Jessica Stratton: Six Tips For Helping You Stay Positive

"I've realized that in order to achieve your goal eventually, you have to live like the champion you dream of being now, or else it'll never come. Don't wait until you're ready."

Jessica Stratton - Old Saybrook (CT) High School, Class of 2019

University of Delaware, junior

For the past two years now, I've never been able to fully come back and train like the runner I once was. 

It's been a journey of heartbreak, frustration and disappointment, but this article is about the value of adversity and how I have learned to stay empowered and continue to believe in myself despite things not going the way I want them to. 

It's taken years of patience, mentors and emotional roller coasters to come to peace with where I am and where my career has gone. I now feel like I wouldn't trade the turns my running career has taken because of the value of what I've gained from these challenges.

Here are some mindset tips and perspective changes that I think are helpful to continue believing in yourself and get through injury. 

                              1. Focus on what you can do, rather than what you can't do.

                                For me, implementing this piece of advice has been life changing. I used to focus so heavily on the weeks and weeks I had to take-off or cross training. I used to compare that to all of the things my teammates were able to do that I wasn't.

                                But once I started focusing on the things I could still do, I felt so much more confident in myself and the direction I was headed. I realized that I was doing more than what I was telling myself in my head.

                                Even if you can't run at all, focus on the rehab and strengthening you're able to do and trust in the cross training. It goes a long way and if you continue believing in what you're building into as a runner, you'll get there.  

                                2. Run like you the person you want to be in the future, even if you aren't that person right now.


                                It is so important to set goals that are slightly out of reach. But sometimes when we set these big, daring goals that may not be achievable in the present moment, that reality deters us from believing that it will ever be possible to achieve. It hinders what we're able to get out of ourselves because we're just beating ourselves up for not being where we want to be.

                                I've realized that in order to achieve your goal eventually, you have to live like the champion you dream of being now, or else it'll never come. Don't wait until you're ready. Don't settle for only what you think you're capable of right now; you're hindering your potential. Run like the person you want to be and act like you're going to achieve that goal tomorrow. 

                                3. Seek out what the value is in, whatever setback or challenge you face

                                There is value in EVERY. SINGLE. EXPERIENCE.

                                Good or bad, you can reflect on every experience and find something valuable to gain from it. I challenge you to think about what valuable thing you gained from your personal setback. 

                                For me, reminding myself of the amazing relationships I've formed through injury, and the valuable lessons I've learned that I now apply to my life outside of running, has helped me see myself as a better, stronger person for going through adversity. 

                                4. Seek out mentors

                                Mentors have saved me.

                                If you can, seek out talking to somebody who has been through a similar experience, or who you trust can understand yours.

                                Mentors will hold you accountable. They are there to talk through your emotions, and they are there to give you a support system. But most importantly, they provide you with valuable advice from their similar experiences. You are never alone! 

                                5. Set no limitations on yourself

                                My recommendation for putting no limitations on yourself is to set BIG goals; goals that may not feel achievable. More often than not we actually set goals that limit us on what we are capable of. 

                                I personally would rather fall short of a goal that I set but get more out of myself than settle and set a goal that I can achieve but isn't my full potential. 

                                I also believe that setting goals that are not time oriented but time MOTIVATED, are more effective. What this means is instead of setting a goal that you want to break five minutes in the mile, which may put too much pressure on yourself and be too result driven, instead, make your goal to run like you're running a 4:50.

                                Dare to believe that you can achieve something so much bigger, and run like that person. Even if you don't run 4:50, running like that will motivate your mind and body to run faster than maybe you even think you can. Which makes your odds of breaking five minutes (your actual goal) so much more achievable.

                                This mindset allows you to get the most out of yourself and have no limitations on what you can achieve. 

                                6.Trust the power of the mind (more than training)

                                The mind is so, so powerful. You really can achieve so much more when you believe that you can. 

                                If you've been injured or are going through injury, recognize that mental training and mental growth is just as important, if not more important than physical training. A lot of athletes put their trust in their training. However, good or bad, their training is going indicates how they will perform in a race. I don't believe this is accurate. 

                                Training is important and so is being physically fit, but I argue that there are many other ways to win a race and having less training but a mental advantage is much more powerful. 

                                There's a reason people say this sport is more mental than physical. Believe it. 

                                Jessica is a 2019 graduate of Old Saybrook (CT) High School and a junior at the University of Delaware. She was a multiple-time CIAC State Open and CIAC Class Class S Championship qualifier and placer, and held PRs of 2:22.78 in the 800m and 5:07.42 in the 1,600m. This is the beginning of a monthly series where Jessica writes about important and wide-ranging subjects involving young and developing runners.