PUSHING YOURSELF During Exercise – A Series!

Boy getting out the door to start exercising, no matter what

Getting Out the Door to Exercise is the first and only real priority for the day, and the first article in the PUSHING YOURSELF during exercise series!

This is a series about pushing yourself (motivating yourself) while exercising. It can be applied to any exercise I guess, but in this series I’ll talk mostly about running and walking/running up steps. Those are two exercises that I do daily – one or the other.


1. Getting Out the Door to Exercise!
2. Visual Imagery!
3. Shaming Yourself!
4. Positive Self Talk!
5. Delay of Gratification!
6. Coaching Yourself!
7. Competition!

The first obstacle to getting started on a regular exercise program is just getting yourself out the door on a regular basis to exercise. There are a couple ways I’ve used in the past to get myself motivated to go exercise.

The first and maybe best step is to make exercise part of your schedule. Make a list everyday in the morning or the night before that details exactly what you want to accomplish as a minimum for the day, but I also include some extras that I’d like to get to if possible. Extras are asterisked.

My Getting Things Done list for today is:

1. Check if all sites are running. Read RSS feeds. Read, respond, archive all email. Check Adsense. Check Google Analytics: all sites.
2. Deposit cash at Bangkok Bank.
3. Start new blog series – exercise – motivational topics. Write 1-3* posts, schedule publishing.
4. Approve Crank101 comments, respond to new comments. Post large comment response to Dave.
5. Change second column to add Mark Allen quote post-it.
6. Store HDD content on DVD.
7. 5 pm., climb the steps up the mountain!
8. Find decent raincoat.


When exercise is part of the schedule it cannot be changed.


It’s written in stone. There is nothing you can possibly do to change it and it must be crossed off the list for the day. It’s helpful for me if I make the list I do every morning required activities. There’s nothing on the list that isn’t going to get done. They are MUST GET DONES.

Notice that number 7, steps, is the only one that has a time next to it. Everything else is flexible, but the time I exercise is not. That’s because it isn’t going to be changed. At 5 pm. every day I leave to exercise. In the past when my schedule was less set in stone I’ve set an alarm to go off two hours before that reminds me I’m going running at a certain time. That alarm alerts me to get everything done that needs done by the time I go running and it also prepares my mind for the activity.

The second thing that makes exercising easier is that I don’t define much about what the actual workout will be. It says “steps” but, in reality it might turn into a run up the hill at a nearby park. There is an amazing hill that goes 4 km (2.5 miles) up this mountain and it’s really a great run and gives me an hour+ exercise. It’s shady and just ideal for a hard workout.

If I do the steps, how many times I climb is predicated on how I feel, nothing else. If I go to the top the first time and I feel great, then I’ll consider doing it again. I don’t plan on it until I get up and back down to the bottom to see how I feel at that point. Still great? Can you do another 1,237 steps up and back down? Have time? Do it again. I’ll repeat the process at the top the second time. Do I feel great? Good enough to do it again? I answer, but whether I do it a third time depends entirely on how I feel at the bottom after coming down the second time. Still feel great? Have time? Need to stay awake tonight for anything? (Doing it three times wipes me out pretty good and I sleep early as a result!) Do it again! Or not. I may do it once or three times – no telling by the schedule and it doesn’t matter since I don’t put any restrictions on what I do. I do a minimum of thirty minutes of exercise, but there’s no maximum. So if I feel good, I just keep going.

The third thing that makes exercising easier for me is that I am in the moment as I do it. I fully experience the exercise and I realize that it’s the most fun I could possibly be having at the time. I’d rather be exercising and fine-tuning my body for better health than anything else I can think of. I am aware of this the entire time I exercise. I really enjoy it. If I feel good and I’m really pushing – it hurts a lot more, but I’m getting a lot more done so the ego satisfaction makes it worth it. If I’m going slow – it’s easy and fun to be outdoors doing something instead of in the house not doing anything for my body.

Either way – it’s fun. Make it fun for you by not pushing when you don’t feel like pushing. Just make sure you GO and do something, even if it’s walking around a park. If you go to walk around a park then maybe after one time you feel great. Can you do two times? After two ask again – three? And so on. Next time maybe you’ll run one-hundred yards. Then walk for 600. Then run again for fifty yards. No matter WHAT you accomplish as you get started the main thing is you are accomplishing much more than sitting down at home.

Other things that may motivate you to get out the door and exercise:

Some people are motivated by the chance to meet someone of the opposite sex. This possibility does exist, maybe it’s easier at a park or along a river or boardwalk. Choose a place filled with people if that’s what drives you.

Others are motivated to start exercising among a group of people that are not competitive with them. Meaning, if you are thirty years old and overweight you don’t want to go to the local 400 m track and run circles with the high school and college kids training at the track. Better to head for a park or go where the seniors exercise. When you first start out you’ll feel much better as you’ll feel like a champ, not a loser! Make yourself the winner as often as possible.

I have a friend that loves to run in her new shoes. I don’t know what it is, but she buys new shoes often and really enjoys the whole routine of getting in her little short-shorts, tight running top and bright neon Nikes. For her running is partly about being seen. She runs at “Bayshore Blvd.” in Tampa. If you know it – there’s a sidewalk that borders over five miles of ocean and many beautiful old homes in South Tampa. I think she feels like a movie star to run there. If it works, do it!

Plan to run with other people at the same level as you are. This makes it tough to get out of because the other people will be going – and it’s harder to miss it because you’ll have social pressure to make it every day. Some people run well with others – I never have. I really enjoy running by myself but if I was starting out I think I’d find it fun to run with other slow people for a while.

Eat what you like! Part of the fun of exercising a lot – like cycling for four to seven hours or running for two hours is that you have the luxury of eating whatever you like. After a hundred mile bike ride I loved that I could eat a whole quart of coffee flavored Haagen Dazs ice-cream. Then I could have pizza for dinner. Spaghetti for a snack! If you run for an hour at a moderate pace you may burn anywhere from 450-800 calories. That’s a lot of food.

You can choose:

1. Eat just a little more and eat smart. This will cause you to lose weight gradually. Or,
2. Eat what you want to cover the number of calories you just burned. Remember, Greg Lemond, Tour de France Winner, loved his ice-cream!

The rest of this series is dedicated to motivating you to continue exercise or to push yourself while exercising. The mind needs to be overcome and sometimes tricked into pushing the body to do more. This series will deal with “PUSHING YOURSELF!”

Best of Life!

Find me at Twitter HERE >


1. Getting Out the Door to Exercise!
2. Visual Imagery!
3. Shaming Yourself!
4. Positive Self Talk!
5. Delay of Gratification!
6. Coaching Yourself!
7. Competition!

Running at the park

PUSHING YOURSELF During Exercise [Positive Self Talk]

Positive self talk - woman with wide-eyes.

Positive Self Talk is the fourth article in the series about PUSHING YOURSELF during exercise to help you get the highest possible benefit out of your session.

This is a series on pushing yourself while exercising. It can be applied to any exercise, but in this series, I’ll talk about running and walking/running up steps. Those are the two exercises that I do daily – one or the other.

This technique of pushing myself to go harder when I otherwise might not involves me talking to myself. Sometimes I talk to myself just in my mind. However, if nobody is around it’s much more motivational to talk to myself out-loud.

As I said in the last post, “Shaming Yourself,” I sometimes notice that I’m just cruising through my exercise. I’m good at pushing it at least once per session but when that push is over sometimes I settle down into complacency, just happy that I successfully pushed myself to do something I wasn’t really planning on.

One of the real keys to having fun while exercising is that I never plan on pushing. That’s something you might want to try as well. Put no expectations on your exercise session. Your only requirement should be – getting out the door and doing it. What happens when you’re out there is wide open for whatever happens. You might feel great that day, you might feel on the verge of injury and need to take it slowly. You might have a stomach cramp, but you might use that to your advantage by learning to push through it instead of going more slowly. You might use it to your advantage to learn what to do with a cramp during a race.

If the pace and effort of the exercise is left to be wide open you are surprised and happy when you go beyond what you might have normally done. This is a very positive motivator because there was nothing major planned, but you pushed it – even once – and made it a more beneficial session than you thought it would be.

Contrast this to pre-planning what your session will consist of. If you plan out every detail and make it a strictly followed formula the exercise won’t be fun. I’ve done this. I’ve planned out every sprint on the bicycle, 30 sprints followed by 5 miles of slow spinning followed by 1 mile of time trial followed by 2 miles of slow spinning… etc.

It’s boring to adhere to a tightly planned session. It’s so much more fun to keep the entire session wide open and push yourself to do as much as you can do. I’ve found that it works out much better. I enjoy the exercise way more and I usually push myself as hard or harder than I would have if I’d planned out the session.

Better too if you don’t plan because if you don’t feel 100% and the exercise plan calls for sprints that day you’ll feel bad about not doing them. You’ll feel worse when you try them and injure yourself. If you had an unplanned workout you’d not have considered sprinting when you weren’t 100% and instead you’d have done a slow-medium session and been happy you didn’t injure yourself.

Getting back to Positive Self Talk…

I start talking to myself during a run…

“Feels great. Man what a day to be outside when so many people are sitting at home watching the TV and filling their head with nonsense. How many people are outside right now exercising in this town of 460,000 people? A thousand? How many are running through a park like this one? 100? How many are in this park? Nope. Just four people. Man, you are one of four people able to enjoy exercising like this… Cows. Birds. Lots of shade. Nothing like that Coconut Grove 5-miler in Miami that morning after a fast 20-mile bike ride. Nothing like that. This is easy. It’s like the earth is moving and I’m just moving my legs to catch up to it. Effortless. What an amazing day today… I was able to edit those 120 web pages, optimize my Google Adsense ads, get to the bank, email mom, etc.”

I talk to myself about everything positive that I see around me and that I feel in my body. If I run out of stuff, I think about other positive things I did throughout the day that I was able to accomplish.

I talk about my breathing, my strength, my happiness, my dedication to exercising… the work I did that day, the good things that happened recently… I talk about short-term goals for that night or for the next day. I reason out the best thing to focus on next online… the Aim for Awesome blog needs to have a tighter focus… how could I focus it more? What do people want to read about daily? Can I keep posting such a wide variety of topics or should I narrow it down to exercise, mind, philosophy, meditation? Should I start the relationships series I was thinking about?

Positive self-talk helps me take the focus away from the run, usually resulting in a long run and a very fulfilling run.

I’m always looking forward to my exercise time because I do some positive self-talk every time I run. I really enjoy being outdoors and recollecting all the positive things that have happened since I last talked to myself! I also enjoy it a lot because there are no expectations put on the session before it starts – and yet it might turn into the most amazing session just because I’m working myself up with the positive talk. It’s getting me psyched up and my adrenaline starts pumping!

Try this – and let me know how it goes!

Best of Life!


My Pushing Yourself Series Covers:

1. Using Visual Imagery!
2. Shaming Yourself!
3. Positive Self Talk!
4. Delay of Gratification!
5. Coaching Yourself!
6. Illusory Competition!

PUSHING YOURSELF During Exercise [Coaching Yourself]

Running coach watch

Coaching Yourself is the sixth article in the PUSHING YOURSELF series which is all about helping you reach your ultimate fitness level by pushing yourself beyond your normal best effort.


This is a series on pushing yourself while exercising. It can be applied to any exercise, but in this series I’ll talk about running and walking / running up steps. Those are the two exercises that I do daily – one or the other.

I played soccer from the time I was six until I graduated high school. When I entered 8th grade I met my soccer coach, Mr. Richard Spolar at Springdale High, Pennsylvania. He was a physical education teacher at another nearby school and he’d been coaching soccer at my high school for six years already. Coach Spolar had an excellent history of creating great soccer teams. Our school, though small was renown for playing Quad-A soccer though we were only a Double-A school. Coach Spolar never smiled. Coach Spolar was my worst nightmare for four years.

We had a path that was 9/10th of a mile around our high school field. About four complete soccer fields could fit into this area. Coach would make us run around this loop not just on good days, but even if we were sick or had some injury that prohibited us from practicing but that jogging wouldn’t hurt. If someone had a stomach ache or headache coach would make them run around the field. If someone had a broken arm coach would make them run around the field.

He never looked up to see how many times they circled, he never gave it a second thought. After he told you to start running you ran until the end of practice. Sometimes that was two hours later. Sometimes three. One player ran around the loop 18 times over a three-hour practice. One dared not stop or the assistant coach would tell him and coach would blow the whistle and make the entire team run around the loop for the entire practice. Or worse, he’d make us line up for 100-yard sprints or suicides. The worst exercise in his repertoire was “hills” which is the topic of a whole new post if I ever want to relive them. One of coach’s primary beliefs was that the entire team got punished for any infraction of an individual. Of course, that individual later got the hell beat out of him so it didn’t pay to be the one causing coach grief.

Coach loved “three-a-days” in the Summer. You know how most kids have off for the summer to do as they wish? Coach made us practice three times every day during the peak of summer heat. We’d have two hours in the morning working on springs, suicides, hills and individual ball control skills. In the afternoon it was team skill building for two hours. In the evening we’d play small practice games offense on defense for three hours. Seven hours of practice each day rain or shine. We much preferred the rain.

Coach Spolar told us on numerous occasions:

“What you see here. Do here. Hear here.
Stays here when you leave here.”

Coach knew some of his tactics would cause outrage among parents, probably get him fired as a coach and teacher in the school system. So, nobody was ever to find out. None of us dared to tell.

When coach got in your face to gripe you out it was as if the blood in his head was boiling and he was going to explode. He would be one inch from one of your eyeballs and screaming and spitting as he did so. Spittle would cover your cheek, lips and even get into your eye. If you flinched he got angrier. He could fire that temper up in an instant and be jacking somebody up in no time if he saw them either

1.) Being lazy.
2.) Not doing what he told us to do.

One of his favorite tortures, he had many, was making a player hold a half-pushup position until, arms spasming they gave out. We had a couple guys that could hold that position almost indefinitely. He’d rest his foot on their shoulders as he talked to the team. When someone’s arms gave out before he thought they should he’d get in the player’s face and scream at them until they got back up and held it again. The second time he told them if they dropped again they were dropped from the team. Coach was going way beyond the level of being a bastard, but we did win the state championship in my senior year.

It was coach’s anger and seriousness in the back of my subconscious that created this form of pushing myself to exert more when I feel like I’m at the end of my resources. It seems to have just occurred naturally during my hard exercise one time. I realized I was yelling at myself in my mind to keep going, to push it harder. It wasn’t my voice though. Coach was STILL IN MY HEAD!

How this usually happens is just that, it happens on it’s own. It’s my self-talk that just pops up when I need it to push me a lot harder. Maybe I’ve already done a hellacious workout and I’m tired and don’t feel like pushing anymore. I start telling myself in a low growl like coach used to do.

“Get your ass up that hill and do it faster than anybody else or you’ll be sitting on the bench for the next two games. You understand me?”

“YES SIR.” I yelled. (Oh, I forgot to tell you – we had to address everything as YES SIR or we’d suffer for it.

“What did you say?” He’d ask menacingly.

“YES SIR!” I’d scream at the top of my lungs so anyone up at the school 300 yards away could hear it.

“That’s what I thought, now bust your ass up this hill and don’t let one person beat you. YOU GOT THAT?”

“YES SIR!” I yelped out, louder than before.

Reliving those episodes in my mind I’m able to push myself beyond what I ever thought once I start coaching myself just like coach Spolar used to do. I’m amazed that the old feeling comes back – the feeling that there is no chance to get out of what he just said. It must be done because the consequences are much worse than the effort to be expended.

This technique works magic on me. If there’s nobody around, I growl out orders to myself out loud and it works even better. This is the only technique that has the power to literally transform me and make me do something. It never failed. Not once.

I’m sure it can work for you too – even if you didn’t have an insane coach during your younger years. You could make it your dad’s voice. Or create a coach in your mind that is relentless and that will not accept failure to do exactly what he/she tells you. Start talking to yourself in a very forceful and unrelenting way.

“Pick up the pace now, you better be doing seven-minute miles over the next two miles!”

“If you walk now, you’re not coming back here to exercise for three days. You want to waste three days?”

“Reel that guy in that’s 150 yards away by the time you make another lap. DO IT NOW.”

“Don’t EVER say you can’t do something as simple as this. GET your A&& moving and don’t stop until I say you’re finished!”

Try those or be creative with your own. I get much more creative cursively but better not to have those here in the blog!

Try it!

Best of Life!



1. Getting Out the Door to Exercise!
2. Visual Imagery!
3. Shaming Yourself!
4. Positive Self Talk!
5. Delay of Gratification!
6. Coaching Yourself!
7. Competition!

PUSHING YOURSELF While Exercising [Using Visual Imagery]

Mark Allen, one of the world's top triathletes in the 1980's, finishes a triathlon with a smile.

This is a series on pushing yourself while exercising. It can be applied to any exercise, but in this series I’ll talk about running and walking or running up steps. Those are two exercises that I do daily – one or the other.

Visual Imagery is the second article in the series. The entire series is linked below this article.

This is about Visual Imagery and how it can help you turn a mediocre run into a great run… maybe even an awesome run.

While I’m exercising I picture myself as the ultimate athlete. If I’m running I usually picture myself as Mark Allen, a triathlete of years gone by who was amazing at the Ironman distance triathlons. I visualize how Mark ran and then as I run I picture myself running just like that. Exactly like that. If you don’t have the perfect person as a role model go to Youtube and find video of someone doing the exercise you want to visualize. I have detailed memories in my head of a few runners and cyclists that I think had very close to perfect form that are easy to call on. You should have some of these in your mental database too.

Once I’m running just like Mark in my mind, I go another step further. I tell myself I’m running better than than Mark ever did. I visualize running more effortlessly. I breath more efficiently, smoother. I begin concentrating on every aspect of my running style and perfecting it.

I look at my neck and head – are they relaxed? Is my head pointed at the right angle – which, for me is level so I’m looking out into the distance about twenty yards or so. I notice when I look far ahead I think much less about whatever pain I might be experiencing during the run. I notice that I feel more positive. More optimistic. Is my head bouncing at all? If so it’s wasted energy I change my stride so it’s more horizontal without vertical bounce.

Are my arms more tense than they need to be? I loosen my arms and shake them out relaxed from my body a few times to loosen them up. I look at my hands, they should be almost closed and relaxed. I let the arms find their natural bent position and then I open up the angle just slightly and focus more on making them pump forward and backward in line with my forward momentum and without any side to side movement which is wasted movement. I want to feel the little bit of momentum that my arms can give me to go forward as it’s a mental boost that my legs can work just a little easier and go the same pace because the natural movement of my arms swinging is helping a touch.

I feel my breathing and my stomach. I relax my diaphragm and the muscles of my stomach. Once they are relaxed I can breath effortlessly with deep diaphragm breathing. It’s similar to feeling like you’re pushing out your stomach a bit but the result is that your inhalations can be deeper and smoother. You’re much less likely to cramp as well. I imagine that my VO2 max (ventilatory threshold) is greater than Mark’s, greater than Greg Lemond (who tests in the 90’s!) and fallen hero, Lance Armstrong.

Moving down to the hips and thighs and the muscles of the buttocks and lower back I let them go loose and see how it feels. Sometimes it doesn’t feel good if I’m not rested enough and I tighten them back up before I have an injury. Other times it’s amazingly smooth to loosen it all up and I can run for miles like that. I gauge what it feels like and then focus on my stride. I picture Alberto Salazar’s long legs transforming into my legs. My legs have morphed into those same awesome legs. Or sometimes I picture the Kenyans in the New York City Marathon. They glide like gazelles. I glide like that too. I’m a gazelle in my mind. I’m the smoothest gazelle on the planet moving over the concrete or dirt path where I’m running.

Then I’m better than the smoothest gazelle. I’m the ultimate running being, gliding effortlessly over small hills and large ones. My head doesn’t bounce in the slightest. My stride is fluid and strong, yet relaxed. My upper body is helping my run, not wasting effort in any direction. Each foot is landing perfectly on the ground from heel to toe in a perfect rolling movement. I’m pure energy running forward with perfect momentum, perfect timing… My breathing is strong and is powering me forward, creating more energy as it mixes with the blood, oxygenating it with powerful and pure O2 in the lungs.

Running in this state, fully visualized and lost to the outside world propels me into a state of flow that can last the entire run. For me it’s nearly impossible to think about outside problems when I run, but it’s easy to visualize that I’m something else. I can be any runner as I run. Any cyclist or triathlete. I can be any animal that I think mirrors the movements, the grace I need to possess as I exercise with perfect form. Even better I can morph into something that beyond that. I can be better than any person or animal or computer program simulating running. I can be pure running. Or, be pure cycling. Once that happens exercise becomes not something I’m doing – but something I am. The exercise flows like a perfect, seamless movement.

The ‘pushing’ part happens without really trying. Once flow starts, it naturally changes you dynamically into a smoother, faster, and more energized exerciser.

Try some creative visualization as you exercise. Over time you’ll develop a number of visual body-in-motion clips that you become as you exercise. These will help you push it to the next level – usually without conscious effort about it. Pushing results naturally as your mind becomes more involved in the process of visualizing the perfect dynamics of your exercise. Perfect breathing. Perfect flow.

Best of Life!



1. Getting Out the Door to Exercise!
2. Visual Imagery!
3. Shaming Yourself!
4. Positive Self Talk!
5. Delay of Gratification!
6. Coaching Yourself!
7. Competition!

PUSHING YOURSELF During Exercise [Shaming Yourself. Seriously.]

Vern and daughter running on the beach in Thailand.

Shaming Yourself! is the third article in the PUSHING YOURSELF series about helping you get the most out of your self during physical exercise.

This is a series on motivating yourself while exercising. It can be applied to any exercise, but in this series, I’ll talk about running and walking or running up steps. Those are the two exercises that I do daily – one or the other.

Some psychologists say that “shoulding on yourself”, saying “I should have…” is not a good strategy to go through life. But, this is different. This is shaming yourself, it can result in pushing yourself harder during exercise.

How it works is this…

At some point during a run or a bike ride, I might notice that I’m in a comfortable spot and just sort of going through the motions. I feel good, there’s no injury that’s holding me back. It’s just that the body and mind can get to this equilibrium state that is just too comfortable. If you don’t notice it you might go through a whole hour like that. If you really are clue-less you could go through a whole month of runs like that.

Running in an equilibrium state is OK and you’ll still benefit over the course of doing it. But, why not push it if you’re feeling really comfortable?  For myself, when I notice I’m feeling really good, relaxed, and steady I start to compare myself to other runners – usually older people or kids. Here’s the way it happened the other day.

I was on the second time up the 1,237 steps at the temple. The first time was amazing, I ran up 1,000 of the steps and walked about 200. There are some steps that are too steep to run safely and a fall might mean serious injuries. So I ran up in groups of 50, 70, 100, 80 steps and stopped to catch my breath after each run. I was doing 4 steps a second and by the time I did 80 of them I needed a breather. It was like interval training. I haven’t done it before but it went really well. I was surprised I had the energy to run up them like that.

Then, at the top I was even more surprised that I felt good. My legs were pumped up more than they’d ever been after climbing the steps. I went quickly to the bottom and re-assessed. Yep, still feel great. I started up again at a slow pace. My thinking was, “If I can just do one more up-down that’d be my hardest workout on the steps in 6 months.” Well, I went mindlessly up to step 500 when I realized. You’re way too comfortable. You ran these steps last time – can’t you run them again?

My mind doubted I could.

I shamed myself. My self-talk went something like this…

Man, you’re climbing these steps slower than some middle-aged Thai women do it. What the hell Vern? It was true – I’d seen some 40-year-old women go up faster in certain sections than I was going. You’ve been up this thing 270+ times, you can’t pick up the overall pace and go faster than this? I realized I was too comfortable during the first 500 steps and just happy to go up and down at a slow, meaningless pace.

Run up the next 60 steps to that next level.  You’re a *$$&@! (bad word for wimp) if you don’t. Did you come here to exercise or coast through the last 30 minutes up and down?

I ran up the next 60 steps and stopped to catch my breath. The next group was only 45 steps. Run up the next 45 and see how you feel – hell, you just ran up 1,000 of them, what’s 45 more?

I ran up the next 45 and caught my breath. By then my heart was going strong, my legs were pumped and I felt really good. I kicked myself into high-gear again after the first 500 slow paced steps and now I was ready to see how far I could push it again. I ran up the next 85 steps. Caught my breath. Ran up the next 120. Caught my breath… and so on. I ran up the rest of the steps (737) except the 40 dangerous ones.

It was an awesome, awesome day on the steps. Twice up and I ran up 1,700 out of 2,474 of them.

I sometimes catch myself going at a pace that a grandmother could hold. Sure it’s after I’ve already done something intense and that I felt great about, but still… the idea that any old woman or little kid could run at the pace I am, climb steps at the pace I am, cycle at the pace I am is totally unacceptable for any amount of time. I shame myself into kicking it up a few notches. Almost always this puts my body into a state where I can really push myself further, much further than the mind had resigned itself to.

Try shaming yourself! It works!

Best of Life!



1. Getting Out the Door to Exercise!
2. Visual Imagery!
3. Shaming Yourself!
4. Positive Self Talk!
5. Delay of Gratification!
6. Coaching Yourself!
7. Competition!

Mind Games that Keep Me Running [When I Feel Like Stopping]

This article is about the techniques (mind games) I use with myself to stop the Emotional Mind (e-mind) from whining too loudly and affecting the Logical Mind (L-mind) enough that the L-mind actually makes the body stop running.

Hawaii Loa Ridge Trail in Honolulu,<br /> Hawaii.Sometimes when I’m running I get this urge to stop running and start walking.

There’s no logical reason for it. The body is ready. The mind is just turning lame for some reason. Usually, I can pinpoint one of two reasons the mind is giving me these signals to stop and walk or quit altogether.

I know there’s no fact behind the mind’s protests… I run just about exactly the same amount every day. I vary by only a half mile or so sometimes. The e-mind is lazy sometimes and needs to be controlled. Athletes at the top of their game must face this all the time. I can’t figure out if amateurs like me face it more or less than the top athletes in the world. Any ideas? Maybe only when they’re really pushing… I’m not sure… anyone want to venture a guess in the comment section?

Here are the two ways I see the e-mind trying to influence the run and turn it into a “no-run”. Compare yourself to see if you have one of these two experiences or if yours is different. If you have a different experience please leave a comment about it – and let me know. I’m very interested in mind games that go on in my own head – and everyone’s head as they’re running.

Two Scenarios in which the Emotional Mind wants to Stop my Run

1st Way

This one happens when I’ve been running about 15 – 25 minutes or so… I’m not having a “flow” experience but the run isn’t that bad. I’m probably thinking a lot or paying too much attention to the body and every feeling in my feet, toes, thighs, shoulders, arms, breathing, state of tension, etc. I’m kind of overworking my brain to pay attention to everything – like the biofeedback computer (my brain) is supposed to do. Problem is – the brain isn’t ready for it for some reason. Maybe the stress of the day is also churning heavy thoughts around and throwing the brain off its game.

This one usually first manifests by my realizing that my breathing is not perfect. Other things are then noticed…my body is not that limber – I’m a bit stiff… a little pain in my toe… it’s hot… The emotional mind starts to create this idea that maybe it can convince the logical mind to call a halt to the run and we’ll do some walking for a while. Now, sometimes this is OK, but not in the first couple of miles for me – it’s not a good reason to walk and relax some. I need to be strong and do something before the whiny e-Mind (emotional mind) wins and makes the L-mind (logical mind) stop and walk for a bit.

2nd Way

This one happens when I get this overwhelming feeling of having NO energy… It may exist upon starting the run or it may start to come over me as the run progresses. This one is a real problem because it’s the one that the e-mind can actually WIN with and make me walk sometimes.

When the logical mind realizes the e-mind is whining about having a very low energy threshold during the run and not wanting to continue it starts to assess…

Did the body drink enough water in the past 24 hours? How many coffees?

Did the body eat anything with sugar or fat in the last few days?

Typically the answer is no to this one – so the L-mind must be careful to realize that. I’m not a sugar or fat eater and I need to consciously find some and eat it – usually in the form of ice-cream to get some occasionally.

Did the body eat enough carbs in the last 24 hours or so? What about breakfast? Lunch?

Did you eat something before the run that might have taken the blood into the stomach away from the running muscles?

The L-mind evaluates because it’s the judger. It needs to make a ruling. Sometimes the L-mind just makes a ruling and makes the run continue regardless of the whining e-mind and how loud it gets. Other times the L-mind agrees – something is really weird, should stop and walk the rest of the way, fix it for next run.

So, usually, the L-mind can get through the whining. Occasionally it cannot. I’d say the L-mind prevails about 80% of the time lately.

I’m saying that 80% of the time the L-mind makes a ruling to continue the run and everything goes OK. The L-mind feels stronger for having made the body and e-mind do something it didn’t want to do – and the runs for me are short enough that there’s not that much suffering really. I don’t force speed on days I don’t feel right. So the e-mind and body endure some discomfort.

But here’s the thing…

I only stop and walk during a run about 3% of the time. 97% of the time I run. How does that add up you’re wondering?

Here’s what happens… the mind games kick-in on auto-pilot sometimes so the L-mind doesn’t need to make a ruling…

Huh? Yeah, exactly. I’ve never written about this before but as I ran today and went through a run that I felt weak on and had breathing that wasn’t smooth or easy and then the mind games auto-kicked in. It was really cool to realize what had been happening many times in the past.

The Automatic Mind games!

Auto-Mindgame Kicks in…
So this happens when I’m running and feeling like I’m scoring about a “2” out of a “10” run. The e-mind is whining – something about the run sucking so hard that light is bending toward us. I’m ignoring it for a while but then the L-mind kicks in and starts some logical assessments. It turns out that things look good. Water intake, calories, fat, sugar, sleep, are all good, so I should be operating at peak. This mind game kicked in where I started to count my breaths out and in which I hadn’t done for the previous 20 minutes of running. The mind game then changed to counting paces. I just started counting every pace that I took. Then it switched to every other step and counting by 2’s which was less stressful. The fingers on the left hand were keeping track of the hundreds and the mind was keeping track of the number of times the left hand got to 500.

Turns out the mind just did this ON ITS OWN. I never consciously said, hey, let’s count how many steps around the park. I found out though as I got to 1,000 steps the L-mind (logical mind) realized – wow, you just counted 1,000 steps. But the greater realization was that there was no suffering of any sort during the run as I counted. The focus on the numbers was so great and required so much constant focus that the e-mind (emotional mind) couldn’t think about anything to whine about! So – the body just ran. The breathing evened out and the run was going well at that point of realization.

Well, the mind kept focused and counting. 2,657 steps around the park on the track I usually take when i do a big loop.

The run went from being a 2/10 to a 8/10 JUST BECAUSE of this game my mind started playing!

I felt great, my breathing was good and my pace had picked up a lot… my stride got longer and the body was much looser than it was for the first 20 minutes. I continued running and when I finished I was thinking – “Wow, the mind game just stepped in and made everything go smoothly!” How cool is that?

Then as I was walking around the parking lot of the park and trying to get rid of the lactic acid a little bit… I realized – I have many little mind games that kick in and take the focus of the mind somewhere else and “save” the run. The run goes from a low rating, maybe a “2” out of “10” up to a 6/10 or higher. These mind games are great tools and I’ll try to explain some of the other ones below…

Other Mindgames:

Sometimes these come automatically and others I initiate…

Squinting eyes. I squint my eyes so that they’re nearly closed. Vision gets very dark and I feel like if I don’t see the elements that are in front of me – the concrete usually, then the run becomes less like a run. This works especially well with dark glasses on. When I first did this it was late at night, as I used to run around midnight. I noticed that – it’s much less mental stress to be running when I can’t see the road and understand that I’m moving my (then) 180 lb body over it. It was a feeling as if I was almost “sleep running.” I create no expectations and just run – as slow as or as fast as the body goes. No matter. No worries. This one is really almost like sleeping – I just let myself feel as relaxed as possible, like I’m in my bed… and the run goes much more smoothly that it was before I initiated this mind game.

Passing imaginary competitors. First I might imagine that I see my mom in front of me. My mom doesn’t run. She could a little bit, but she doesn’t. I imagine that my run is so bad that even she is in front of me. I pass her and then I see my uncle with a knob on his neck that smokes a lot. He’s further ahead. I pass him. Then I see some enemies from the past – high school usually as I can’t find anyone to hate much in the last 20 years. I pass them all. I start to feel a little better. Then comes another level in the next group… peers at school that I wanted to get better grades than in undergrad and in graduate school. I pass them. I pass co-workers. I see far ahead, some superstars in the blogging world. I catch and pass them. I see superstars in sci-fi action movies…. Tony Robbins and Darren Rowse, even Steve Pavlina come into view as the last ones I need to pass… Sometimes I pass them, but usually, I save them for another day. I keep them out ahead of me to motivate me to keep going and chasing them.

Not thinking. I just kind of blank the mind of thought and run “in the moment” or “in the present”. I wrote about this before, in another article. Here is an article where I talk about “flow” and creating flow – during a run that otherwise wouldn’t have it. Flow is that state where everything is effortless and there is a fluidity of motion, a natural economy of motion that is efficient, smooth, powerful, effortless, and without suffering…

Read about Flow in Running here > The part about “Pseudo Flow” is where I talk about blanking the mind but, the whole article is probably a bit different from things you’ve read in the past.

Focus on breathing. Sometimes this one works, and sometimes not. The other mind games all seem to work consistently with me. For this one I just focus on the number of strides I’m taking as I run compared with the breaths I’m taking. If I’m relaxed and running very easily I’m usually at 4 strides as I breathe in for 1 breath, and 4 strides for each out-breath. I call this 4/4 breathing. If I’m going fast I’m at a 2/2 breathing rate. I find that if I concentrate on watching my feet hit in front of me as I’m aware of the in-breath and then again for the out-breath I notice much less any discomfort or whining from the e-mind about the body not feeling quite energized or ready enough to continue running.

Breathing in extra hard. I notice that if i start to inhale extra hard as I’m running – and expanding the lungs – it seems to have an effect after about 6-10 breaths. The extra oxygen makes me feel better and it’s a noticeable change. I try it every few minutes if it seems to work the first time. I’m usually in a 2/2 breathing pattern if I try this as it’s easy to forcefully inhale when breathing hard and fast. Belly Breathing is also an awesome technique that I think brings 10% improvement immediately, to any run you’re not using it. Read about it by clicking that link.

How much you’re suffering can be controlled by the eyes. Yeah, believe it or not! I noticed today that as I wasn’t feeling that great during the run my eyes were focused very close to my feet. I was looking almost at my feet. Then, when I looked up further ahead to where my usual gaze is while running and feeling good – about 5- 6 paces in front of me, my mood changed. I felt better. I felt less pain because the focus of the eyes was out away from the body. Strange huh? Try it yourself. Then I tried to focus far off in the distance – 50 yards or as far as I could see down the path. You know what? I didn’t even feel the body at all. It was like I was floating through the air. I couldn’t feel my feet hit the pavement.

Try to be conscious of where your eyes are looking as you run – and you can control how much attention your mind pays to the suffering based on where your eyes are looking!

Hanauma Bay Ridge, Oahu, Hawaii.Any of these mind games can be initiated by you consciously. But, it’s really cool to realize that your brain did it on its own to get rid of the whining emotional mind and to get rid of having to experience suffering a run that isn’t going as smoothly as they usually do.

Sometimes I realize that it happened 20 minutes after it was going on! That’s a cool moment when I say to myself, “Hey, the mind was up to something – it took over subconsciously!”

Best of Life!

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Does your mind play any mind games to get over the pain of running on days when you don’t feel quite up to it?

What are they?

Do they ever happen on their own or do you initiate them consciously every time?

Other running articles I’ve written:

27 Reasons I love to go Running!”>27 Reasons I love to go Running!

Flow, Pseudo Flow, and Mind-Tweaking During Exercise

Want to Start Running? (A plan, complete with mental gymnastics)