Updated: Sep 24, 2020
Years ago, I was told to simply accept that I was disabled with fibromyalgia and to adjust my life accordingly. I honestly never in my wildest dreams believed it would ever be possible to enter in to a running event, let alone complete a half marathon. I’d see my friends win running medals and would indulge in my own self pity party by pouring another glass of wine… at least that was one thing I knew I was good at!
All that changed while I was working up north where I had two options to spend my evenings, I could drink my standard drinks at the wet mess or I could join my friends at the gym. I decided this was the perfect opportunity to challenge myself, to see if I could actually run longer than a few hundred meters without feeling pain and fatigue. I began trialing short, slow runs on the treadmill. Although it still flared the fibromyalgia symptoms and I'd often feel the after effects for days, it wasn’t as severe as running outdoors so I was determined to push through.
I gave myself permission to be slow, to walk when I needed to, and to feel exhausted even after a short run. I also decided to celebrate each time I managed to run further and faster. This motivated me to keep beating my previous distance and time. I thought the best way to encourage myself to run was to watch my favorite TV series while I ran! I was only allowed to watch an episode while I was running, so those cliff hanger episodes only encouraged me to run longer so I could see what happened!! Slowly and steadily I started to feel an improvement in my fitness and ability to run without intense pain, and my recovery became a little quicker. It started to become something I actually enjoyed! I was surprised that by shifting my focus to what I could do rather than what I couldn't, I was actually able to run! Running became my new way of coping and dealing with stress.
So after going through some pretty shitty personal losses I felt like I needed a healthy purpose, something positive to focus my mind on. I decided to join my friend on my first ever running event... the HBF Run for a Reason. I planned to register in the 4km event, but my friend thought I needed a bigger challenge and convinced me to join her in the 12km event. YIKES! So much fear entered my mind. I had barely ran 10km’s on a treadmill, how was I going to run 12km outdoors? The only thing that allowed me to press the register button was to remember that I had put my mind to just running on the treadmill and I achieved that. I told myself that I could succeed in the same way for the running event. However once again I gave myself permission to walk, to be slow. My goal was to just finish the race and be proud of the achievement.
Run for a Reason was the perfect first running event for me to participate in... everyone was running for a sick relative or friend, or for a condition or ailment that affected them or their loved ones, it was so inspiring! I thought about my own diagnosis, the limitations the doctors told me I had and realized that I had made a choice, instead of feeling depressed I chose to challenge myself, to change my mindset from feeling like a victim to feeling like a champion. So I ran, and I ran and I didn’t stop until after I crossed the finish line!
That running event was the first of many... I've now even ran a half marathon! And it was all down to changing my mindset, my beliefs about myself and giving myself permission to try without being perfect!
Here are four simple ways you can change your own mindset to achieve anything you put your mind to:
1. Give yourself permission to be imperfect.
Remember that we all have to start somewhere, we learn to crawl before we can walk, we walk before we run... you can apply this to almost anything. Start slow, take small steps towards your goal. Give yourself permission to take messy action rather than no action at all. It may seem scary, committing yourself to action may cause anxieties and that's ok. It's what you tell yourself that's most important. Our bodies experience the same physiological response to fear and excitement so when you're feeling anxious and fearful about not being perfect,
2. Celebrate the all your wins no matter how small they might seem
It's important to recognise every achievement, every win, every little bit of progress. These are the things that will motivate you to keep going, that show you that you are moving forward and closer to your goal. There may be setbacks but when we focus on the things we have achieved it makes it easier to bounce back from any obstacles that we inevitably face.
3. Combine the work with something you love
When you focus only on the work and not on the enjoyment, the things you need to do to reach your goal can begin to feel like a chore. Instead of enjoying the process, you begin to dread it. There are so many ways you can incorporate joy into any activity... I conditioned myself to run a half marathon starting with watching half an episode of my favorite show, and building up to watching my favorite movie!
4. Be patient and kind with yourself
You can't just run a marathon ( or half marathon in my case!), it takes training and practice. Just as it takes ongoing practice to retrain your self-talk and change your mindset. It's a journey, one that takes time, practice and commitment.
So start small, have patience and celebrate your journey. You'll be surprised at what you can achieve just by making these small adjustments to how you think... your mindset matters so make it work for you rather than against!