Overcoming Negative Thoughts and Learning to Fly


So here’s the thing. I had no intention of running two half marathons this year, let alone within a few months of each other. But here I am, a week out from the SF 1st Half Marathon.

Can I tell you something? Starting a few weeks ago, I’ve been plagued with negative thoughts. I’m usually pretty resilient. I can suck it up and make my way through a hard or challenging workout or work project. I’m can handle most cases of self-doubt (generally freaking out a little before moving on).

Except when that self-doubt has something to do with an injury or a potential injury. Or, better known as, Fear of Re-Injury.

As soon as I start to feel a twinge or a potential twinge in my knee/foot/ankle/etc., I start to get worried because I don’t want to be injured again. And it’s a voice in my head that so hard to tune out, let alone turn off.

Over the last few weeks, my body has started to talk back to me…a lot. With each comment from my body, my head fills with negative thoughts and frustration – frustration that my body won’t cooperate and that I appear to be falling apart at 38. And the thoughts and frustration weighs down on me, making my body feel heavy. Each run feels that much harder. On a few runs, I have literally stopped running to shake the negative thoughts out of my head.

Runners World OOTD

It happened again this morning. 3 miles into my 6 mile run, I was done. I stopped and pretended to stretch because, I mean, I wouldn’t just stop on the side of the road for no reason, right? I let the negative thoughts wash over me. I texted my husband. And then I was done with them. I realized that those thoughts didn’t serve me.

That’s something that I say a lot when I teach yoga – If this pose isn’t serving you, don’t do it. Do what serves you and your body in this moment.

I finished my run in a much better mindset than when I started. Not surprisingly, my foot and ankle felt better too.

eka pada kondinyasana 2

And it’s kinda like this pose – Eka Pada Koundinyasana II (which I was thinking about on my run since it was the featured pose for one of the yoga challenges that I’m sort of participating in). For months, I told myself no way I could do EPK. No way. I can’t figure out arm balances. I’m not strong enough.

But slowly, I’ve been practicing and I’ve been finding my balance. Today, when I did this pose, I felt like I could fly. My back leg floated up and my body felt light.

My friend Jolene said that she loved how I was turning the negative thoughts into positive energy, balance and focus and it reminded me how we choose to perceive a situation can truly affect the outcome, our attitude and our mindset.

So maybe I’ll fly during my race too?

Overcoming Negative Thoughts

  1. Write about it. Post about it. Tweet about it. I don’t always share the things that I struggle with while I’m in the moment but I decided to post about my run and self-doubts today on Instagram and Facebook. And I am so grateful and appreciative of the support that I received. The mantras and words of wisdom (and commiseration) helped boost my confidence and overcome those negative thoughts. It surprises me how the blogging and social media communities will rally around and support each other.
  2. Let it go. If it doesn’t serve you, let it go. I’m not saying don’t acknowledge the negative thoughts and feelings but don’t let yourself drown in those feelings or start to internalize those messages. It’s OK to wallow in your feelings for a few minutes but then let them go.
  3. Remember what you have accomplished. There’s this one hill in Prospect Park that sometimes sucks the energy out of me. It also happens to be the hill I run for hill repeats. When I approach it and the negative thoughts start to creep into my head, I remind myself that I have run 9 x hill repeats when it was hot and humid and right now, I just have to run up it once. Remember the hard work that you’ve put into your training.
  4. A good coach helps too. Especially one who doesn’t treat you like you’re nuts, reminds you to take care of yourself and sends you articles to read like this and this.
  5. Believe you can fly. If you don’t believe you can fly/run/swim/bike/yoga/etc., of course you’re going to have a hard time achieving your goals and you’ll likely fail. It sounds silly but if you don’t believe in the impossible, it never will be possible.

Have you struggled with negative self-talk? How do you overcome negative thoughts?

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  1. says

    I will do scans of my body while running. When I’m feeling particularly negative and like “this sucks!” I’ll find what does not serve me and let it go. It actually helps 99% of the time. Believing in yourself is the hardest part. I’m my own worst enemy but I’m trying to be my biggest cheerleader from now on.
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted..High Five FridayMy Profile

    • says

      Yes! I’ve found that this perspective has been really helpful because it’s not alway about going out there and running the fastest that we can or pushing our limits. And sometimes the thoughts that we think are motivating aren’t really.
      Christine Yu recently posted..High Five FridayMy Profile

  2. says

    I absolutely love this post. Right before my May marathon the doubt demons were loud, especially because I was feeling twinges in my foot. I was all worked up with anxiety and fear that all my training would go down the drain because of a last minute injury. I had so much help and support (you included) from people via social media. Then my massage therapist suggest I go home and have a glass of wine, usually I avoid alcohol leading up to a big race, but thursday before the race I had glass of wine, made the decision to stop thinking about my foot and woke up the next morning with no weird twinges or sensations. I think my mental anxiety had translated into actual physical tension and it was exacerbating whatever I was feeling. The positive thoughts and a little bit of wine was exactly what I needed to let it go…and it all worked out!
    Sarah @runfargirl recently posted..Making Your Running a Family AffairMy Profile

  3. says

    Christine – I totally understand where you are coming from, since May 2013 I have been battling a seemingly endless stream of injuries that are sucking the life out of my running since then. It is tough to maintain that positive attitude and not listen to the voice in your head when something twinges or suddenly hurts more than it has.

    Sometimes the injuries are beyond your control or just a freak occurrence, but still stop you from running is even more frustrating and then when you start to come back yet again, you worry so much about “when” is that minor ache or small pain going to change to another period of time off.

    What is the answer? Stay positive and confident that this is just temporary, read the success stories of athletes and people who have overcome much more difficult times than we are going through and keep your support networks advised of your progress or when you need help.

    I think that your list pretty well covered all of those things :-) Great post and I needed to read it this morning!

    Harold recently posted..Blog Writing Tour – My Version of Why I BlogMy Profile

  4. says

    What is it about that final week or two before a race? The negative thoughts pop out of nowhere and are so hard to shake! Love the yoga pose analogy… and I’m glad you got a lot of support and KNOW that you can do this!
    Laura @ Mommy Run Fast recently posted..Nursery PeekMy Profile

  5. says

    This last year, the year I turned 38, has been a year plagued with annoying illnesses and injuries. I definitely got in my head that I was falling apart at 38. It’s been a struggle to focus on what I CAN do instead of what I CAN’T do. It takes a daily, consistent and conscious effort to reframe the negative thoughts. But best to deal with them quickly before they become negative mantras.
    Tara Newman recently posted..Living with Purpose When Balance is ElusiveMy Profile

  6. says

    Ugh, negative thoughts . . . . . you can’t let them get in the driver’s seat. When this starts to happen to me, I focus on some of the helpful tips you mentioned — especially focusing on what I’ve accomplished and believing I can do it. That being said, I did back out of a race this summer because of performance anxiety . . . now I’m getting back on the horse.
    Jennifer F recently posted..Summer Vacation Snacking with Blue Diamond AlmondsMy Profile

  7. says

    “I stopped and pretended to stretch because, I mean, I wouldn’t just stop on the side of the road for no reason, right? “<<< Had to giggle. I mean seriously, I've done that so many time and I've laughed at myself even. I'll pretend to check my phone, my Garmin, stretch my calves! Ha!

    Ok, now the doubt, oh heck yeah. And part of it is trying to NOT be injured. You're trying to listen to your body and be smart, but somehow you start over-thinking it so it's not longer really about the injury stuff. It's really been happening to me a lot lately thinking ahead to the full marathon I've signed up for. It kind of makes me sick in the pit of my stomach. So I'm with you lady.

    • says

      It’s true, right? I will pretend to do a number of things so that it doesn’t “look” like I’m taking a break from my run! I think that over-thinking is a big part of the problem – becoming overly sensitive to every little thing.

      You are going to be amazing when you run the marathon (and all throughout training too)!
      Christine Yu recently posted..High Five FridayMy Profile

  8. says

    Friend I LOVE THIS POST! it may be one of my most favorite by you, and not because you mention me (though that made me smile huge!! so glad I helped nudge you slightly in the right direction!)…I struggle with this SO MUCH sometimes, and lately some of my runs have had their fair share of mentalness to it. I blame the humidity 😉 But when I go there, I try to pull myself out of it before it gets to a point where it paralyzes me. For you, though, with past injury, it is no wonder you worry about that, as I would have the same worries!! But you are training smart, you are so fit, and strong, and you will conquer this half like nobody’s business. I LOVE what you say in your yoga classes, I just know I would adore one of your classes!! <3
    Jolene recently posted..A year later, yet so much more.My Profile

    • says

      I seriously loved your perspective on this and how you helped me to flip my perspective. It was so so helpful. I think that overthinking things is a big part of the problem. I mean, I never over think things, right? 😉
      Christine Yu recently posted..High Five FridayMy Profile

  9. says

    I really need to learn to apply this in yoga. Sometimes I think that by telling myself “I can’t” I’m just being honest with myself. I guess if I stop saying “I can’t” and start saying “Maybe one day” I’ll try instead of give-up.

    Thanks for the mention! Fighting negative thoughts is a constant battle that we can win.
    Coach Jess recently posted..Soundtrack of My Summer Run + Current WorkoutsMy Profile

  10. says

    Ah, fantastic! I totally get your fear of re-injury, and also see how it can needlessly hold you back. It seems like yoga is really helping you be in tune with yourself so you can discern the difference bewteen twinges that are 99% mental, and real issues that require more attention.
    Coco recently posted..Five Things Friday – Things I’m LovingMy Profile

  11. says

    i love this – I believe it in the most literal and figurative sense since I live with a pilot. Earlier this evening I was telling my boys that I think confidence is a huge factor in what we achieve – I’m the only one who thinks my 13 year old can really be an NBA layer if thats his true dream!!!
    Kim recently posted..VacationMy Profile

  12. says

    I came across your blog from a friends paper.li link on twitter. The title of the blog post of course made me come over to have a read.
    Great post, and of course I can relate.
    Sometimes we are our own worst enemy, and our negative thoughts can really hinder out process and development. I’ve turned negative thoughts around so I come out on top.
    Matilda recently posted..100 Happy DaysMy Profile

  13. says

    Awesome post Christine! This is so applicable to many areas of my life right now! It is hard to let them go sometimes! I like the way you physically stop and let them wash over you.
    Jess recently posted..Weekend ThingsMy Profile

  14. says

    I do struggle with negative thoughts. My mind talks to my body and makes it feel crummier than it should feel.
    I wrote a post called “Learning to Fly” for Ilene’s blog last year and it still rings true about how I combat anxiety. And blasting “Learning to Fly” (by Tom Petty OR Pink Floyd) will help me.
    I’m late here because I’ve been away but I’m itching to hear more.
    Tamara recently posted..Food, Folks & Summer Fun.My Profile

  15. says

    I love how the things you learn from running and yoga, things I have yet to fit back into my life, are lessons that can be applied everywhere. I have lots of negative thoughts these days that are keeping me from doing what I want to and know I can do.
    Tricia recently posted..Looking and seeingMy Profile

  16. says

    This post could not have been more timely. I’ve been struggling with a string of injuries for the past few months and major self-doubt has crept in. I’ve been tempted to give up and give in lately. Thanks for posting and letting me know that a) I’m not alone and b) bringing my awareness back to the power of positive thinking. Happy Friday!

  17. says

    These are such great tips and ones that have all helped me overcome those negative thoughts! I definitely get them and think that these ones are perfect ways to kick them to the curb. I am not one to always share these thoughts, but sometimes opening up to this community truly does help. :) XOXO
    She Rocks Fitness recently posted..My Workouts + Another NEW WorkoutMy Profile


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