Monday, June 29, 2015

Forgetting Fear

Yesterday I listened to a really great podcast during my long run. Thanks to the Run to the Top podcasts, via my Runners Connect training site, I listen to a lot of running-related interviews while I run. Not only are they entertaining and/or informative, but usually they're also pretty inspiring. 

This particular podcast was with Dr. Stan Beecham, entitled "Why You Need to Believe You are Good Enough."

Dr. Stan is a sports psychologist, and he notes that all too often he sees athletes who doubt themselves in their sports. Not just runners, although the interview was mainly focused on running. 

What he really focused on is the idea that we set goals that are "safe", even when we don't think so. When we're training on our own, we structure workouts that we know we can succeed at, because failing is scary. Failing puts that seed of doubt in our minds that maybe we can't do it - whatever "it" is that we're training for. Not only is he a big proponent of running with a coach or training group, but also setting scary goals. 

What time are you 100% sure you can run? Throw that out the window.
What time are you 90% sure you can run? Throw that out the window.
60%? - There's the sweet spot. Dr. Stan encourages his athletes to set goals that they are 60% sure they can hit, but have 40% chance of failure. His reasoning?

Failing isn't bad. 

I repeat. Failing. Is. Not. Bad.

Failing teaches us how to reorder our priorities, and what we need to work on to hit our desired goals. Or to modifiy a goal to be more realistic. If you're like me, sitting there thinking "well, I'm not sure what time I could run with a 60% success rate so I'll just pick an arbitrary number and go for it." Then failure can help us learn to be more in line with an appropriate number. 

Because once you've fallen a few times, then you can succeed. Then you can put the fear behind you. Even if you fail at your 60% goal, you're still running faster than that 100% goal. Once the fear of failure is gone, then we can grow - accept the bumps with the successes and move along in our path towards our goal. We're not doing what is "safe"; we're challenging ourselves. In the end, even if you do fail, wouldn't you rather know that you tried your hardest rather than played it safe? 

I will admit, I have a pretty aggressive goal for my first marathon: 4 hours or less. According to my training program through RunnersConnect, that is attainable. Maybe not this training cycle, but I'm sure gonna try. Because my biggest obstacle towards that goal is my own self doubt, so I'm going to try my hardest to believe in myself. That may take several reminders, but hey - we're all a work in progress.

Do you set safe goals? How do you challenge yourself?


  1. I think that's interesting to say pick a goal you have a 40% chance of failing at. I definitely do not like to fail! haha :) Man, if you go under 4 hours, you will be flying! I'm sure you can do it, though. I'd like to try for sub-4 at some point in my life, but I was extremely pleased with my 4:14 too, so even if I don't I feel super proud of beating my goal time of 4:30!

    1. I know! Part of me is like "really? who do I think I am?" But I'm choosing to trust in the training, and see what happens. Technically, they have given me a predicted pace of 3:53:20, but I'm going to try to pace myself for 4. As long as I can get to the start line in one piece! That's half the battle too!

  2. This sounds like a very interesting podcast. I do agree that failing a couple of times does give you the freedom to succeed without the stress of failing (again)...if that makes any sense. I'm not certain I would suggest his method for setting a goal for running if it is just a hobby or for fun because in those instances I anticipate most people want to have an almost completely positive experience (at least that's how I feel). If you are running competitively (ie to make money or qualify for Boston/the Olympics), then I can see his strategy possibly working. It is fascinating to me how much of sports is about mindset. I love the sports psychology stuff so thanks for sharing!

    1. You are probably right in that most runners do not need to be so aggressive with their goals. He works with mostly professional athletes, though, so I think that's where his line of thinking comes from. But even as a hobbyist runner, I want to push myself and challenge myself to do better and better, so I think a middle ground is a good place to be.

  3. I love this so much. This is such an interesting topic and something I battle constantly. It's so easy to stay in a comfortable place (and pace), but that's not where progress happens. Excited to keep cheering you on to your first 26.2!

    1. I agree! I kind of had to laugh at the actual interview, because his personality and the interviewer's did not really mesh. But putting that aside, it was really great information.