un joyfully’ is Kaitlin Goodman’s mantra, and she tries to personify this every time she heads out. But what does ‘running joyfully’ entail?
‘One, it's really living off those endorphins,’ she says. ‘I mean, how many runs do you ever regret going on? Nine out of 10 times you feel better and happier, and you have a clearer head. And try to appreciate the opportunity that you have to be out there.’
Tim Catalano, co-author of Running the Edge: Discovering the Secrets to Better Running and a Better Life (Maven) is a former elite runner with a degree in psychology. He says this approach is a good example of self-determinism. You can choose to focus on the positive or the negative in any endeavour and create your own experience. When Catalano tackled the six-day, 120-mile Transrockies Run last year, he really put that approach to the test.
‘There are going to be some terrible times when you run 120 miles in a week,’ he says. ‘But what I chose to remember later – and what I chose to remember in the moment – was, “This is an amazing gift that I have a body that can do this. I'm in the middle of the Rocky Mountains experiencing something very few people get to.” And when you hold on to those notions, you're just happier.’
CHANGE THIS Enjoy running for running’s sake, not just for its outcomes.
WHY A happy, positive runner performs better and feels more satisfaction.
Controlling your mental outlook is no New Age gimmick, nor a call to abandon concrete goals. You can be a positive perfectionist. Eminent German psychologists Arne Dietrich and Oliver Stoll recently published studies that show how perfectionism falls into two categories. Positive-striving perfectionism leads you to set high standards for your performance and helps you achieve your goals. Self-critical perfectionism, on the other hand, leaves you in a state of constant worry
THE CHALLENGE Runners are naturally competitive – we use stats to reassure ourselves. It is difficult to accept the relativity of our performances and reframe our perspective. Plus, some
days running doesn’t feel good, and positive psychology can feel like a load of youknow-what.
THE RISK You may sound like a flower child to your buddies.
and disappointment, and is correlated with anxiety, stress and depression. Despite all their attention to detail, the research found, self-critical perfectionists were less likely to achieve their goals because any minor setback was seen as defeat.
This is one reason why the ability to experience running as an autotelic experience (one that's enjoyed for its own sake) may be the key to running faster. Putting in more miles, doing quality work and experimenting with different sessions become rewards, not chores, when pleasure is found in the act itself. That doesn’t mean every mile will be wonderful, says Goodman. But if you take a moment, even in the middle of a raging downpour, to remind yourself how fortunate you are to be running in the first place, then you’re more likely to appreciate the process.
‘We can’t change an experience,’ says Catalano. ‘But we can change how we experience that experience. You can let those dark voices overwhelm you and have a bad day, or you can make the voices focus on the good stuff, and it turns out to be a great day.’