I’m not a runner. Well, at least I didn’t think I was. I don’t enjoy it. Well, at least I didn’t think I did. I’m a dance fitness and HIIT fanatic through and through but a couple of months ago, I started a 5k training program. I was slow completing it because well — life, and Texas heat. When I started on week one, I was doing 60 second intervals of running but a couple of weeks ago, I completed 30 minutes straight of nonstop running! I. Ran. A. 5k!
I am beyond proud of myself and here’s why…
At first, I thought I couldn’t do it. While completing the program, I wanted to stop almost every second of running. During those first 60 second intervals I first thought to myself, “Okay, 1 minute is doable, but 30 minutes straight? There’s no way!”
But I followed the steady steps of the program and didn’t stop. I always showed up. Even on the days I didn’t want to run, I knew I could do it because I had completed the day before.
I challenged my identity. Instead of saying “I’m not a runner,” I began saying, “I run! I’m a runner! I can do this!” And while I had lots of people cheering me on, ultimately, the voice in my head was my biggest cheerleader.
Here are some tips inspired by James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, that helped me talk back to my identity. I hope they inspire you to challenge yours to run that 5k or go for any goal you think is out of reach.
1. Believe in yourself.
Clear states, “Research has shown that once a person believes in a particular aspect of their identity, they are more likely to act in alignment with that belief.”
Changing the narrative can be helpful here. Try using phrases that help you identify who you are instead of what you want. For example, I am a runner! Or, I am a person who makes healthy choices!
2. Rinse and repeat.
Reinforce your character by repeating the behavior. Each day of my training program there was a proverbial fork in the road: run or quit.
Each day I chose to run (even if it took me double the time). Each interval I completed let my inner chatter know that this action was worth doing again. I knew I could do it because I had just done it. The more you repeat a behavior, the more it will become part of who you are.
3. Use it for good.
Creating an identity can sometimes work against you. I am notorious for saying, “I am terrible at math, ”or “I just can’t say no to sweets.” Just like repeating a good behavior, if you say this to yourself enough times, you might start to believe that story.
But plot twist! While it’s helpful to be realistic about your identity — let’s be honest, I will never have a career as a mathematician — you can also flip the script. Try an internal dialogue of “I’m the type of person who likes to take on challenges” or “I can do what I set my mind to.”
4. Don’t hold on too tight.
A word of caution in this tale. Focus on the aspects that make up your identity rather than one single line. Clear states, “The key to mitigating these losses of identity is to redefine yourself such that you get to keep important aspects of your identity even if your particular role changes.”
So, yes, now I am a runner, but I am also someone who just likes to take care of her body. On the rainy days, I pivoted my run to pirouettes inside. And on the days when my body needed a break, I let it recover. I am me!
What are some things you have accomplished that you thought you couldn’t do? Has there been a time when you kept going but wanted to stop? Let’s share these stories and cheer each other on. But most importantly, let’s increase the volume on that inner voice and tell it… you CAN do this!
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