An Olympian’s Magic Words


I am coming off a rush of a weekend; Coach MK and I were both able to attend the Lydiard Training Coaching Clinic in Boulder. Think 2.5 days of complete running immersion. We spent most of the time learning the principles and structure of Lydiard Training—Arthur Lydiard was a revolutionary Kiwi coach that brought the idea base training, jogging, periodization, and a bunch of other hallmarks of today's training to the masses and Olympians—but we had plenty of time for unique running drills and great stories both from Lorraine Moller,1992 Olympic bronze medalist in the marathon, and Nobby Hashizume, a protege of Lydiard and an encyclopedia of running knowledge.

It's going to take my brain a little while to digest everything we learned and share it with of you, but in the meantime, I want to put this tidbit into the Internets. Lorraine is a very spiritual person, and has strong beliefs in both the universe and the mind/body connection. (If you want insight into her fantastic mind and career, which spanned from age 14 to 41 and over four Olympics, check out On the Wings of Mercury, her autobiography.)

When we started talking about recovering and injuries—recovery is a huge part of the Lydiard philosophy—Lorraine did a demonstration. She brought up a clinic participant who had a slight discrepancy in leg length. She marked his feet alignment, then had him repeat this:

I, ____________________ (insert name here), choose to adopt for my whole body the physical structure that my subconscious desires for optimal health, vitality, and performance. I'm adopting this right now.

I kid you not; His alignment balanced out. She had him unalign via words, and he was as he began. She got him back to balance, and then had us try it on ourselves.

I partnered with MK, and her left leg seemed a titch shorter than her right. She went through the above speech, and her legs were suddenly exactly the same.

How did Lorraine explain this? Surprisingly simply. "We carry our stories in our bodies subconsciously," she explained, "And when some point is tight, we need to allow it to release. Your body doesn't know the difference between your subconscious mind and your conscious mind. So if you say out loud that you are going to align optimally, your body pays attention."

Then she shared a story about an Ironman who went from nearly having surgery on an intense injury to winning Ironman Canada in a week. His treatment? Talking through his injury and his past with Lorraine, who helped him achieve optimal alignment.

I realize it may sound flat and/or bizarre on this post. I get that. But then Lorraine brought it back to everyday #motherrunner life by mentioning everything we take with us on runs: a fight with our partner, our kids' behavior, our frustration at carrying 15 more pounds than we'd like, a sick parent, whatever. I don't think many would deny that truly tote all of that—and more—around in our muscles.

Yes, we feel lighter and released after a run, but whether we're talking mantras or meditation, the mind-body connection in running and life is undeniable.

She suggested taking a minute to start each run with an optimal health proclamation. It doesn't have to be word for word, but saying something along the lines, of, "I [#motherrunner] am going to lock in the optimal physical structure so I can have the workout I desire," feels right to me. Do it enough times, and it becomes a habit that gives your body and mind the cues that you're about to run exactly the way you want to. Gotta say, I think that tool would come in handy when you're all nerves and anxiety, standing on a starting line.

I'm going to adopt it and will report back once I can run again—we think I may have a stress fracture, so I'm letting my foot relax in my beloved, well-worn black boot for a few weeks—but I'm curious: What are your thoughts? Have you ever done anything like this? Would you? 

10 responses to “An Olympian’s Magic Words

  1. It WORKED for me! I am a big believer of mind over matter! Of course I do not think I can go out and run a marathon (maybe walk) without training. Given it’s limitations, I have struggled with my hip joint alignment for YEARS (20+). I kid you not, when I did this chant, I could feel the tingle in my foot and ankle, a little joint creaking up my right side, ever so little. The day I did this, I felt amazing by the days end, as my subconscious led me to the dynamic stretching to further its goal. I have practiced this for several days, and my hips are fluid. Danny Dreyer’s hip and sacrum circles are free of crunching bone or cartilage. The productive pain after my half yesterday is different. I find no stress on my ankle or hip. One must listen to what your body is telling you.

  2. I want to believe it. I want to make this part of my pre-run routine!!! Please let this me be true.

  3. It does sound rather unbelievable, but I tried it anyway, for my run today. And I think I’ll keep trying it. I need a mantra to help me drop some of my baggage before I go for a run–mental as well as physical, not to mention my extra weight (no help for that in a mantra, I’m afraid). Hope that foot heals fast, Dimity.

  4. Meaningful, compelling post. Dealing with a chronic injury ( torn plantar plate–surgery “sooner than later” says Doc…) am trying to accept/embrace what I’ve got–cause we’ve all got “something”, right? Mind is a powerful tool–going to give this a shot and see if it can help extend my running/movement. Better than wallowing in brownies about it ( although I have done that a couple times…). Thanks for the inspo, Dimity!

  5. Great post, Dimity! I try to live by the mantra “Of positive mind and spirit” and will work the health proclamation into my running. I will definite check out Lorraine Moller’s book. She has definitely found a way to perform at a high level for so long. I would love to hear her as a guest on the podcast. Sending healing vibes to you.

  6. Great post and I can’t wait to hear more about what you learned. I don’t always use mantras but I do a lot of positive self talk on my long runs. I will start using Lorraine’s proclamation before my workouts, especially since my back and sciatica have started acting up again.
    Dimity, hope your foot feels better soon!

  7. Great post, Dimity- and I’m so sorry about your stress fracture. I wanted to comment that yes- I’ve tried the proclamations – from reading Dr. Sarno’s book “Healing Back Pain” which I recommend- he has a similar approach. Talking to the pain telling your body you know that it’s there and that it’s stress/emotional not part of your body. Thanks for this post- needed this literally right now and will try Lorraine’s proclamation before my run in ten min.

  8. I got to meet Lorraine way back in 1990 at Women’s Quest- she didn’t share any of this with us that I remember, but I think she exuded deep spirituality at that time. Now, if she has an idea of how to get “rid” of osteoarthritis progression I would welcome it!

  9. Really great post, Dimity… And timely, for me. I just came back from a girls half marathon weekend, and one of my best buddies who went along is getting certified in EFT, also known as tapping. Part of the therapy is repeating positive mantras. My friend guided me through a small tapping session, helping me to get past a bizarre illness that had cropped up over ten days before prior to our race the next day— unexplained stomach cramping, nausea, dizziness, and indigestion. While I didn’t feel ‘cured’, I was able to run symptom free for the race. If I didn’t experience it myself, I would never have believed it. I definitely will try your mantra as you explained above- maybe it can help me move past my chronic ITB injury!!! Thanks so much for the info!! I send many good jumbies for your foot.

  10. I posted something along these lines on the TLAM – HR marathon FB page. I’ve been injured on and off since December. MK’s words have made me realise I was probably building up this injury since some time before then and it’s true – life has been very stressful and I think it has come out in my running (or not). I’m going to try this method. I’ve already seen how something as “silly” as silly toes prepares my body – I don’t understand it, but it works – so I’m going to trust that this kind of affirmation will also change something.

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