growth mindset

The Good: 3 Things I Learned While Training On My Own


This 3-part blog series is happily titled: The Good… The Bad… and The Ugly… of Running


Part 1: The Good of Running shares 3 things I learned while training on my own.


In 2010 I finished my college eligibility and was left wondering (like the other 3% of athletes who turn pro Source: Business Insider) Do I want to keep training? If so, where will I train? Who will I train with? And will I have a coach?


If you are reading this blog then you already know that answer to the first question was YES!  The next series of questions were a bit more challenging to answer.


The first year as a pro was rough.  My college coach gave me a few workouts, but for the most part, I was making things up on the fly.  I was running but not hard. I was eating but not well. I was sleeping but not enough.  I ran 2 races — 2:12 and 2:20 something for 800m.  I’ll let you in on a little secret: if I ever run over 2:20 I NEVER look up the results, so I always run 2:20 something.


After a disappointing first year out of college, I knew I needed to change my approach to training, especially if I wanted to call myself a professional runner and not a recreational runner.  So I found a coach, Ben Rosario.  Although he lived in a different state he told me exactly what to run everyday, and he held me accountable.  I found a training partner.   Although he only trained with me for 3 months it was the best three months of my life.  But he left me to get his master’s in mechanical engineering at Stanford.  WHAT THE HECK?  I guess I can’t blame him for moving on.  That left me training on my own.


Here are the top 3 things I learned while training on my own.


1. Run one day at a time

I went into professional running with one goal in mind – to be the best runner in the world – but I failed to focus on the steps that get you there.  Like any other day I arrived at the track to do a workout. But on this particular morning when I got there I started crying.  I waited 30 minutes to calm myself down, but when I went to warm up I started crying again.  The other thing on my mind was school and trying to be the best student in the world.  I thought there was no way I could do both at a high level. I thought I had to quit one, so I could focus on the other.

These “best in the world” goals had to change and inevitably evolved into – be the best runner and student I can be, today.  My new live-in-the-moment mindset served as my framework for setting intermediate goals.  When I arrived at the track I would close the door to the classroom; and vice versa, when I arrived at school I would close the gate to the track.  I focused on one task at a time… eat a good breakfast, read a journal article, or go for a run.  This allowed me to maximize my happiness and enjoy the journey.


2. Say “I think I can” when running up a hill

I think it is safe to say that most athletes are competitive people by nature. I am no exception.  There is always someone who will run faster than you and there is always someone who will run slower than you.  Comparing yourself to others can lead to negative self-talk, bitterness, and can be detrimental to your self-esteem.  Running on my own helped me learn the importance of strengthening my mind and “filling my basket” with self-confidence and self-efficacy.  It gave me the opportunity to practice positive self-talk during a hard workout or running up a hill.  Just like the Little Engine That Could who said ““I think I can” when he was traveling across treacherous mountains to his destination.


3. Run through the finish line

Courage is hard to find and everyone is searching for it.  I have yet to meet a person who does not want the quality of bravery.  I would argue that courage is the most in-demand quality a person can have.  I committed to running professionally right after college when the decision was easy, there were no hardships, and everything was looking up.  Over the next year running on my own became increasingly hard.  I often thought about giving up.


Then I looked up the definition of courage



noun \ˈkər-ij, ˈkə-rij\

the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous


And the definition of commitment



noun \kə-ˈmit-mənt\

a promise to do or give something

a promise to be loyal to someone or something

the attitude of someone who works very hard to do or support something


Commitment IS NOT the act of making a decision when the decision is easy. It is the courage to make a decision when the decision is tough.  I became inspired by these definitions and courageously committed to professional running.


Thank you for reading!


Training update: Growing at your own pace


Week one… just trying to keep up. Week 2… just trying to keep up. Fast forward to week 8… still just trying to keep up.


I am in the middle of my eighth week of training with the OTCE.  Pinch me because I am still in shock that I am training with the OTCE. I feel blessed to be a part of the fastest, most driven, and hard working group of women I have EVER met.  My teammates include Olympians, US Olympic trails qualifiers, and NCAA champions.


In college I ran about 30 miles per week.  Last year I bumped that up to 40 miles a week and was introduced to tempo running.  To long distance runners tempo running is when you zone out at a fast pace and finish at an even faster pace.  To everyone else (including 800m runners) tempo running is not a part of our vocabulary and zoning out is unheralded.  So every time I attempt to run this foreign pace it looks something like this:


Going out way too fast (what? I felt good).  Reaching half way and taking a harmless 30-second break to catch my breath because I went out too fast  (side note: my coach usually did not know about these breaks… so let’s try to keep that secret between you and me).  Attempting to “zone out at a fast pace” which is obviously not working, so finally, finishing at a slower pace than I started.


I think it is safe to say I have a tiny aversion to tempo runs. Do other runners have similar problems with tempos? When I describe my problem to my long distance teammates they promise me that it will get better. SO YOU ARE TELLING ME THERE IS A CHANCE


Currently, I am starting my second year of tempo running. However, this time when I start to hyperventilate I remember to count to two when I breathe in and again when I breathe out.  PROGRESS! Despite my incremental growth in tempo running, I have been introduced to a new training outside of my repertoire… repeats that are longer than 800m.


One of the benefits to training on your own is the opportunity to learn how to grow both mentally and physically at your own pace.  However, when I was thrown into the mix, with a group of women who were much stronger than me, I was a little discouraged.  My grow at your own pace mindset became scrambled.  Fortunately, I have trained on my own, I have won a few races, and now, I know how to pace myself.  My new challenge isn’t repeats longer than 800m, tempo running, or even, trying to keep up. Instead, my new challenge is utilizing my previously acquired skills and focusing on growing at my own pace.

Thanks for Reading


How to Maximize your Love for Learning


I am getting ready to open the outdoor season this weekend at the Missouri Relays. I am racing the 1500/800 double. The 1500 is definitely a distance that is out of my comfort zone. It requires great concentration. On my training run, today, I calculated every possible split to accomplish a personal best (under 4:27).  I am anticipating this opportunity to practice and develop my concentration skills but to fully prepare I need to make sure I maximize my growth mindset.

A growth mindset is the belief that practice, determination, and hard work can improve skills. Choosing to have a growth mindset rather than a static mindset can help you create a love for learning and maximize your creativity and productivity.

Q: What tools can I incorporate to have a growth mindset?

A: Schedule mental breaks throughout your day.

This past week my goal has been to get into a routine. When I listening to my mind and body, I know it is telling me that I am out of sync.  Every workout has become a “blue-collar day.” As I check off my workout from today’s list, I go to the next thing on the list… writing my dissertation.  Every individual has to learn how to balance his or her passions with other passions. To do this I schedule mental breaks.

Training is more that merely running. It includes running, recovering, nutrition, and MENTAL REST.  Metal rest is necessary for maximizing learning, creativity, and productivity.  A part of getting back into a routine means I need to build mental rest into my training.  Here is my typical schedule:

–       Morning run

–       Savor breakfast and make it a time for mental rest

–       Go to work at a coffee shop and when I start to feel my creativity and productivity diminish, go to a different place to work

–       Go to work at my office

–       Take 30 minutes to an hour to eat lunch with a friend and talk about everything and anything not related to work and training

–       Afternoon run

–       Read a book that is not Once a Runner by John Parker or Learning Theories by Dale Schuck. Leave the running books for before a big race and the textbooks for work.

Now, it is your turn to foster your passion for learning and to maximize your creativity and productivity. Remember a crucial part of this process is to schedule in mental rest. Please reply with ways you take a mental break.

Thanks for reading, Shannon


A wise woman recognizes when her life is out of balance and summons the courage to act to correct it, she knows the meaning of true generosity, happiness is the reward for a life lived in harmony, with a courage and grace. – Suze Orman