Fitness Tips

Championship Runner Mary Cain’s Training Trick Is Just 3 Steps—and Is Totally Worth Stealing for Yourself

Kells McPhillips

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Photo: Getty Images/Photo Alto Odilon

Training motivation ebbs and flows over the course of days, weeks, months, and years. That’s why runner and junior world champion Mary Cain (one of Well+Good’s 2020 Changemakers) entered the new year with a fresh method of self-motivation—one completely worth adopting for your own fitness outlook.

“My new year’s resolution is to be more positive. I have a nasty habit of negative self-talk that I have been working to overcome and am prioritizing in this new year,” wrote Cain in an Instagram caption. “To support my resolution, I have a new training trick. Every day, I pick three words: a who, a how, and a what. The Who is someone I love or inspires me, the How is a form cue, and the What is a motivational word. When training gets tough I lean on these words.”

Cain’s three-step approach is just plain smart. The “who” means she’s dedicating the training to others (and not just herself). The “how”cues her to keep her body safe and her performance up. And invoking a motivational word has science to back it up. Early research suggests that repeating one word again and again in your head quiets the part of your mind that’s always planning, worrying about the past, or envisioning the future. In other words, it plants you firmly in your run, swim, climb, or activity of choice so that you can give it your all.

 

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Last night, I ran my first race of 2020 right as the ball dropped! Ringing in the new year with a race was an incredible experience and motivates me for a long year of racing and training again. … I’m proud of how my race went. Showed strong progression in early season fitness, but more than that, was a good mental test. … My new year’s resolution is to be more positive. I have a nasty habit of negative self-talk, that I have been working to overcome and am prioritizing in this new year. I have so many people – that I know both personally and I’ve never met – who have sent me incredible support these past few months and they are why I am excited for this New Year. … To support my resolution, I have a new training trick. Every day, I pick three words: a who, a how, and a what. The Who is someone I love or inspires me, the How is a form cue, and the What is a motivational word. When training gets tough I lean on these words. … These words not only push me when it’s hard- but remind me of my Why. I love to run, this sport, and the friends I have made through it. Here’s to a new decade of never forgetting that Why and loving every step of the journey. 💛

A post shared by Mary Cain (@runmarycain) on

Cain used her newfound three-word trick to race in New York City on New Year’s Eve. “Last night, I ran my first race of 2020 right as the ball dropped,” she wrote on January 1. “Ringing in the new year with a race was an incredible experience and motivates me for a long year of racing and training again.” So there you have it: Knowing your why in training really comes down to knowing your who, how, and what.

Ready to try out the three-word method in your workouts? This gym guide will get you started, and here’s how to make sure your treadmill sprints don’t totally suck

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