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On the run: 3 simply powerful mantras to keep you going


Not everybody loves the dreadmills. They’re boring (no winds, no sun), they’re uninspiring, and they make you feel like you’re never going to get anywhere. All you’re really do is running in place.


But don’t get me wrong. Despite the tough relationship I’ve had with the ‘mill, we’ve been going strong together for some time now. What I learned is that if you’re smart about it, you’ll get a workout just as effective as you do outdoors (all depends on your goals). No matter how much I despise it, it’s been about 6 years that I’ve trained consistently on a treadmill, and I still come back to it whenever I need to run my heart out.

Things changed ever since I relocated to Jakarta – I’ve significantly reduced my outdoor routine. Here I’d have to drive to my route just to run, which is just ridiculous, whereas in Frisco I would just get out of the house and run. I didn’t have to think about my phone, my wallet, my car keys and whatnot. There aren’t many green locations around where I live in the Big Durian, at least those that have a more private setting, and it sucks because I know I could last longer on my feet when I’m running close to nature (True story: One time, I broke my PR 10-miler in the rain at the Presidio without rest. And yes, I was that frustrated at that time of my life, and the drizzle just felt super invigorating for my soul).

So what did I do? I developed a system that allows me to draw energy from inward. What do I mean by that? Well, perhaps you’ll get the picture if I say what I’m about to say now applies to everything from running to real life: At some point, external reality will run out of resources to extract for you keep going. So when those inopportune circumstances do happen, it doesn’t mean that the universe is trying keep you from moving forward. You simply can’t move to the next level if you conclude those circumstances as an excuse for you to get lazy and stay put. When you really think about it, they happen because you need to push harder and become stronger, and by stronger, I don’t necessarily mean breaking another PR, finishing a race 30 seconds faster, and/or building a higher mileage in the next 3 weeks.

A huge part of nurturing that internal locus of control, at least, in running and lasting through the treadmill blahs, is positive self-talk. I know this sounds a bit woo-woo, but deep down I believe you and me and the rest of the world already know that logic and reasoning cannot explain how everything works.

The words I choose as my personal mantras may not be the kind sunshine and rainbows you get in self-help books, but they work for me to keep my spirits up till the end of the line for 2 infallible reasons: 1) Each mantra explicitly contains 2 syllables to form a steady 2-stride beat that matches my cadence, and 2) They all help me forget about the self-conscious ‘hows’ and ‘how-tos’ of it all and remind me of why I run in the first place as well as why I must keep running. I can’t promise a faster finish, but I can promise that you won’t stop at that moment when you feel like quitting the most. So go ahead, try chanting these mantras in your heart when the going gets tough:


Be soft.


I have to admit, I stole these words from Kurt Vonnegut. But it’s only recently that I discovered his message makes perfect sense as you run. For instance, normally I’d be pushing myself to injury with self-punishing words bouncing off my head. But wait till you try to instill a much kinder mentality in yourself, such as Vonnegut’s, and you’d be surprised by how easy the miles ahead can get. As I lighten up the weight of my shoulders, I could almost feel every fiber in me dissolving into the fluidity of the run. It’s what running’s supposed to feel like: You’re gentle with yourself and with the world around you. You turn into the organic force of nature that you are, and nothing else feels more at home than that moment you become one with the universe – it’s smooth, it’s intimate, and it’s liberating.


Let go.


Sometimes when I’m running, instead of thinking less about the problems I’m having with my life, I’m thinking more into it. I start to see all the little things that I’ve done, the causes I’ve made, and everything else that’s wrong with me that’s led to those problems. So instead of coming out of the run feeling better, I feel even worse. Holding a grudge is a big burden on your otherwise healthy mentality, even if it’s a grudge you hold about yourself. So just let it go, because you’re not perfect and no human on earth will ever be.


(I can’t). God can.1 


Runners often use the ‘I can’ mantra to get pass their mid-race slog. But for some reason, it’s never worked for me. It may be because I’m too scared to take a chance to be slightly more confident than usual, for fear that if I fail to achieve the particular higher target, I’ll lose trust in myself significantly during the next mile. So here I am to admit: There are a lot of things I cannot do. There are many more things I cannot understand. However, I’m a believer of the God that sacrificed His only son’s life, just for someone as un-able as me. I wish I can do so many things to show passing observers and dedicated readers alike that inexhaustible grace – a great many ambitious things. But the fact that I can’t do it all a time doesn’t stop me from believing and surrendering myself to the Greater Good in the long run.


Run by my side;
Live in my heartbeat;
Give strength to my steps.
As the cold surrounds me,
As the wind pushes me,
I know you surround me.
As the sun warms me,
As the rain cleanses me,
I know you are touching me,
Challenging me,
Loving me.

And so I give you this run.
Thank you for matching my stride.


[Beyond Blessed: Runner’s Prayer]


As you can see, there’s a lot of work going on in the mind. Most would think long-distancers are physical extremists, when clearly, it’s 90% mental work. Given the right fuel and some restful sleep45 minutes on a treadmill would feel like a breeze, and with these mantras taken to heart, you’ll certainly be on your way to reaching your running goals during the next race.

Which one of these mantras are you looking to try? Let me know how it works out for you.


P.S. Learn why mantras are so effective from The Power of a Running Mantra by Doug Hay. It’s 100% FREE.



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  1.  For this mantra, you can change it to ‘love can’, because they practically mean the same thing. []
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