Staggered start at Eau Claire, WI Bridge to Bridge 10-miler.

I’ll be frank. I did not start off the racing season feeling gratitude for much. Returning to in-person races post Covid-19 seems a bit surreal. I definitely lost momentum (and packed on a few pounds) in 2020.

This spring I laced up for what should have been a gorgeous spring 10-miler. Instead, I experienced the physical, emotional, and psychological impact COVID-19 had done on my health. Waddling across the finish line, I definitely did not experience euphoria—or gratitude—but rather found myself asking, “Is it time to retire before I hurt myself?”

A few weeks later, that question was put on hold when I heard myself commit to a fall 10K race with a friend. Overzealous training, extra weight, and a lot of activity in worn out sandals lead to my first real injury of plantar fasciitis. Given my age, size, and fragile mental state, I decided to take my recovery very seriously. This meant as race month approached, I hadn’t put in enough foundational runs. I know a lot of individuals who can get by with minimal training for a 10K. At my size, that just isn’t a thing, though, and can be dangerous.

I consulted my training app and the calendar and determined that, with 100% commitment to workouts for the last three weeks, I’d be alright. I wouldn’t set a PR by any stretch, but I didn’t need to quit.

That’s when self-sabotage reared its ugly head.

I’ve had bouts of this before. The whys of not being thin enough, smart enough, fast enough, pretty enough. You know what I’m talking about.

This time was different, though. Rather than wallow, I turned to some new found tricks to remind myself of who I want to be and why I run. The past year I’ve spent time investing in personal growth. More specifically, some simple self-help hacks that help snap me back into being the true me. And I’m grateful for them!

It started with Mel Robbins 5 Second Rule. This simple method of envisioning yourself as a rocket, counting down from five and as soon as you hit zero launching into action has played over and over in my head… successfully. Sometimes, when I’m ready to break a promise I made to myself, I simply do the countdown. At zero, I move, and generally in the right direction. Once moving, it is easier to keep going versus stopping.

While this has been particularly helpful in morning runs, it has helped me achieve a number of goals this year around gardening, reading, writing, cross-training and setting boundaries.

This summer, the same author started promoting her latest book The High 5 Habit. The concept is equally as simple. Every morning in the bathroom, rather than sabotage and pick apart everything you hate about yourself, you give yourself a high 5 in the mirror.

This stoic Scandinavian was skeptical to say the least, but I figured why not give it a try. I pre-ordered her book which arrived on my doorstep with just a week until race day.

I’m not going to go Pollyana on you and say giving myself a high 5 in the mirror changed my life overnight. But it did something. Somehow, a morning pep talk, 5 second rule, and a simple yet somewhat consistent morning routine of making my bed and giving thanks (thank you Atomic Habits), was slowly rewiring my brain. As I wrapped up my final training run, I basked in the October sun. I thanked my stocky legs for carrying me and did a little post run happy dance during my cool down.

On race day, I set my intention of just enjoying the moment. It was a wet but beautiful fall day with friends. Cruising the Corridor course cuts through the woods on an old railroad bed during peak fall colors. Post-race chats with friends included margaritas and sipping local suds on a patio overlooking the greatest of great lakes: Lake Superior.

gratitude hacks

Cruisin’ the Corridor finish line.

Did I set a PR? Not this round. But I accomplished a different—and arguably more important— goal: Giving myself grace post COVID-19. Rather than spending 90 minutes beating myself up because of everything I didn’t do in training, I found a way to celebrate.

When the self-doubt reared her ugly head, I did my countdown and launched into a mini sprint. When the race got tough, I gave myself a little high 5. Rather than beat myself for not training harder, I remembered I had recovered from my first running injury, lost some of my COVID-19 padding, and strengthened my body. I crossed the finish line strong.

gratitude hacks

Halloween fun with friends.

A few weeks later, I ended the season with an evening spooky fun run with friends. As I close out a decade of running, I can honestly say it never gets easier, but I’m proud of every finish line I’ve crossed. And, scrolling through my 2021 racing photos, I couldn’t help but high 5 myself for finishing out the season Sisu strong—both physically and mentally.

What self-help hacks you use to stay positive on the trail!