer marshal
  • Creating a list of 26 things
  • Thinking of the perfect tweet to summarise your race
  • Planning your post race treat
  • Finding someone who is running the same pace as you and chatting to them
  • Making up the story of the person running in front of you
  • Breaking the distances down that you have left into distance you know you have no problem in running: ‘just 2 parkruns to go’
  • And my favourite: Create a competition in your head for the best banner you have see

Whatever your distraction is it will take your mind off your body and focus your brain on something else, helpfully meaning when you click back into the marathon you are further down the road towards the finish.