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  • Michelle Howell

1+ Year of Journaling later

Mindfulness is one of those buzzwords that floats around somewhere between plant based and self love. Elite athletes swear by it and trendy health bloggers preach it, but what exactly is it?


a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations

Endorsed by the last two championship winners in the NBA, a staple by the Tom Brady, and the Red Sox alike, I figured if these guys are doing it maybe I should give this thing a try to, after all it couldn't hurt. Amidst my google search of ways to practice being mindful the top hit was to keep a journal.

As a kid I loved keeping diaries, but would inevitably at one point or another give up on them. In a box somewhere in my parents house is a stack of half used notebooks with "dear diary" scribbled on repeat. As an adult I've kept logs of my training a bit more consistently, but they sometimes felt like a chore to do and never reflected much more than splits.

The other problem with my logs was the fact that they were electronic since they were being sent to my coach so writing things down and then transferring it seemed redundant. It also meant that since I was sending my log to someone to read I wouldn't always be 100% honest with how I felt about my performance that day and have no outlet to talk about things that were bothering me, something I've always struggled with.

Toward the end of the summer of 2017 I began to keep a journal, but diving in I made a few little rules for myself:

-Jot something down when I could-whether it was just my workout, a deeper dive into my day or a doodle, The last thing I wanted was for this to feel like a chore in the same way my excel logs sometimes felt

-Honesty- because sometimes workouts suck and life feels hard and everyone needs some kind of outlet to express what's going on even if it's something as small as being frustrated by a slower than expected workout

-re-read and rethink- while I wanted to be honest with myself I also wanted to make sure I used it as a way to reflect on things, learn, and turn negatives into positives

-Pre and Post race entries were a must

-I was going to keep journaling until my notebook was full

Here we are over a full year later and I've filled up not ONE, not TWO, but a whopping THREE journals.

Working through Injuries

When I first started keeping a journal it was in the rehab phase of my stress fracture. I was trying and sometimes failing at getting back into shape and fumbling my way into senior year. The journal is what kept me sane and gave me a good look at the progress I was making and feeling from day to day.

Channeling nerves

What makes a good athlete? A lot would say talent and work ethic. I would personally add being present into that mix. Being able to be fully immersed in what your doing, laser focused and able to execute on the spot without overthinking. The biggest take away from keeping my journal has been incorporating it into my racing routine as a tool to help with this process.

Only having one chance to do something is stressful. As someone who tends to float in the type A personality realm anxiety is nothing new to me, especially when it comes to performing at meets. As a younger runner, anxiety definitely got the best of me from time to time resulting in me walking off a track feeling like I was on auto pilot verses engaged in what I was doing. As I've gotten older, it's become easier to channel these nerves into excitement verses anxiety, but every once in a while I still find myself getting worked up, because who doesn't?

To help make sure my nerves don't turn into anxiety my race prep typically starts the day before. Before going to bed I reflect on my pre race routine, how things felt and make sure to throw in some positive self talk. This is also when I start to go through the mental gymnastics of how I want the day to play out, I write down my goals and expectations, but more importantly how I want to feel going into and coming out of my race. Maybe I don't PR, but I want to leave the track knowing I gave it my all. I want to be present in the race not just going through the motions and wasting an opportunity.

Confidence Booster

The morning of the race I take my journal with my to a coffee shop and re-read what I wrote the night before and reflect on the work I've put in. It helps me focus my day on what is important and puts into perspective the work I've done to get to where I am. I no longer find myself in the mindset of "why am I here?" or "I don't deserve to be here", things that sometimes would creep into the back of my mind when lining up against a competitive field with well established runners. I'll usually listen to music, doodle and wrap up with writing down positive thoughts for the day before going to shakeout.

What started as a small attempt to be more mindful is now a staple in my life. My journals have their ups and downs, but more importantly they show growth and development as an athlete and a person. Am I more mindful? Maybe. Am I planning on stopping journaling anytime soon? Definitely not.