Every step of my run tonight was like coming home to myself. I felt ideas start to creep back in, and the words that I thought lost forever began flowing again. With every stride, I felt my creative spirit returning. It was there. Running with me. Breathing in every mile as if it had been deprived for too long. For the first time in days, I was seeing my world in color instead of the dull gray that comes with being in a funk. And as my legs moved and my lungs filled with the night air, I felt whole again.
Runs like this remind me of how deeply and intimately connected running, creativity and reflection are in my life. I spent years trying to reach my running potential and was never able to break through the mental barriers that held me back from accomplishing all that I knew I was capable of. Something was always missing. No matter how much I read about racing gear, injury prevention and eating healthy while logging miles on a running chart, I was never fully balanced as an athlete. It is only recently that I discovered the value of nurturing my creative and reflective sides right along with my running. And it is when I do this, I truly excel as a runner and feel my WHOLE ATHLETE shine.
Journaling is my favorite way to nurture my creative and reflective self. Since I was 8 years old, a journal has been my trusted creative companion. My very first small green diary was my entry into a world of being with myself in the deepest of ways. A place just for me. With it, I discovered the freedom and clarity that comes from self-reflection and creative expression and it began a lifetime of using my journal as a tool to give my life focus.
It made sense to me that if a journal had proven to be so powerful in allowing me to connect with myself and live intentionally, then perhaps I needed another journal to bring all the pieces together as a runner. I needed a running journal.
I started my running journal to nurture my inner athlete. My running journal is my place to set goals, create vision collages, write about races, process feelings that are holding me back, and record inspiration and notes from my continuous learning. Not only does it give me a place to live creatively and reflectively as an athlete, my running journal also serves as a place to record the analytical side of training. I include running times, things I’m eating, courses I’m running, statistics, etc. My running journal has proven to be the greatest tool for helping me gain mental strength as an athlete. Since I started keeping this journal, I find myself reaching heights as a runner that are entirely new to me.
The time I spend with my running journal inspires, motivates and helps me with my drive and focus to perform as a runner. And when I run, I am inspired to dream even more. The ideas flow and my gratitude is abundant. My running journal is an outlet for expressing these new ideas, goals and lists of gratitude that flow so freely when I run. Running and living mindfully as a runner…the two feed off of each other. I can’t think of a better tool to fuel my whole runner!
How To Start Creating Your Very Own Running Journal
The great thing about a journal is that it can be as simple and individualized as you want. I like to stock up on simple composition notebooks so that I can start a new journal whenever I’m ready. All you really need to start a running journal (or any other fitness-focused journal) is:
- A notebook
- Glue sticks
- Inspirational pictures, poems or magazines that you might want to cut up and include on the cover in a collage. I almost always use Runner’s World or Athleta catalogs for my inspirational pictures and words.
- Contact paper or packaging tape to add extra protection to the outside of your journal.
- Reflective and creative energy. This is different for everyone but we all have the ability to be creative and reflective.
What Kinds of Things Can You Include in a Running Journal?
Journals are personal. Obviously each athlete or runner will have his or her own way. Here are just a few suggestions of some things I include in my running journal:
- Inspiring Quotes. Sometimes I find these quotes from my reading or I cut them from magazines and paste them in my journal.
- Reading Notes. So much of my learning and inspiration is gained from my habit of reading to learn. I have stacks of running books that I frequently pick up and read with pen and highlighter ready. I use my running journal to record information that I want to remember and specific parts that inspire or motivate me.
- Gratitude Lists. I am a big believer in the power of gratitude. When we acknowledge the things we are thankful for and want more of, we end up with an abundant life. I continually take time to list things that I’m thankful for as an athlete. For example, some things on my list might include strong legs, a successful training week, being injury-free, a personal record in a race, having a grasp on my nutrition and even new running shoes. There is ALWAYS something that we can think of when it comes to being thankful!
- Vision Collages. Creating vision collages is one of the most creative activities I do in my running journal. Sometimes, before I start a training plan, I take time to flip through old running magazines with my goals in mind for how I want to balance my whole athlete. I cut out pictures that reveal how I want to be with respect to nutrition, body image, speed, strength, etc. I also incorporate strong and meaningful words, phrases and inspirational quotes. I go back to my vision collages regularly for inspiration and motivation.
- Personal and Positive Affirmations. A big part of my training and daily living involves writing, saying and believing personal words of affirmation for the different roles in my life. Since performing athletically involves balancing the other major roles in my life, I include affirmations for myself as a mother, wife, runner, writer and friend. Positive affirmations play a big part in helping me write my own story and live with purpose.
- Writing my story the way I want it to be. An exercise that has proven powerful for me is to visualize what I want to happen and then write a bit in my journal as if it is already happening. For example: “I am running strong. My legs, lungs and body feel fresh and I am on track for reaching my 3:15 marathon goal. I am strong enough to pass people a little bit at a time….”
- Letters or e-mails. I include e-mails and letters that are particularly uplifting or affirming. These are notes that I will want to read again and again. Words go a long way with me and when I receive letters from people that believe in me and want to see me succeed, it makes me feel loved, affirmed and more focused on my goals.
- Goals, Goals, and More Goals. Reevaluating old goals and setting new goals is a valuable tool for experiencing success in any area of our lives. I find this to be especially important for thriving as an athlete. I spend time writing long-term and short-term goals during my training cycle and I make sure to reread and reevaluate them often.
- Long-Term Training Plans and Daily Workouts. In addition to the creative and reflective aspects of a running journal, I include my tentative training plan and daily workouts and statistics. I find that writing down my more specific daily workouts helps me to see progress, reflect often and stay focused on my goals.
- Race Reports/Race Bibs. After every race, good or bad, comes some sort of “race residue”, or feelings that linger after the race. One way that I process my race experiences is to write race reports. Often, these race reports are written on my blog but I also find it nice to glue my race bib in my journal along with some notes, statistics and feelings that are just for me.
- Big Dreams. My running journal is always a safe place to dream big in a way that is personal and private. It helps to make my dreams a bit more concrete so that they can begin to unfold. I often record private dreams that are just for me and that I am just beginning to live with.
For me, taking time for being creative and reflective is critical. I connect with myself most deeply when I spend time with my journals and running. I am convinced that when I make opportunities to nurture my WHOLE SELF by using reflection and creativity, I also nurture my WHOLE ATHLETE.
I challenge you to find your creative and reflective spirit. Perhaps starting a running or fitness journal might be a first step. It is up to you to find something that will allow you to nurture this side of yourself. Whatever it is, I can guarantee that it will energize other areas of your life and provide for more balanced and whole living.