(NEW YORK) — The physical demands professional runners endure are both grueling and awe-inspiring. For Olympian Deena Kastor, becoming a successful long distance runner was about more than just training her body; it was about training her mind, too. She outlines the lessons she learned about competing, life, and discovering her winner’s mindset in her new book, Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory.
In an exclusive conversation with ABC News, Kastor discusses some of the lessons she took from years of competing on the national stage.
She says whether people are competing on the race course, at school, or their jobs, they must find ways to reframe their perceptions about failures and shortcomings. “It may take a lot of work to get there,” she concedes, “but the work is worth it.”
Kastor recounts one of her worst losses as a moment when she learned that she could use failure to push herself to succeed. In an eight kilometer cross country national championship race early in her career, she believed she was going to come in first place after months of intense training. Instead, she says, “I was absolutely demolished. I went from confident to crushed in just thirty minutes.”
Her coach would not let her wallow in the unexpected failure. He wanted her to use her failure to increase her desire to win and find ways to improve before her next competitive race:
“My coach told me, ‘I’m glad you’re disappointed because it means you care.'”
It was following this loss that she improved her times and became a world class runner, competing in national and Olympic races.
Kastor looked to fill her book with a variety of lessons she learned at different points in life. They include how becoming a mother reframed the way she thought about competition, and how she was able to move on from the grief she endured in losing her family dog.
With her memoir, she hopes some of what she learned will empower others to endure through their own challenges and reach their potential:
“The lessons of bravery and courage and enduring can be related across the board. At any given moment, we can choose to throw in the towel, give up… I think it’s really important to pass along the message we can reshape and redefine our perceptions. And the best way to share that knowledge is to write a book… not so much for people to learn about me, but discover more about themselves through using thoughts, and perspectives, and more of their mental game to get an edge on their running and their lives.”
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