Strong by Kara Goucher: An Excerpt

Strong by Kara Goucher

Today's entry of Kara Goucher Week is an excerpt of Strong: A Runner's Guide to Boosting Confidence and Become the Best Version of You, Kara's new book. The following passage talks about the genesis of her confidence journal, and how she continues to use it daily.

Reprinted with Permission from Blue Star Press


ABOUT A YEAR EARLIER [before the 2016 Olympic Trials], my sport psychologist, Dr. Stephen Walker, suggested that I start a confidence journal. I was preparing for the 2016 Olympic Trials after having represented the United States in Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012. I certainly wasn't new to competitive running, and yet, I was realizing anew the importance of being physically and mentally prepared.

Running is a head game. When you’re running, there are two options: let your mind wander or focus. To compete, you must focus. Every step, breath, and muscle movement matters for 26.2 miles. When your body is being pushed to the max, it’s easy to let your mind go to a dark place, and tell you all kinds of things:

“Everyone here is better than me. I’m not ready for this. My knee hurts. Something is off.”

The thing is, there are a million reasons why you can’t achieve your goals. All it takes is focus and determination to find the reason you can.

For me, this is where the confidence journal started. With Dr. Walker’s guidance, I began what was to become a powerful and important part of my daily training. Each day, I jotted down notes to myself about my workouts, but this was different from my training log. Rather, my confidence journal was focused purely on the positive, with the goal of building confidence.

My training log allows me to record my workouts. (I recommend the Believe Training Journal by my friends Lauren Fleshman and Roisin McGettigan-Dumas.) My confidence journal has a different purpose. At the end of each day, I reflect on my workout and look for something positive. I make sure that my entry is descriptive and precise so that I can read it months later and recall that workout. Some days, it comes easy.

Here’s my entry from September 17, 2015:
Mile repeats. The most I’ve ever done. With Mark and Heather as my coaches. I averaged 5:22.29. I almost lost it on mile #3 after splitting an 82 mid, and thought of failing, and almost caved, but then I thought “No. I’m Kara Goucher. If anyone can do this, I can.” And then I split a 79. Great workout and the last mile was a 5:16.

Strong by Kara Goucher
An example of a confidence technique Kara uses: a mantra.

At times it’s much more difficult to focus on the positive, but I can always find one good thing.

Here’s my entry from just a few days later:
Horrible, horrible wind. Did not hit the paces I wanted, but still knocked out a solid workout. I’m definitely getting stronger.

I HAVE STRUGGLED with confidence throughout my running career. It may not be true for everyone, but I suspect it is, to one degree or another. For me, the night before a race has always been difficult. “Am I ready? Have I done enough? Did I do all the work I needed to do?” My mind would dwell on these questions.

Now, reviewing my confidence journal is part of my pre-race routine. I will actually flip through my journal to see all the times where I had great workouts and the times where I struggled. It’s a way to put it all out there on the table and realize how much work I’ve done, how I have prepared, and how I deserve to be competing. Even when times were hard, I still pushed through. If tomorrow’s race is hard, I know I have what it takes to succeed. This practice has been so important to me, and I am excited to share it with you.

Strong by Kara Goucher
Strong is filled with plenty of DIY exercises so you can dig deep—and come out more confident.


I have explained how my confidence journal has influenced me as an athlete, but I think we can all benefit from a confidence journal—even outside of running. We all have our own private struggles, whether in our careers or relationships.

We question all kinds of things, asking ourselves, “Am I doing it right? Have I prepared enough? What if I’m not ready? What if I’m making a mistake?” Doubt can creep into our thoughts, no matter how successful we are. What would happen if we took the time each day to quietly celebrate our accomplishments and focus on the positive? There are so many examples—in my marriage, or as a mother—where I would love to jot down something and later go back and be able to say, “Yeah. I did this right.”

Strong by Kara Goucher
Some prompting questions to help you start your confidence journal.

Let's do a group confidence journal, #motherrunners: What felt great about your most recent run or workout? Did it surprise you?

2 responses to “Strong by Kara Goucher: An Excerpt

  1. Rediscovering the power of mantras. Instead of complaining about a too-hot day, I focused on my current favorite mantras. “Head Up, Wings Out” (thanks Oiselle!) and “Breathe Easy.” The first one always instills confidence… the second is my reminder to not worry so much about my pace, distance, etc… or whatever else may be going on in any given day! Mantras help me quiet the self-critical voice inside, and replace it with being my own cheerleader!

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