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Without even realising it, many of us will have set out on our running journey with rigid beliefs in the backs of our minds: beliefs such as, “I’m so slow”; “I’ll never get faster”; or “I could never run a marathon.” We believe these so completely that they become more than just thoughts – they become facts.

However, the mind is a powerful tool, so by believing these negative statements, we really are limiting ourselves. What if, instead, we believed we could run further, faster, stronger? What would we go on to achieve?

“A limiting mindset can prevent you from achieving your optimal performance,” says Dr Rhonda Cohen, a registered sports and exercise psychologist, and head of the London Sport Institute at Middlesex University. “Beliefs can be unrealistic and based on previous experiences. For example,

‘I can’t run a marathon as I was always useless at PE’, or ‘I’ll never lose weight as everyone in my family is overweight’. Distracting thoughts can then lead to emotional constraints, such as high anxiety, worry or fear. A limiting mindset can range from being uncomfortable to being a complete barrier to you ever achieving your goal.”

Bernadette Dancy PhD, a senior lecturer in health and physical activity at St Mary’s University, London, agrees that the right mindset is hugely important for running – or indeed any physical activity.

“As humans, we are predetermined to want to demonstrate our competence when performing any skill or task,” she says. “After all, who wants to look bad or incompetent? So if you think you’re not going to be able to do something, you’re less likely to a) start or b) stick to it. Why would anyone start running if they thought they were going to be bad at it, or thought it was going to injure them? I have a lot of women say to me, ‘Oh, I can’t run.’ When I ask them why, they often reply, ‘I’m too big’; ‘My boobs will hurt’; or, ‘I’m not fit enough – everyone will look at me.’ They have already decided the outcome before they start – that they won’t be competent and therefore won’t attempt it.”

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About Women’s Running

Run your dreams with the new issue of Women’s Running, on sale now! Use our expert tips to find out how to stop your self-sabotage for good, and be inspired by the stories of five women who never thought they could run - and proved themselves wrong! We’ve also got a four-week plan to help you lay the groundwork for a great 2017; take our quiz to find out how to tweak your lifestyle for the best results; and we’ve got your ultimate tech wishlist - a guide to the very best running gadgets on the market today.