Applying David Goggin’s Top 10 Rules to Running

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David Goggins has had an incredible life filled with challenge, turbulence, incredible achievements and a lot of pain. In this post, we apply David Goggin’s top 10 rules to running so you can apply his philosophy to your training.

David Goggins has become somewhat of a legend all around the world. He’s often called the hardest man alive, and for good reason. Former Navy Seal, ultra-marathon runner, ultra-distance cyclist, ultra-triathlete, motivational speaker, best-selling author and former world record holder, David Goggins shares enjoys sharing his wisdom.

I recently watched Evan Carmichael’s video on YouTube, David Gogin’s top ten rules (below), and wanted to apply them to running.



Applying the rules to running

1. Outwork everyone.

‘With hard work, you can outwork anybody’David Goggins


Goggin’s is all about work ethic. From an early age, he realized he wasn’t as smart as the other kids and it later transpired that he had a learning disability which stunted his development. However, David didn’t want to just get by. He wanted to be the best he could possibly be.

David realized that he could succeed and be excellent by putting in hard work despite not being blessed with natural intelligence. So, he employed the crazy method of copying out textbooks from cover to cover to study and learn their contents. It was this rigorous learning method that enabled him to pass the Armed Forces Qualification Test Score (ASVAB) which lead him on the of becoming the hard mother f*ucker that he’s known as today.

We can apply David’s rule of outworking everyone to running. It doesn’t matter if you’re not naturally a sports type or have the perfect body for running. You can achieve greatness by outworking everyone by working on form, doing conditioning exercises, studying proper nutrition, race strategy and following a carefully designed training plan. If you have the discipline and gumption to outwork others, you can overcome any of the flaws that you were born with and become great in running.


2. Find your inner strength.

David invented ‘taking souls’ for situations when there’s no motivation or inspiration. When everyone’s tired, exhausted, looking as bad and worse as you, David says that’s the moment to make a statement. To let them others around you know that you can push way beyond their limits and keep going.

David says taking souls is all about using strength of exhaustion from others to your advantage. This works best when your working with exceptional people, maybe exceptional in business or in sport, and by pushing yourself further and working past their limits, you become uncommon amongst the common.

We can apply this concept nicely to running. Think about when you’re running with others, perhaps in a race or in a long training session, and everyone’s exhausted literally dragging their feet forwards. That’s the time when you should ‘take souls’ and find your inner strength by surging ahead. By doing this, you can gain a powerful psychological advantage over competitors as you’re basically telling them ‘you’re tired? I’m just getting started.’ Getting into competitors heads like this can be enough to discourage competitors in a race so the odds of winning swing in your favor.

I’ve had this before where I was neck and neck with another runner in a 5K and, suddenly, I found my inner strength and surged quite a way ahead. Instantly, the other runner appeared to resign to the fact that I was going to win and he dropped back massively, finishing in 5th place whilst I won with a PB.


3. Never give up.

In the Evan’s video, David illustrates how he never gives up with the example of having gone through three hell weeks to achieve his goal of becoming a US Navy SEAL. For those that don’t know, Hell Week is the fourth week of basic conditioning for the SEALS. Its where students train for five days and five nights solid with a maximum of four hours sleep a night, though this sleep is constantly broken up by drills to jump into the sea and do workouts. It’s known for being one of the toughest training weeks in the world and people have died taking it on.

David says that he had to leave his first hell week due to fractures and double pneumonia. His second hell week was cut short because of a fractured bone in his leg. He was told that his third attempt would be his last; if he didn’t succeed then he would never become a seal. Luckily, he pushed through all the obstacles and believed in becoming a SEAL so much that he succeeded. David says that he wanted it so bad which is why he continued to keep going through the setbacks, failures and difficulties.

We can apply this to running as we’re sometimes tempted to give up. Whether it’s a tough training session, terrible weather, feeling tired or just not being in the mood, the option is always there for us to throw in the towel.

However, it’s imperative that we override the desire to quit and keep going. Otherwise, we’ll never achieve greatness in our running lives, and we’ll be destined to failure. When you think you have it tough, use David’s example as fuel to keep you going.


4. Face your obstacles.

One of the questions that we’ve all had at some point or another is ‘how do I develop confidence?’ When asked how to develop confidence, David says that it’s all about diving into and tackling the things you’re afraid of head on.

He says that that if you spend life in a happy place of comfort and ease, you will never develop confidence. It’s through trying novel, hard, and tough things that develops your competencies and thus develops your competencies.

David illustrates this concept of doing hard things to build confidence with the example of learning to read and write on his own. This was one of the toughest things he had ever done in his life but, despite the discomfort, he knew that it would be the only way to grow and become more confident. David also used to be afraid of speaking due to a persistent stutter. However, it’s exactly for that reason that he spent a great deal of time speaking to face his fear head on.

We can apply David’s rule to running. Instead of falling into a monotonous and easy routine, make a constant effort to do hard things. Always opt for the harder option in running. Run when it’s bad weather out, when it’s dark, put in extra miles, do more speed workouts, take on tougher races, try longer distances.

When I noticed myself getting into a running rut where my confidence started to slip, I’ve – on two occasions – gotten into my car and driven to mountains and ran up them as training. Sure, this sounds crazy to the average person. However, I knew that the only way to develop my confidence was by taking on a new challenge to expand my capabilities and belief in myself.


5. Prove them wrong.

‘I use all their negativity as positivity and fuel to get me to where I need to go.’ David Goggins


DG says that he will always try to prove naysayers wrong. Those that say he can’t do something give him the motivation to double down and to prove them wrong. If David had listened to naysayers that doubted him during his world record attempt of doing the most pull ups in a 24-hour period, he never would have succeeded after his third attempt. It was the defeatists telling him he couldn’t do it that gave him the energy to pursue the seemingly impossible goal. In the end, he did 4030 pull ups in a day. A remarkable feat.

We can apply this to running nicely. In all areas of life, including running, there will be naysayers. People that tell you can’t do something, usually through their own insecurity of looking bad.

When someone says that you shouldn’t run, it’s too dangerous, you don’t know what you’re doing or you’ll never achieve your goals, I challenge you to use David’s advice and prove them wrong. Speaking from experience, proving someone wrong when they doubted you is one of the sweetest feelings imaginable.


6. Stop looking for finish lines.

In Evan’s video, this rule features a powerful video of David on a climbing machine saying that there’s no such thing as finish lines. The only finish line in life, he says, is death. We need to stop believing in the idea of working our ass off with the belief that we’ll one day cross the finish line.

David says that we must continually find limits in everything we do and push beyond them. Just because you work your ass off in something, it doesn’t mean that you will achieve the success you’re hoping for. Success is not guaranteed. The only thing that is guaranteed is constant, hard work, day-in-day-out. Greatness comes when there’s no crowds and no finish lines. It comes when you’re putting in the work with no one watching you, with the belief that you’re edging closer and closer to that next level of your ability.

Applying this to running, it’s important that you remember that there are no finish lines. Sure, you might cross the line in a marathon feeling chuffed about your performance. However, there’s always improvements to be made and new levels of performance to be reached.

William S Burroughs penned the powerful phrase ‘when you stop growing you start dying.’ It’s absolutely true. If you stop growing as a runner, your abilities will decline, and you’ll become worse. Instead, you need to cultivate a constant improvement mindset. Always be striving for better form, quicker times, longer distances, tougher elevations and to perform better in races. There is no finish line in life other than death.

7. Build yourself up.

In Evan’s video, David talks voices his annoyance when those he trains with start talking about recovery before they’ve put any workouts in. Before we even talk about recovery, hard work needs to be completed first. David relates constant hard work to building himself up and becoming the best version of himself possible.

David says that people always put him on a pedestal to make him sound above and beyond what the ordinary person is capable of to make themselves feel better about themselves. What’s interesting is that David says there’s nothing special about him. He’s just an ordinary guy who became extraordinary because of how he has built himself up over the decades to become who he is today.

Building yourself up is all about diving into the insecurities that life gives you. We need tackle these head on and learn from the opportunities they give us. Many of us are looking for recovery days in life but, as David says, they’re not what we should be focusing on.

David says he doesn’t need to prove himself to anyone because he knows deep in his heart the decades of grinding that have gone into building him.

Building yourself up applies nicely to running. Don’t get too carried away with celebrations, following a race. Sure, it’s good to give yourself a little pat on the back but don’t let this give you an excuse to gorge in fast food and to slack running off for a while.

Instead of being focused on recovery, focus on building yourself up through putting yourself into hard situations to build authentic confidence as a runner. This way you’ll believe that you’re great because you’ll know all of the hard work that you’ve put in to get to where you are on your running journey. As a result, you’ll be confident and won’t need to look to family, friends, or anyone for acceptance.

8. Own your life.

When he was young, Goggins always wanted to stay in his comfort zone, sought pats on the back, and routinely opted for the path of least resistance. Unfortunately, that’s what kept him in the world of non-accomplishment of being 297 pounds, working in a job that he hated with no future.

After making the decision to turn his life around, David suddenly became his worst critic. He looked himself in the mirror (the accountability mirror) and judged himself objectively. He analyzed all the flaws, weaknesses and failings that had lead him to where he was at that moment. It was after having completed this exercise that David realized that nobody was going to come and save him; he had to own his life and turn it around himself.  In life, we need to take responsibility for who we are. Nobody is going to do it for us.

This applies to running as you need to be honest and accountable to yourself in order to own your results. You need to take responsibility for your training plan, nutrition, schedule, failures and successes. Nobody else is to blame for your performance other than you. This is one of the most empowering concepts any runner can adopt, and this can lead to massive changes once adopted.


9. Seek challenges.

David Gogins is always seeking challenges. The harder something is for him, the more he’s interested in accomplishing it. By seeking and taking on hard challenges, he’s able to stay in the fight of life.

In Navy SEALS hell week, he had to find creative ways to stay in without getting rolled back to day one or ejected from Navy SEALS training altogether. He did this by rallying the spirits of those around him, making a point of being uncommon amongst uncommon people and even using duct tape to repress the pain from a fractured bone in his leg.

As runners, we need to constantly be seeking challenges to better ourselves. It’s not enough to have achieved our goal. Instead, we need to be constantly setting new and more challenging goals throughout our running careers.

For example, after having completed 10 half-marathons, I knew I needed a bigger distance to challenge myself. So, I booked onto my first marathon and, despite it being a huge effort, I was happy to have expanded my comfort zone to a new distance. To challenge myself again, I’ve signed up for a 65-mile ultramarathon which I’m currently training for.


10. Push your limits.

David starts this clip in the video swimming in the water at 3am. He tells us why he is swimming in the dark, presumably also in the cold. After finishing his navy career, he told himself that he’d never do night swims again as he hated them. But that’s exactly why he’s doing it in the video as a personal challenge to push his limits.

We always need to be seeking to push our limits as runners, pushing beyond our comfort zone and level of achievement. Otherwise, we stagnate and slowly slip into a rut of no progress.

If you’ve run a marathon, run an ultra-marathon. When you break a PB, make it your goal to break it again. If you’ve run an ultra-marathon, try competing in a triathlon. Constantly seek to push your running limits and you’ll feel like you’re on the right path.


Bonus tip: Show Up Everyday.

Perhaps the best tip for running, greatness comes to those who show up every day.  David uses the example of running in the rain to illustrate this. He says that life is always giving us challenges, trying to encourage us not to show up and pursue our dreams. However, it’s our responsibility to show up day-in-day-out if we want to achieve our goals, regardless at whatever life throws at you.

After having personally run at least a mile for two years, I can attest that showing up everyday has been the main reason for why my running has improved so much. After all, it’s impossible to hit a home run if you never swing the bat.

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