Heather Stephens

When our Pros, Muses, and Haute Volée make brave leaps and knock big goals out of the park, it's easy to forget that these big wins started by taking one step. As you set your own #winwithone intention this month, take a read through these tips. It's the little commitments that pave the way to big successes. 



I like to keep a confidence journal. Every night after I write in my training log, I also write a sentence or two in my confidence journal about my run for that day. It might be something like, “felt great today and surprised myself by finishing my mile repeats much faster than expected.” Or it could be something like, “felt terrible today. Was way off pace but somehow found the strength to finish the workout.” It’s a way to find something positive from every single day of training. Then, the week of and night before a big race, I can look through my confidence journal and remind myself that I am ready to be on the starting line. Not only do I remind myself of all the hard workouts I nailed, but I also remind myself of all the times I fought through bad days and still found a small victory. Reviewing this journal has been super helpful in calming my nerves and gaining confidence when I go to race. It has made a huge difference in my mental preparation.



The largest breakthrough I've had in the sport in over 15 years was the direct result of doing something everyday, rather than doing everything one day. What I mean is, rather than lifting for :45 minutes on Tuesday and Thursday, I did 5 - 10 minutes of strength every day. Instead of going to a yoga class for an hour once a week, I did 5 - 10 minute Jasyoga resets 4 - 6 days a week. Consistency is worth far more than sporadic grand gestures. That's true in running and... pretty much everything else.



I took on a new mantra. The power of saying ‘Believe. I can do this.’ I hate working out alone. My confidence wanes. I ask myself ‘Why am I doing this?’. Then I get to the start line and feel out of place. Everyone else has been doing this for years. I’m old and I’m new to racing; I feel like I lack experience. Then I chant in my head ‘Believe. You can do this.’ This mindset has changed those solo workouts, they are brave, beautiful and on pace, and paid dividends in races where, forget topping the podium, I’m smashing my PR’s. 



In 2016, I struggled to take myself and my training seriously. When I decided to take my marathon PR from 3:59 to 3:35 in an attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I worried that I would quit the moment I doubted myself. When I saw the terrifying paces my coach put on my training plan, I'd panic and convince myself that I couldn't run them without even trying. Learning to remove can and can't from my vocabulary and choosing to see what happens when I give 100% taught me that it didn't matter if I actually hit them. All that mattered was that I tried. No regrets, no excuses became my fighting words and even though more often than not, I fail to hit my paces, I always walk away proud that I gave it my all.  



As I got back into training full time, establishing a life-work-running balance became increasingly important. I would have a few good weeks of high motivation, then struggle to get out the door, burdened with the question of why I was still trying to run. I found that having 3 weeks at high mileage, followed by one down week, enabled my body, mind, and soul to handle training. The down week rejuvenates me, giving me just enough of a bump of motivation to make it through the following 3 weeks. This adjustment in my weekly mileage schedule has kept me running healthfully and mentally engaged, all the while seeing improvements in fitness along the way.



Before my move to Sacramento, I was living in a place of wallow and contempt. Life and training didn't align, and I found myself stressed. Once I moved, life become better, training sky rocketed to another level and I was ME again. Sacramento State University has become my biggest support in my dreams of coaching and running at an elite level. Never be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, remove yourself from negative aspects in your life, and surround yourself with positive people. One small change can make all the difference, not only in your running, but your life as well.



My days have always been hectic, busy, and quite frankly full of life. I am a multitasker beyond belief who has had to master the art of compartmentalization. I use it to break up my daily grind to mentally make it more manageable, just focus right here right now on getting through this one interval, grade one more set of papers, or complete these household chores by such and such time. If I didn’t tune in to what I was doing in the moment I could very easily be consumed by negative energy wasting mental strength worrying and feel overwhelmed at just how much I had yet to accomplish. The beauty is once something is complete; I feel not only a sigh of relief but also a sense of accomplishment. The ability to flip the switch mentally as I change from one task to another has been one of my greatest skills allowing me to juggle multiple passions both on and off the track. Learning how to compartmentalize, wasn’t something I necessarily chose to do, I literally had no other alternative to staying sane. After all how else do you get through 62.5 laps on a track, when the last 12.5 are a progression and you have a seemingly endless amount of school work awaiting you at home afterwards and oh yeah a few meals to prepare too!



I learned to recover as hard as I train. When I started running I was rewarded for training hard all the time; but years later discovered "going hard in the paint" nonstop was not only unsustainable but preventing me from improving. Besides taking cat naps and scheduling leg up the wall, the best thing I've done is block out days, usually after workouts, where runs are very low heart rate (for me: mid 140s or just under 140 if I'm really on my game). Those days let all that hard work circulate through my systems, flushing out the junk leaving and space for the hard work to soak in. It took almost 15 years but, learning the value of recovery has rewarded me more than when I tried to be a relentless machine. 

What small step will you take this month? Join the challenge and share your #winwithone commitment!

January 30, 2017 — jbarnard

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