The American ultramarathoner, Courtney Dauwalter is known as one of the most respected endurance athletes in the world. She has competed in multiple ultramarathon races, often 100 miles and over. This elite athlete fell in love with running while racing ‘the mile’ in elementary school.
Despite her love of running, Courtney shares how her mental strength inspires her during the most challenging runs. For more advice on maintaining mental stamina, follow on for Courtney Dauwalter: Top 5 Lessons We Can Learn from Her!
1. Question Your Body’s Ability to Perform
Courtney Dauwalter realizes that pushing through mental boundaries is essential to long-distance running. But she often wishes that she had listened to her body’s warning signals, indicating when possible injuries would occur and to stop. She says that “knowing yourself” and understanding the potential signs of a future injury helps to maintain your body’s ability to perform.
While Courtney understands the need to push through mental boundaries in a race, she realizes that the mind must work in collaboration with the body’s needs. Courtney has learned that a “full spectrum” of possibilities exists for stopping during the race, and she listens to her body.
2. Growing Awareness is the Key
Courtney explains her life experiences as having a “filing cabinet” in her brain. In those thoughts, she remembers the lowest points in her race and all the problems she has encountered. She says when those issues arise in a race, she tries to stay ‘fact-based’ and not let herself get emotional or overwhelmed with those moments.
On runs, Courtney utilizes her memories to understand any situation she may experience. She realizes that letting her thoughts slip into negative thinking can affect her performance. Those negative thoughts can contribute to how her body feels during an event. Therefore, she tries to avoid any negativity. She explains the negative thoughts as a ‘spiral’ in which she needs to switch stories to overcome those thinking patterns.
While we think we control those negative stories, perhaps the best alternative is to ‘flip’ the script and challenge our thinking patterns. Growing awareness is a process, however. As we gain insight into how our thoughts shift, we can change them more easily.
3. Training Your Thoughts Helps with Endurance
While Courtney explains her thoughts as ‘being connected’ to running, they exist as a stream of consciousness as she runs. Courtney has deep thoughts during runs but often thinks ‘silly thoughts’ about jokes or food. Yet during her runs, she may experience an almost blank space where she has minimal to no thoughts.
Her thoughts can become ‘stuck’ in a repetitious cycle, in which she speaks out loud to challenge her thinking. At the end of a race, Courtney may choose to run with a pacer and finds herself telling the pacer her thoughts. Once she has dealt with those thoughts, it often frees her mind. She realizes that dwelling on any negative thoughts is not helpful for her.
Training your thoughts during an endurance sport is a process that develops over time. As people adapt this process to suit their needs, they can use their ‘trained’ thoughts for future events. In endurance sports, a well-trained mind can adapt to a broader range of conditions.
4. Embrace Your Joy as a Motivator
Although Courtney Dauwalter admits she is passionate about running, she says keeping a positive mindset towards her professional career motivates her.
Courtney says that while she’d like to run ‘personal bests’, she wants to create memories of those races. Courtney says ‘records’ and ‘wins’ may not always contribute to long-term joy, but her shared experiences amplify her happiness. She admits that during an event, she wants to fully commit herself to that run (both emotionally and physically). Courtney also wants to remember her shared moments of those events in her later years.
As you embrace your reasons for motivation, whether it’s weight loss, fitness, or other long-term goals, it’s important not to sacrifice your joy. Joy is the element that holds all your mindset structures together, regardless of your goals.
5. Visualization as a Tool for Your Goals
Courtney describes her pain threshold as a ‘pain cave’. She often wonders what potential exists in ‘our caves’ if we keep chipping away at them. She explains this cave as a desire to keep making her ‘cave’ bigger by pushing physical and emotional boundaries. In this ‘cave’, she wonders if possibilities exist to keep pushing through pain barriers or exceed her speed during an event.
Courtney wants to keep exploring ‘her cave’. She steps further into her cave if she’s unsure she can continue running in an event. Courtney feels she’s at the back of the cave when she struggles to keep going. But at the beginning of an event, her cave does not appear, it only appears during the struggling times.
Visualization can be valuable for many people, regardless of their fitness goals. Visualization changes how your body responds to events and allows your mind to make innumerable readjustments to even the most trying of circumstances.
Courtney Dauwalter explains her mind training, to highlight the potential of developing thought patterns to assist us. We may not be born with mental strength, but we can learn to shift limiting boundaries to become more capable. We can overcome boundaries through encouragement, developing healthy, positive mindsets, and learning how to overcome obstacles.