Developing Sustainable Confidence
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Confidence is an endurance buzzword that refers to a sometimes seemingly elusive, magical elixir that athletes want to get their hands on. When we see other runners free from doubt and beaming with self-belief we tend to think “where did they get that and can I have some?!” Confidence, unlike the weather, isn’t an unpredictable, and uncontrollable force of nature. It’s a mental skill that you should be building and strengthening every day, right there alongside your fitness; not a feeling that you just leave up to chance.
Can you prove it?
We commonly feel like confidence is something we either possess or don’t. In reality, it is a mindset that we create for ourselves. Being confident boils down to which internal dialogue you decide to invest in. We all have a constant battle of “good vs. evil” happening between our ears. When there is a positive, encouraging voice telling us “yes, you can!” there is also frequently a negative, self-deprecating voice shouting back “Nope, not gonna happen.” While it’s hard (I would even argue impossible) to never experience negative self-talk, it is totally within your control to decide which voice to give power to or invest in. One of the most effective ways to shut down the negative is to challenge yourself to “prove it!” When you try to come up with evidence to support the tirade of negative thoughts and doubts running through your mind, you’ll likely have a hard time doing so.
Keep a Confidence Journal
If exposing the lies of your negative self-talk is step one, then step two is reinforcing the positive voice and letting it know, “Hey, I’ve got your back.” To do that effectively, one of the first things you need to discover about yourself is where you gain confidence. It could be from nailing workouts, prioritizing nutrition and recovery, or committing to doing the little things, do more of what enhances your belief about your abilities and track it in a confidence journal. Next time you are traveling to a race or prepping for a hard workout and the negative thoughts become louder than usual you will have a list of cold, hard facts about why you should not listen to them.
Play your Highlight Reel
One useful exercise for self-belief can be recalling previous experiences. This not only includes remembering past successful performances but also reflecting on times that you’ve gone into the pain cave and made it back out. Don’t just think about it briefly, but focus on really recalling it, try to see and feel yourself performing at your best. This is your mental highlight reel and it can never be overplayed, so hit “rewind” and watch it again. Not only will you feel your confidence build, but you’ll be reminded of why you love to race and be even more amped for the gun to go off.
Once you implement these mental skills strategies, you’ll see that your belief in your ability is not something that should be easily shaken. It’s easy to dwell on a recent tough workout or bad race, but you can overrule that negativity with these strategies. Your ability and potential are too strong to be erased by a little bit of adversity. By making these strategies part of your mental routine you will develop stronger, more sustainable confidence and self-belief that you can rely on when race day arrives.
Addie is a professional ultra trail runner, coach, and sport psychology consultant helping athletes of all ages and abilities to prepare for the mental demands of competing through her practice, Strive Mental Performance.