The mind is so amazingly powerful! I knew that already, but I’ve had several reminders in the last week of just how powerful it is!
I was heading out for an ocean swim in Florida last week early one morning before the waves got too big. As I walked across the beautiful, white sand happy to start my 1 mile ocean journey, I said,”Hi” to a fisherman standing on shore with his hopeful pole in the water. Big Mistake! He replied, “Hi! Are there sharks out there?” URGH!!! That’s not what you ask a swimmer who’s about to jump in the ocean! I had been talking about sharks with my husband a few days earlier- NOT on the beach. After a few laughs, I kindly asked him not to mention the word “shark” until we were out of Florida. Evidently Tom didn’t relay the message to the fisherman. So as I started my swim and tried not to think about sharks, all I could think about was SHARKS! It’s amazing how my dark tinted goggles never produced shark-looking shadows in the pool back home at the Y! But, you guessed it, there we plenty of shadows that morning, and yep, they all looked like sharks- big ones with lots of teeth, hammer heads with bizarre looking faces, even large groups of them. The more I tried to override my brain and not think about sharks, the more sharks I thought I saw. Maybe it was my fastest mile swim ever…..
So today, I’m in Alabama visiting my family and headed out for a nice hot run in the country. This time there was no fisherman to blame. It was squarely my own fault. As I turned out of my parent’s gravel driveway onto the road I thought to myself, “I hope there aren’t any snakes out there!” Now, having lived in Alabama for much of my growing up years, I know that there are A LOT of snakes out there- BIG one, poisonous ones-ones that can kill you! A guy in my church growing up brought a 10 foot rattle snake in his trunk one day that he ran over and wanted to show off. So, once again, my powerful brain kicked in and started thinking about that huge snake from 20 years ago. The more I tried not to think about snakes, the more I thought I saw. For some reason, the road today had a lot of curvy things- pieces of rubber, wires, small tree branches- all of which looked like SNAKES as I ran up on them. There were gray ones, brown ones, and even striped ones with rattles on the back- all in my powerful imagination but enough to make me stiffen a few times. Above the sound of my music player, I could still rustles in the grass beside me that of course, sounded like slithering snakes.
Thankfully, I didn’t actually see any sharks or snakes in my worried workouts, but I was reminded of how powerful our minds are- whether for good or bad. There’s a lot of talk in the athletic world about mental energy and staying positive while working out or racing. I guess it’s all true. I’ve never really struggled with negative thinking, but now I know I’m human and can worry like the best of us. Good reminder. Stay mentally focused on the positive. Surround yourself with encouraging people. Don’t talk to innocent looking fishermen at the beach. And maybe consider running inside on a treadmill in Alabama-no snakes and it’s air conditioned.