Think Positive & Conquer Your Negative Thoughts

I’m 12 days away from my marathon, and find myself thinking about it pretty much 24/7. Sometimes I am really confident and can think positive thoughts about my training and the race; other times not so much. Being that I am a mental health therapist and I am trained to help people overcome anxious and negative thoughts, I realized that maybe I should start listening to my own advice. Keep in mind that I work with kids, so these strategies are not only simple but fun too!


One of the things I talk about when we start identifying negative thoughts is that there are four types. We call them B-L-U-E thoughts which stands for “Blaming myself”, “Looking for bad news”, “Unhappy guessing”, and “Exaggerating”. Let’s break this down with some examples:

Blaming myself: I didn’t train hard enough. My training plan didn’t have enough long runs and weekly mileage. I should have done more speedwork. 

Looking for bad news: When the race gets hard, I am going to give up. The hills are going to be harder than I remember. I’ll hit the wall and have to walk. 

Unhappy guessing: The weather will probably be terrible. There will probably be a windy snowstorm in November with ice and rain too. Or it will be 95 degrees and humid. 

Exaggerating: This race is going to feel like I am running for 12 hours. I am going to have a thousand blisters and more chafing than I ever experienced in my life. 

Ok, that’s pretty ridiculous when you look at it written out. These are pretty drastic negative thoughts, but some are not that far off. So what do we do about it? We change our B-L-U-E thoughts to TRUE thoughts! Here are some tips when trying to make this change:

-What is the evidence?

-Is there another way to look at the situation?

-What would you tell a friend who had this thought?

-What if it is true? Would that really be so bad?

So for example, if I was thinking “The weather will probably be terrible. There will probably be a windy snowstorm in November with ice and rain too. Or it will be 95 degrees and humid”. I would ask myself those questions.

What is the evidence? There really isn’t any. It’s very unlikely that there will be a snowstorm or other crazy weather. Even less likely that it will be hot and humid.

 Is there another way to look at the situation? Well, if the conditions were really that bad they would probably have to cancel the race.

What would you tell a friend who had this thought? Um,  first of all chill out  because you are being crazy. The weather won’t be that bad, and if it’s not perfect there’s not much you can do about it. Just dress appropriately for the conditions and you’ll be fine.

What if it is true? Will that really be so bad? I’ve run in tough conditions before, and I know I will survive. Not sure that I’ll finish with a smile on my face though. 

So this is one strategy that I will be using to survive the taper. I also need to work on being able to use some strategies while I am running the race. I am actually a little more worried about the mental difficulties than the physical!

The-body-achieves-what-the-mind-believes How do you deal with negative thoughts?

Do you start to get all up in your head before a race?

I’m also joining a new-to-me link up today “The Fit Dish” hosted by Jill at Jessica at The topic this week is:  Does your mind wander? What do you think about when you run or workout? So head over there and see what everyone else thinks about while they are running and working out!

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50 responses on Think Positive & Conquer Your Negative Thoughts

  1. I have versions of all these thoughts too, but mainly focus on the blaming myself one. I don’t even necessarily blame my training, but rather maybe even with good training I’m not capable of xx time. Then I just say I won’t know until I try. That’s all I can think! There’s so much unknown about every race that I can’t even worry about weather and things like that. And whenever I’m worrying about anything I also do the “how bad would it really be if the worst thing happened?” and it usually works to put things in perspective. I also tell myself it’s the negative thoughts themselves that will slow me down, so I’d better give them up!
    Michele @ paleorunningmomma recently posted…6 Ways To Forget the Holiday Weight Guilt (Without Gaining!)My Profile

    1. Exactly…there is so much unknown that its impossible to say that a certain training plan will lead to a certain result. Just try to have confidence in yourself because you are capable of more than you think!

  2. I love this post. I’m an anxious person so I have definitely experienced those types of negative thoughts. I always tell myself that fearing something doesn’t make it true. When I focus on something negative I tend to treat it like a fact. That bad thing WILL happen (or so I believe). I try to break down my fear and ask myself how realistic it is.
    Chrissy @Pink Polish and Running Shoes recently posted…Are Carbs Bad? Here’s My TakeMy Profile

    1. Those are really great strategies! Fear is a part of life, but its how we cope with it that will allow us to overcome it or succumb to it.

  3. You know that I am quite the practical person, and married to a doctor, so this post sings with me–what is the evidence? Or, as Alex would say, what is the literature to back it up? Honestly, he says that all the time, “Well, I would just have to see the literature.” NERD. But you are so right. At the moment, everything could be the end of the world, or the promise of greatness. But it will all be different come marathon day–that little thing called adrenaline will be coursing through you to help out!
    Susie @ SuzLyfe recently posted…Holiday Survival: Perfect 5-Ingredient RecipeMy Profile

    1. I always need to think about about why my anxiety is irrational! It always helps to think about what evidence there is to back it up, because most of the time there is none!

  4. I”m a school psych and love this! It’s so true and it’s amazing how ridiculous your thoughts can look when they are written out or you share them with someone. I think the biggest struggle for me when I’m shooting for new goals is to really just believe I can do it and to have the confidence that I’m ready.
    Beth @ RUNNING around my kitchen recently posted…Training update: checking half-way in between Chicago & MemphisMy Profile

    1. I would definitely agree with that, because even though its silly for me to think that I CAN”T do something, it still leaves me questioning if I CAN do something. But you won’t know until you try, right?

    1. I’m sure that an inpatient adolescent unit was really challenging! I’m in a level 5 elementary school, which definitely presents its own challenges! I also do some administrative things off site, which for now has helped to prevent burnout:)

  5. I love the way you break these down and give ways to turn each type of negative thought around. A great technique I learned once was that for every negative thought you have, you should then come up with three positive thoughts to contradict it, to take its power away. I’m usually positive before the race, then the negative thoughts start seeping in toward the last half! (PS: LOVE your blog name! :) )
    Carly @ Fine Fit Day recently posted…The Wandering Mind. #dishthefitMy Profile

    1. That is a great idea! I’m gonna try that as well when I start to have negative thoughts about the race!

  6. Love this! I’ve been reading a lot lately about the power of positive thoughts. How just changing your thoughts can give you a new perspective.

    Thanks for sharing with the #fitfam!

    Trust your training and enjoy the run! You’re going to rock the 26.2 and I can’t wait to hear all about it!
    jill conyers recently posted…Thoughts During A Half MarathonMy Profile

  7. Sometimes Lisa hates my logical mind … but she does the same things. Break down the problem, analyze the inputs and outputs, figure out what is in your control and not in your control.

    When I ran Wineglass in 2013 the temperatures that week shot from me running in my taper with gloves, tights and hat and 30F temps, to it hitting 88F and high humidity on race day. All I could do was hydrate to compensate … I couldn’t control the input, but I could mitigate the outputs.

    As for the nervousness .. we are all like that to an extent … it is just what we do with it, and what we let it do to us! :)
    Michael Anderson recently posted…30 Days of Gratitude – Day #10, Hello Heroes, Goodbye Vietnam-Era HateMy Profile

    1. I think that some level of anxiety is good…it means that we want to do well and we really care. Your story about wineglass really drives the point home. There is only so much we can control, so its best to just focus on that.

  8. This is such useful information, i love how it’s all separated with specific questions to ourselves. So often we tell ourselves to think positive, but that can be vague. Your list helps bridge the gap between wanting to think positive, and actually doing it. Thanks so much for sharing and linking up! This is my first time visiting your blog, and I love it! It’s so nice to ‘meet’ you. Take care!
    Jessica Joy @theFitSwitch recently posted…Does Your Mind Wander? Thoughts While Running or Working Out. The Fit Dish #9My Profile

    1. I’m so glad I got to join the link up and connect with new bloggers! And I’m glad you like the tips! Even though they are meant for kids, there’s no reason why adults can’t use them too!

  9. Love this! I am a pretty positive person but I do sometimes fall into the “have I done enough” trap. As far as weather goes, I’ve run in SO many really tough conditions (hello Chicago 07 that was cancelled due to heat, MCM in hurricane Sandy and NYCM in the wind) but there’s absolutely nothing you can do to control it. Just yourself. Plus it gives you a lifetime of bragging rights. Haha!
    Marcia recently posted…Penny for Your Thoughts #dishthefitMy Profile

    1. Very true! I will never forget running the Houston marathon in the pouring rain, wind, and cold. I felt so strong being able to endure that! There are some things we can control, and other things that we can’t.

  10. This is phenomenal. I had marathon jitters for the Baltimore Running Festival, however I’m going to use your B-L-U-E technique in everyday stuff! lol. Yea, I know I’m not a child, but I certainly think it can help me when I get super anxious, which seems to happen more often then not lately. Btw, you’re going to rock the crap out of this thing. :-)
    Stacey recently posted…#FridayFive {How to Stay on Track this #holiday season!!} linked up with @marmaone1, @EatPrayRunDC, and @YouSignedUp #np_bal #sweatpink #runchatMy Profile

  11. Loved this! Especially the “will it really be that bad” question. It stinks when things don’t go as planned for a race, but it’s not the end of the world. My mind goes crazy before bigger races. I’ve just come to expect that something (that’s really nothing) will always pop up and be sore or hurt before a race because my mind will over analyze every single thing, especially the day before. I try to remind myself that it’s almost part of my pre-race routine now haha.
    Hailey recently posted…3TV Phoenix 10k RecapMy Profile

    1. I think that is the biggest problem with training for one big race. There is so much pressure! But really, there will be plenty more future races. Not all of them will go as planned and that’s just part of the process!

    1. Sometimes I think we get so caught up in our negative thinking that we don’t even realize we are doing it. I’ve been trying to recognize my negative thoughts so that I can deal with them and try to focus on the positive!

  12. Really great post, Lisa! I am definitely guilty of BLUE thinking before every single race. I even look for evidence that supports my BLUE thinking. For instance I’ll check the weather report 20 times a day leading up to the race and if it says the weather is going to be nice I just assume the meteorologist is wrong! hah. I will have to start thinking about the “what would you tell a friend” suggestion, that’s a good way to start thinking positively again! Thank you!
    Kristina recently posted…That Time I Got to Meet Two of My Favorite Pro AthletesMy Profile

  13. OMG! 12 days away! That is so exciting! You are going to do awesome! Love the raw truth in this post! And LOVE the 2nd quote you shared, (I pinned it :-) ) Thanks for sharing! Found you via #DishtheFit

    -Brittany @NFSisters

  14. Thanks for posting this – it was pretty useful. I usually am a worst case imaginer (not a real word but I hope you know what I mean). I’ve always been super anxious but as I get older I think that I’m getting better. What has helped is playing the what if game. What if the worst happens………well come up with practical ways to deal with worst case scenarios. And then thinking about how unlikely it is that any of those things will happen. What if………….the weather is crappy? I hit the wall? I have an awful race. Well what if none of those things happen……have you planned for that?
    Sarah recently posted…Why taking a break from running can be awesomeMy Profile

    1. I know exactly what you mean by “worst case imaginer”! And I love the “what if” game! I actually think that “what if nothing goes wrong” scares me the most…if nothing goes wrong I have no excuses but to give 100%!

  15. I generally don’t get too worried about things out of my control… such as weather. I mean, we can control so much BEFORE the race- all the training and planning and prep, but during the race, all we can really do is stick to our plan and make smart decisions. But things still come up that are out of our control! Just trust yourself that you have done your training, and you are a smart runner that can outwit all those race day elements that we can’t control, we can just react to!
    Megan @ Meg Go Run recently posted…I’m a Lil’ Liebster!My Profile

    1. Thanks for your support! I think alot of my anxious thoughts are probably just masking my thoughts about actually just going out and doing what I trained to do!

  16. I think you wrote this post just for me 😉 I’ve been in a super negative place and I am about to go run it out, I love the BLUE and TRUE, I will have to use that! Good luck on your marathon, I am sure you will do great!
    Amber recently posted…Squash Your StressMy Profile

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