Can Positive Self-Talk Make You Run Faster?

Tim Schurrer

Recently, I had to learn how to combat negative thoughts. I joined a gym a couple months ago because I was getting lightheaded doing even minimal physical activity. You’d look at me and assume I’m in shape, but up until this past spring, my days were spent in front of a computer or reading. Neither of those things require being in shape.

Walking into a new gym can be overwhelming. Where do I go? How do these machines work? To minimize my risk of being embarrassed, I hopped on the treadmill and started running. That thing is pretty straight forward. I even started running outside every once in a while.

I’m an optimistic guy and according to StrengthsFinder, my #1 strength is “positivity.” But something abnormal happens for me while running — negative thoughts. It’s been going on for several weeks and I haven’t been able to shake it.

You can’t make it.

You should just walk.

You’re tired, you can just stop.

Sitting in the rocking chair on my porch yesterday, I was reading a chapter from Shauna Niequist’s beautiful book, Bread & Wine. In it, she tells the story of her Chicago Marathon training. Apparently, there are a lot of positive words thrown around in the running world:

If you can get to the starting line, you can get to the finish line.

One foot in front of the other.

So on my run this morning, I decided to give it a shot — combat negative thoughts with positive words.

I run with my iPhone and am able to analyze distance, pace, and elevation when I’m done. The last mile and a half is typically the hardest for me. That’s usually where the negative thoughts are the strongest. But today, I started saying positive words to myself on the final stretch:

If you can get to the starting line, you can get to the finish line.

One foot in front of the other.

Not only did I finish in record pace, I actually got faster as I was speaking positive words that last mile and a half. Runners call that a “negative split” which I hear is good. Regardless of splits, I was pretty pumped to get those negative thoughts out of my head.

All this made me wonder what other areas of life I was affecting with positive talk, and whether my work, relationships and even faith could be boosted by taking greater responsibility for the words that flow through my head. How much faster could I be running in other areas of my life?

What positive words do you need to speak to yourself today?

Tim Schurrer

Tim Schurrer

Tim Schurrer serves as the Director of Storyline. He is also the co-founder of Free the Birds, a company that funds freedom and restoration for those who have been exploited by human sex trafficking. Tim and his wife, Katie, live in Nashville, Tennessee. For regular updates, follow along on Twitter (@timschurrer). To read more of his writing, click here.