Applying David Goggin’s ‘Can’t Hurt Me’ to Running

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I recently finished David Goggin’s book ‘Can’t Hurt Me‘ for the second time. After reading the raw and uncensored text, I downloaded and listened to the book for second helpings. ‘Can’t Hurt Me’ arms the reader with 10 powerful challenges to make a positive change in their life. I couldn’t help but apply these brilliant challenges to running.

In this article, I share my experience of applying these 10 challenges to running and recommendations for how you can too.

What is ‘Can’t Hurt Me’ and who is David Goggins?

Can’t Hurt Me‘ is the inspiring autobiography of David Goggin’s life story, plagued with hardship and filled with moving examples of the power of the human will. Born to into a poverty-stricken neighbourhood with an abusive father, Goggins defies the odds to become a Navy Seal, ultra-marathoner and world record holder in what makes for a truly remarkable read. I’ll let the book’s blurb do the talking:

‘For David Goggins, childhood was a nightmare — poverty, prejudice, and physical abuse coloured his days and haunted his nights. But through self-discipline, mental toughness, and hard work, Goggins transformed himself from a depressed, overweight young man with no future into a U.S. Armed Forces icon and one of the world’s top endurance athletes.

The only man in history to complete elite training as a Navy SEAL, Army Ranger, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller, he went on to set records in numerous endurance events, inspiring Outside magazine to name him “The Fittest (Real) Man in America.” In Can’t Hurt Me, he shares his astonishing life story and reveals that most of us tap into only 40% of our capabilities. Goggins calls this The 40% Rule, and his story illuminates a path that anyone can follow to push past pain, demolish fear, and reach their full potential.’

What are these ’10 challenges’ and what have they got to do with running?

Throughout the book, Goggins shares 10 life-changing challenges he has learnt the hard way through hard work, trial and error, failures and successes.

Through the achievement of all of the incredible feats listed in the books blurb, Goggins used the principles he sets out in the books 10 challenges which provides a real example of the challenges being put into practice.

As someone who has applied these 10 challenges to their running life, I can safely say that they are absolute gold. If you follow David’s teachings, you will become a better runner than you ever imagined.

Unlike many self-help, personal development books which state-changing your life is ‘easy’ and a ‘walk in the park’, David spares no truth about the tough times ahead for those who accept the challenges in the book.

Goggins regularly reminds readers that it’s tough to be real with yourself and accept your weaknesses before making the necessary changes. He says that that suffering is the only credible way you can grow in life. For runners, this feels like the perfect description of the pain and discomfort felt in training necessary for improvement.

The discipline and sacrifice required to become a great runner are high, but the rewards of committing to becoming a great are infinite. It depends on you and how far you want to take your running. The sky is the limit and, by following the challenges David sets out, you will arrive at your perceived limits and smash them.

As an ultra-athlete himself, you may be surprised to know that Goggins hates running. He lives by the motto that you must do something that sucks every single day to grow and become better.

Something else I like about David Goggins is that he regularly reminds us that he is nothing special and no different to you, I or anybody else. He says he was not born with special talents or gifts; he has just developed an insane work ethic which has set him apart from everyone else.

David says a lot of people look to him in awe, stating he is a freak of nature and that he must be a special case. However, David says these people are giving themselves a ‘get out of jail free card’, absolving themselves of personal accountability and excusing themselves from even trying to change their lives.

They have already accepted that they are not destined for greatness due to believing that extraordinary individuals are just born that way. David says this simply isn’t the case. Great individuals are not born, they are made by conditioning themselves for greatness.

We can all achieve amazing things, he says, if we work hard and develop a driven growth mindset. I believe that following his teachings can make us much better runners than we are, which is why I apply what he says to my running every single day.

What are the 10 lessons in ‘Can’t Hurt Me’ and how can I apply them to running?

The importance of physically writing out things rather than typing them up digitally 

As we go through the challenges there will be times when you are required to write things down.

David states the importance of physically writing down things in a journal so you ‘feel’ and truly understand what has or is currently affecting you. By manually writing tings out, you have to carefully draw each letter to make up each word which encourages thought processing and proper comprehension.

You can use a digital format like a phone or tablet if easier for you, but it may not be as effective for properly ‘feeling’ what you’re writing and getting maximum benefit out of the challenges.

Challenge 1: Take Inventory of all your Perceived Setbacks

David’s first challenge invites you to write down all the things you perceive are holding you back; it could be literally anything. Where you were born, your parents, your opportunities growing up, your current friendship circle or even your current job.

He encourages you to ‘take inventory’ so you understand your current position and any challenges you are facing so you are prepared to overcome them.

How can I apply ‘taking inventory’ to running?

To apply this to running, write down all of the things that are holding you back from being a brilliant runner. Don’t hold back, be honest with yourself. David says the only way you can truly understand where you’re at is being real with yourself.

Maybe you’re overweight, you think there’s not enough time, people around you don’t like running, you have tonnes of other commitments, your lazy, you have a weak mindset. Don’t hold back. Be honest with yourself, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you feel.

Get all the things you think are holding you back from being a great runner onto paper and get familiar with them. Once you’ve taken inventory, you’ll understand what is holding you back and will be in a position to do something about it.

When I completed this challenge, I found that my biggest perceived obstacle was my own mindset. I thought that external factors like rain and the cold, not having enough time and others not wanting to run with me, were holding me back.

Ultimately, through completing this challenge, I found that I was holding myself back with my weak mindset. My willingness to blame other people and the environment (both things I could not control) for my poor running ability held me back further and prevented any progress.

By writing these perceived setbacks down, I got real with myself and understood that i needed to make a change for an improvement to my running to occur. I’d advise anybody else to do the same. Follow David’s challenge and take inventory of all your perceived setbacks. It will help you gain clarity on your issues.

Challenge 2: The Accountability Mirror

Perhaps the most powerful tool for personal reporting, the accountability mirror is all about being honest with yourself in relation to your goals and progress to reach those goals.

The accountability mirror requires you to write your goals onto post it notes before sticking them onto a mirror you pass every single day. The mirror frames yourself directly alongside your goals.

The mirror is so effective because it is physical; it cannot be avoided and will serve a daily reminder of what your goals are. The idea of the mirror is for you to be personally accountable for your goals.

At the end of each day, you’ll see yourself in the mirror against your goals and have to answer to yourself. Have you put the work in and are making great progress, or are you slacking on your dreams? The accountability mirror does not lie. You answering to you.

How can I apply the ‘accountability mirror’ to running?

I have used the accountability mirror challenge to become a better runner in my own life. At the start of the year (2019) I decided what I wanted my goals to be, wrote them on post-it notes and then stuck them to the mirror.

My goals included running over 2000 miles before the year is out, running a half-marathon a month and running at least one mile every single day. To make it current I have my goals written out at the top of the mirror – with the target figure – and update the post-it notes with the current progress below every Sunday evening.

Not only does the mirror keep me accountable for my running goals, it constantly reminds me what my goals are so I do not lose track and start slacking.

Having the goals written out physically, on a reflective everyday object like a mirror, means it will be seen often and the goals cannot be avoided. Much better than merely writing them in a journal where the goals can be lost in a collection of pages.

Whenever I have a new goal I want to accomplish, I write it on a post-it note and keep myself accountable each and every day when I wake up and before I go to bed. There is no lying or denial; I have to answer to me and be honest every single day. Just the way the pursuit of running goals should be, you are responsible for your success. Nobody else is.

The accountability mirror has made me a better runner and I would recommend anybody else who wants to improve their running to try it.

Challenge 3: Visit the Discomfort Zone

David tells the reader to crack open their journal and write down all of the things that make you uncomfortable. More than often, the things that make us uncomfortable need to be done so we can achieve our goals. This list can be referred to as your personal ‘discomfort zone.’

Popular examples of things in the discomfort zone include public speaking, studying for an exam, asking for difficult feedback, going for a job interview and so on. It could even be going for a longer run than usual.

David then tells the reader to select one of these things and instructs them to do it immediately. Once the uncomfortable action is done, David tells the reader to do it again and to make a daily habit of doing things that suck.

Undoubtedly, we feel uncomfortable when we do things in our discomfort zone but Goggin’s advocates the only way to grow is to get uncomfortable. Even though doing these scary and challenging activities makes us uncomfortable, they are necessary actions to take if we want to accomplish our goals. David says we must get ‘comfortable being uncomfortable.’ Compelling words which, I can confirm, work in practice.

How can I apply ‘visiting the discomfort zone’ to running?

You can apply this to running by creating your own ‘running discomfort zone’. This list should include all the things about running that make you uncomfortable.

Running in the rain and cold, long distances, eating healthily, social environments in running groups, new locations to run races, pushing yourself hard and so on. Whatever makes you uncomfortable when it comes to running, write it down on paper.

Select one of the things that make you uncomfortable, then go and do it. Buy salads instead of crisps, run in the rain instead of watching Netflix, push yourself harder when you get tired in a race, book a half-marathon in another country. These activities in your running discomfort zone will suck in the moment, but will serve you in the long term with pride and actual progress towards being a better runner.

A personal example of putting this into practice was the other morning when I woke up for my daily run. It’s currently November in my hometown of Maidstone, Kent (UK) and the early morning temperatures range from around 1 to 5 degrees. Upon waking on this particular morning it was 1 degree, pitch black outside and rain was pummelling hard to the ground.

Ordinarily I would have blown my morning run out and opted to go later on when the rain stopped, but recently having completed the ‘Can’t Hurt Me’ discomfort zone challenge I decided to get uncomfortable. I got out the running shoes, geared up, opened the front door and went for my planned 5 and a half mile run.

The first few minutes were horrendous; the cold made me shiver and the rain mercilessly smashed into my skin. Three minutes later, however, I warmed up and got used to the environment and had an enjoyable run.

I got comfortable being uncomfortable and didn’t skimp out on my discomfort zone challenge. When I went to bed that day, I looked at myself with pride in the accountability mirror knowing I trained as planned.

Try it for yourself. Write down all the things that make you uncomfortable, label it your ‘running discomfort zone’ and get comfortable being uncomfortable. It’s what David recommends and it’s one of the best formulas for growth.

Challenge 4: Taking Souls

Perhaps the most powerful chapter in the entire book (in my opinion), ‘taking souls’ is all about working harder than you ever have in your whole life. When those who write you off and expect poor results from you, achieving above their (and your) wildest expectations will literally ‘take their soul’. They won’t know what to do with themselves after all their doubt turned out to be false.

Whatever is asked of you by teachers, family or employers should be completed and surpassed. If a teacher sets a target for you to get a B, aim to get an A*. When your partner tells you to clean the house, make it so clean you could eat off of the floor. If your boss tells you to complete a project to a set deadline, complete the project before the deadline to a higher standard than was expected.

Taking souls is about pulling out all the stops to make yourself stand out. It’s about going the extra mile to dominate the task at hand.

How can I apply ‘taking souls’ to running?

‘Taking souls’ can apply perfectly to running. Maybe you’ve been bullied for being fat or you’ve been branded as someone who ‘doesn’t exercise.’ You could have been told you’ll never reach below a certain time in a race or that you won’t be able to finish a specific distance like a marathon. Don’t be down about these opinions other people may have; use them as fuel to work harder than you ever have done and achieved these goals and more.

For example, you could combine a healthy diet with plenty of running to lose weight For example, you may have the goal of running to lose weight. Some people may doubt your abilities to lose weight due to past unsuccessful efforts. They merely smile and nod as you tell them of your ambitions to become fitter, writing you off before they’ve even given you a chance. Take this negativity and apply it; run more often, further and with higher intensity.

Going over and above the training that is expected will not only make the weight drop off, but it will also make you physically fitter. Your naysayers will be left speechless as they see the slimmer and fitter you. Your extra hard work, determination and will power to use running to achieve your goals would have taken their soul. I love Goggin’s ‘taking souls’ challenge because it allows the runner to take negativity and criticism, and turn it into training fuel to become better at the sport.

Challenge 5: Armoured Mind

Visualisation is a powerful tool. By imagining exactly what you want to achieve, you can set a trajectory for getting there. In the book, David stresses that you need to think about all the possible struggles you may encounter on the journey towards reaching your goal. That way, you won’t be surprised when things hit the fan.

I use the armoured mind challenge all the time when setting ambitious goals. When I set the goal to run at least a mile every single day of 2019, I visualised how I’d feel on the 31st December when successful.

However, I didn’t delude myself into thinking it would be a walk in the park. I thought of all the potential obstacles I’d face along the way such as injury, a lack of motivation and difficulties fitting a mile in on days when travelling.

As I thought, all of the possible pitfalls did happen in pursuit of the goal. However, because I had taken the time to visualise these pitfalls and what I would do when they arose, I was ready and overcame them. How did I do this?

For example, I knew that I would struggle with motivation throughout the challenge as some mornings would be raining hard and dark outside. A challenge when you have a nice warm bed. To overcome this, I needed something to get me out of bed and into the morning for my mile run.

Everyone’s different, but I work well with brutality and tough love. I printed out the key saying from one of my role model’s Dan Pena and stuck it on my wall. What is the catchphrase, you ask? ‘Just f*cking do it.’ Brilliant, I know. It works for me! Whenever I feel like blowing out my morning mile, I look at Mr Pena’s words and jump out of bed quickly.

I visualised my goal, thought about all the possible issues and then prepared myself for them. David Goggin’s armoured mind is a powerful tool for becoming a better running and achieving goals.

How can I apply the ‘armoured mind’ to running?

You can use the armoured mind for setting any running goal.

For example, if running a 3-hour marathon is your goal then you can visualise achieving this time and thinking of all the obstacles you will need to overcome to get there. The obstacles you visualise might be longer runs, hitting the wall, struggling with finding the drive to carry on and increasing the frequency of your weekly runs.

Challenge 6: The Cookie Jar

In this challenge, David tells you to write all your major achievements in a journal along with the obstacles you had to overcome to get there. It could even include achievements you failed at the first and second time but were successful come the third time around.

This cookie jar could include an exam you passed, a job interview you smashed, a presentation which landed a client, a beautiful wedding day after a month of tireless planning. The idea of the cookie jar is to think of your achievements and their related struggles through a rough patch to motivate you.

We all need reminders of how bad ass we can be sometimes. When the going gets tough, remembering one of your incredible achievements can be the fuel you need to spark up and keep pushing forward.

How can I apply the ‘cookie jar’ to running?

By writing down all your running achievements so far, you’ll have a jar of ‘cookies’ to pick from when you need reminding of how badass you are in a tough race or training moment.

My running cookie jar includes my 1:25 half-marathon, a 3:03 marathon and my sub 19 minute 5K. These times act as fuel for me when I need it most during a tough race because they remind me of what I’m capable of.

Achieving these race times was not easy; I invested lots of effort into training and different types of workouts to condition myself. Reminding myself of these achievements in a merciless uphill slog during a half-marathon keeps me going as I remember I can achieve big things if I put my mind to it.

Your running cookie jar can contain anything. The cookies don’t have to be huge or appear overly impressive. As long as they are significant to you, that’s all that matters. Examples in yours could include running your first 5K, dropping a certain amount of weight or even the fact you completed a challenging course. When you need some motivation, reach into your mental cookie jar and you’ll power through your run with fury.

Challenge 7: The 40% Rule

David’s 40% rule challenge is about pushing harder for longer, even when we want to give up and quit.

If there’s one thing most people know David Goggins for, it’s the 40 percent rule. The 40 percent rule is all about humans and the limits we wrongfully place on our potential. David says that we’re hard wired to avoid pain so that we stop ourselves short of achieving what we could achieve.

To put a percentage on it, David says that we usually stop during an activity when we’re at 40% of our true capabilities. When we’re tired and our minds are begging us to stop, we quickly give in without any resistance.

Unbeknown to us, we are actually selling ourselves short and quitting far too soon. Whether we’re tired from running, studying, writing, reading, painting or practising a musical instrument, we’re usually only at 40% of our true effort.

If you push a little harder through the pain and discomfort, you’ll soon find you have a second wind and go go for longer. Before you know it, you’ve achieved more than twice of what you set out to achieve and you’ll feel hugely productive.

How can I apply the ‘40% rule’ to running?

Due to the physical nature of running, applying the 40% rule is about pushing yourself beyond your normal pain threshold.

When you start to get tired and feel the burn from a workout, don’t slow down; speed up and run further. At first, this will feel like the worst idea you’ve ever had due to the sheer discomfort. But, if you stick with it you’ll soon get a second wind and find you can actually go harder for longer.

You’ll be surprised at the dormant energy within you which is unlocked by applying the 40% rule. Not only will applying it help you run further and faster, it will enable you to reach your goals (losing weight, clocking up a certain number of miles or achieving a specific distance time) quicker too.

The first time I used the 40% rule in my own running regime, I was blown away at what it enabled me to achieve.

During training for my first ever marathon, I decided to make my usual long run Sunday interesting by seeing how far I could run in one go. At mile 8, I felt physically exhausted and wanted to quit. My tank felt empty, I was short of breathe and each step felt like lifting bricks attached to my legs.

At that moment, though, I remembered David’s 40% rule and realised that I was probably only at 40% of my true capability. In a moment of defiance to my body’s signals, I pushed on through the pain.

Initially, it was agony and I felt every inch of soreness in my body but after 5 minutes something strange started to happen. I got my breath back, established a steady rhythm and felt filled with energy. I had a second wind and found I could keep running with confidence. I kept going, wanting to see how far I could push myself.

At the end of the session, I looked at my Garmin and was blown away to find that I had run 20 miles in one go. The furthest (at that point) that I had ever run. Had I stopped at mile 8 after experiencing initial discomfort, I would have sold myself short at 40% of my true capability. By applying the 40% rule, I pushed through the pain and achieved much more than I felt possible.

David’s 40% rule is one of the best tools I have in my mental toolkit and I frequently use it when running.

Challenge 8: Build a Schedule

David says it’s important to compartmentalise your day. If you want to be successful, you must proactively manage your time. Not spend your time reacting to things that happen.

David tells the reader to go about their normal schedule for one week whilst taking notes of everything that they do. He means everything. If you watch TV for an hour a day, write it down. When you mindlessly scroll through social media for 30 minutes, write it down. If you have no flow to your day and it’s all disjointed, write it down. David says the only way to understand where you are currently at schedule-wise is to get honest with yourself.

Once you’ve written everything down, it’s time to build an optimal schedule. That is a schedule which best serves you in pursuit of your goals. Building a daily schedule, driven via your overarching goals, means you’ll have a structured game plan to achieve what you want. You can schedule your day in a way that works for you.

There is lots of evidence to suggest time chunking is the best method for time management. ‘Time chunking’ is the concept of breaking up your day into large chunks instead of just reacting to what happens. Each chunk will be devoted to a specific task like a project, family time or practising an instrument.

Chunking these tasks means you will be fully focused on that particular task for a set time window. Nothing else will distract you whilst you’re immersed in that time chunk. Turn off your phone and put it in another room. Hide the TV remote. Turn off email. Tell friends, family and colleagues you will be busy for a particular time chunk and will be able to respond or help them when you are done.

Take control of your day with a time chunked schedule and you will be onto a winner.

How I apply ‘building a schedule’ to running?

There is much to be said about running and scheduling.

Firstly, it’s important to create a strategic training plan that suits your running needs. This will be a high-level, long-term plan which maps out all your training from day one until you are ready to achieve your goal. For example, a marathon plan might be 14 weeks long and detail every single training run the runner should complete often with dietary tips added in for good measure. Having an overarching schedule is important for maintaining direction, getting the runs in and giving yourself the best chance to achieve your goal.

Secondly, running must be scheduled into your day otherwise it might not happen. A schedule is a fantastic tool because it lists out what you intend to do on a given day at a particular time. If you plan to run four miles at 7:00PM, you run 4 miles at 7:00PM. No ‘ifs’ and no ‘buts’.

Lots of runners (myself included) find it difficult to prioritise running if it is not an integral part of their schedule. By specifically putting it onto your schedule, you communicate to your brain that the run must and will happen. There is no talking yourself out of it or watching Netflix, and there’s no chance of ‘forgetting to run’. It’s on your schedule and it’s going to get done.

Different formats for schedules

There are tonnes of schedule formats out there. It doesn’t matter which one you choose, as long as it works for you. Some of the formats include:

If you don’t already have a scheduling tool, I’d highly recommend getting one. It will allow you to schedule running into your day so your workouts move from an idea to a written down event which must happen.

Challenge 9: Become uncommon amongst the uncommon

One of David Goggin’s best sayings is that you should strive to be ‘uncommon amongst the uncommon’. This means that you keep pushing for the next level up when you’ve reached a set level of confidence and competence at a task. This challenge is all about going above and beyond everything and everyone else.

David says that lots of people who achieve a certain level of greatness in a chosen field (like sport, music, careers) think that they have made it and have become successful. They lose their drive, become content and stop growing. These content individuals stay at their current level of greatness and get comfortable. No more do they push and strive for the next level up with their once frenzied hunger for continual improvement.

Examples include a piano player who gets to grade 8 and stops practising as hard, a professional who has reached the CEO position and stops honing their skills or an athlete who has reached first place once and feels like they can ‘take it easy’ in training now. Goggins says those that stop pushing, even when they are at their ‘perceived’ best, have become complacent.

David says it’s not enough to just win one competition or achieve a certain level of proficiency in a skill. He says you have to earn greatness every day by constantly pushing. This challenge is all about pushing yourself to become more than you are on a constant and never-ending basis.

If you’ve achieved grade 8 on the piano, study for a diploma (way beyond grade 8 level). If you’re now the CEO, get up at 4 in the morning and read journals and articles about your industry to stay ahead of the curve. When you’ve become the best athlete in your field, push hard and experiment with new training techniques to stay ahead of your competition.

Don’t let becoming ‘great’ at something convince you that you’ve arrived. As David Goggin’s reminds us, we haven’t arrived. We need to continually strive for greatness and achievement every single day of our lives.

How I you apply ‘becoming uncommon amongst the uncommon’ to running?

When we achieve what we initially set out to achieve in our running lives, we can be tempted to take it easy. We’ve already achieved a sub 3-hour marathon or run a sub-19 minute 5K, so now it’s time to take it easy. Right?

Wrong! Sadly, this is how lots of runners think when they have achieved their goals. If you embrace David’s challenge of becoming uncommon amongst the uncommon, you won’t be satisfied by just accomplishing your goal. You will want to push even harder and see how far you can truly go. The only limits that exist are the ones we set for ourselves. Cheesy as this sounds, it is the truth.

If you have achieved a sub 3-hour marathon, you could probably achieve a sub 2:55-marathon. A sub 19 minute 5K could become a sub 18 minute 5K. If you’ve completed a 100K ultra marathon in 14 hours, enter the same ultra marathon next year and try to finish it in under 12 hours.

There will be lots of work involved but David says it’s important for us to keep expanding our abilities so are fulfilled and partially satisfied in the knowledge we didn’t start coasting when things started going our way in our running.

You could get to the next level of your running ability by mixing up workouts with speed, hill and endurance runs to condition your body for optimal running performance. Yes, it will be tough but that is the price that you must pay to keep improving your running.

However, David says that those who wish to constantly expand their abilities must continually strive to be elite amongst the elite. When you achieve a level of running greatness, try keep pushing. Be uncommon amongst the uncommon.

Challenge 10: Empowerment of failure

The final challenge of the book is all about using failure to your advantage. Yes, you read that right. You can use failure to your advantage. When starting to apply the first nine challenges in the book (covered above) in your life, you are bound to encounter failure.

Goggin’s tells you to get out a pen and paper and write out all that failures you experienced in applying the first nine challenges.

Did you not bother checking in with the accountability mirror? Were you at the 40% effort point during a strenuous workout but chose to quit early rather than pushing yourself? Perhaps you achieved greatness in something but then stopped trying to become uncommon amongst the uncommon, and began taking it easy. A failure could even be that you failed to stick to your schedule on a day and let others start to control your time.

Whatever your failures, take note of them and then write them down. David makes a big point about using a pen and paper rather than digital medium because he wants you to ‘feel the failure’ to truly understand it. Don’t just state the failure. Go into as much detail possible about what the failure was, how it happened, what it’s impact was and how you handled the failure.

By evaluating each failure in such a comprehensive manner, you become an expert on your failures and know them like the back of your hand. Knowing your failures puts you in a position where you can proactively fix them. At the bottom of each failure, write (in a different coloured pen) exactly what you intend to do to fix the failure.

If you’ve failed an exam due to a lack of preparation and procrastination your solution to fix the failure might be to book another exam, schedule 2-hour study chunks into each day and eliminate all distractions. If you failed to complete a report on time due to not continuing to write when you felt tired your solution could be to adopt the ‘taking souls’ mentality and promise you will push beyond your perceived limit of report writing (which is probably only 40% of your true capability).

Once you’ve written out all your failures, understood them and penned some solutions to fix them, schedule time for these solutions in your calendar immediately. You’ll then be in a position to turn failures into successes, realising the true empowerment of failure.

How can I apply ’empowerment of failure’ to running?

It doesn’t matter if you’re an Olympic champion, a seasoned runner, a weekend warrior or an average joe trying to lose some weight. Every runner has experienced some kind of failure.

If unchecked and unevaluated, failures have the potential to erode a runner’s confidence. For example, a runner who fails to break their sub 4:00 marathon target after months of hard work might feel discouraged. All of that work and they weren’t able to achieve their target. Hardly inspiring.

Some runners in failure situations experience intense disappointment which can lead them to give up with their target and pursue an easier goal. Tragically, some runners who experience failure in pursuit of their goal quit the sport altogether.

If you use David’s ’empowerment of failure’ process, you’ll be able to capitalise on your failures and use them as fuel towards accomplishing your goals.

When you fail to achieve whatever running target you have, grab a pen and paper and write the failure down in all it’s detail. Think about what the failure was, what it meant to you, what might have contributed to the failure and how you will fix the failure.

A personal example of a failed sub-19 5K attempt, using David’s ’empowerment of failure method’ is as follows:

What was the failure?
Not achieving a sub-19 minute 5K time at a parkrun event. I started at the front of the field, like I usually do, and had a great start.

My first mile was completed in 6 minutes, well-on track to achieve the sub-19 minute time. However, halfway through mile 2, I began to feel tired which lead to a 7:00 minute mile. Not good. My final mile and a 10th (to make up 5K) was a bit better, clocking in at 6:30. I finished the race in a time of 19:30. 30 seconds off of the sub-19-minute mark.

What does this failure mean to me?
The failure has negatively affected my confidence as a runner. After adding more training sessions to my running regime, I expected to be stronger and faster in the field today. It was disheartening when I started to lose pace at the 1.5-mile mark after a promising start. I finished the line feeling angry and disappointed.

What might have contributed to my failure?
Though I have added more runs into my regime, I have not varied the type of workout. I have just added more 4-mile runs of the same route that I always run, without any consideration for different types of workouts. I simply put my shoes on, listen to music and run.

There was no variety in the running and I didn’t feel like I overly stressed my body. After a chat with a fellow runner after the race, I learnt that I could have spiced up my workouts with speed and hill runs to give myself a better shot at achieving the sub-19 time.

How will I fix this failure?
After learning the reason for my failure was probably due to the lack of variety in my training, I will add variety to my running regime to stress different parts of my body so that I am capable of running a 5k in under 19-minutes.

Currently, I run 6 times a week. I will add a speed workout, such as a fartlek session, into two of these runs. I will incorporate steep hill running into one of these workouts. Every Sunday, I will complete a long run (7 miles or more) for stamina. The other days will be slow, relaxed runs for recovery. Once I have implemented this new varied training regime, I can expect to move closer to and smash the sub-19 minute barrier.

If you’d like to know, I achieved my sub-19 minute 5K time 2 weeks after implementing the varied training regime. I crossed the park run line in a time of 18:54. I was thrilled.

Using the teachings from my previous failure, I added hill workouts to strengthen my leg muscles so they wouldn’t tire as quickly in the 5K. I also added speed sessions to my workouts so my body was used to sustaining a quicker pace for longer periods of time, essential for achieving quick 5K times.

Use David’s ’empowerment of failure’ process in your own running life and use failure to your advantage. Don’t quit when you fail. Write everything down, work out what you will do to fix your failure, and implement your recommendations. You’ll achieve your goals if you use your failures to your benefit.

To Conclude

There we have it. David Goggin’s 10 life-changing challenges in his hit book ‘Can’t Hurt Me’. If you apply these challenges to running, you’ll become the very best runner you can possibly be. As somebody who has personally applied all of the challenges in the book, I can attest to the positive results they will have if you fully embrace them.

Thank you for reading and good luck.

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