James Stewart

Turn the stop sign green


I’ve been chatting to a few athletes recently about things like races, or FKTs and just generally doing running with a specific purpose. It’s been great. As events return and adventures get going again, it’s important we sharpen the other parts of our armoury that help us be successful. 

One of the topics I have been majoring on with a few people is dealing with attrition during an event. I think we all agree that in an ultra there’s likely to be some unforeseen events. On the odd occasion you may get the perfect run, a day where the stars align, nothing goes awry and you have the day from heaven. 

But… more often than not this is not the case. 

So, a technique I encourage athletes to think about is whether issue that arises is a barrier or a roadblock. I ask them to visualise it as either. The aim is to help them see issues more as barriers. They can be lifted, moved, overcome. You may need assistance or you may be able to solutionise the problem yourself. 

For example, blisters in your feet. They are painful and uncomfortable. You didn’t plan for them to happen. Yet, they did. If you are in a negative mindset you may turn that blister barrier into a reason to stop roadblock. A barrier is a reason to slowdown and take stock, the come up with a solution. Roadblocks halt us. Blisters can be treated. 

I have done it myself. I have had situations where I have been on a training run, in a race or whatever and I have been miserable. Then a barrier lands in front of me. It can be anything from sickness, to getting lost, to picking up a niggle. Whatever it is, if I am in a negative head state, I start to think about how I can turn this into a reason to stop. A reason I can explain away to myself and others. The comfort of complicity with only me knowing the truth.

I find a way to reinvent the barrier as a roadblock. Yet, as quick as I go to the negative I can do the opposite. I visualise a way around the issue. If I have support, I get them to help. We bring innovation and experience to problem, and more often than not, find a reason to keep going and a way to do it. 

Next time you are thinking DNF, backing off or even DNS, think, “am I turning a barrier into a roadblock?” If the answer is maybe, then it is probably yes. See if you can work out how to get past the barrier. You may just feel a new level of fulfilment as a result! And if you have gone through this process you will make a clear-headed, non-emotional decision that will leave you less likely to feel regret or second guessing your call. 

It’s a simple but useful wee technique. Turn the stop sign green.

I hope that you find this useful. I’d love to hear from you with any feedback or if you even just want to drop me a wee message. I can be reached at jamesstewart13@aol.com or via social on Twitter @james_stewart13 or on Insta @jamesstewart13

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