Confidence Lessons From 2-Time Olympian Kara Goucher
She's a two-time Olympian and world champion medalist, but despite all her successes, Kara Goucher struggles with confidence.
One might assume that Kara Goucher has always been a confident runner. After all, the just-turned-40-year-old is a two-time Olympian and world-champion medalist. She’s been on the covers of Women’s Running, Runner’s World and Competitor a number of times and is the face of Oiselle, Skechers and other big brands. She has 140,000 followers on Instagram and will host her fifth annual sold-out running retreat in September.
Turns out, however, that despite all her successes, Goucher has often struggled with a lack of confidence. “I’ve always had a lot of self doubt and negative self chatter as far back as high school,” she says. “I have worked with a sports psychologist since I was young.” Shortly after she graduated from college, Goucher connected with sports psychologist Stephen Walker, who encouraged her to document her positive thoughts and feelings. So she did. And still does.
“I keep a confidence journal alongside my training journal,” Goucher explains. “Every single night, religiously, I write what I did activity-wise for the day in my training journal, and then I have a different journal where I write something positive about myself.” Why? Because “it matters that you acknowledge to yourself the good that you do and the work that you do,” Goucher says. “Give yourself a pat on the back for something positive that you did toward your goal.”
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Positive comments in a confidence journal might range from celebrating very specific mile splits to simply “I didn’t stop;” although the goal is to include enough details to be able to look back at an entry and remember the workout. “Then you can flip through the journal, and you can see the work you did; you can be reminded of all the great things that you’ve done and all the ways that you’ve fought for what it is that you want,” Goucher says. “It becomes a tool; once you’ve finished it, you don’t want to throw it away, you want to have it there so that on a bad day or when self doubt creeps in, you can flip through and remind yourself, ‘I can handle this.’”
When it comes to racing, Goucher’s confidence journal gives her peace of mind knowing she’s done the hard training and deserves to be at the starting line. “I’ve never been wired that way, where I can go to the line and think ‘I’m going to annihilate all these women, I’m going to dominate,’” she says. “When I feel really confident, I’m really not thinking about anyone else, I’m really just thinking about the preparation that I’ve done, and I know that I met all of my expectations along the way.”
Goucher had such good results with her confidence journal that she was inspired to “bring a confidence journal to the masses,” which eventually turned into a book called Strong: A runner’s guide to boosting confidence and becoming the best version of you.
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On its cover, Goucher is wearing a maroon sleeveless shirt with white letters that read: “You are ready, you are powerful, and you belong.” These words—Goucher’s own—pretty much sum up the message of the pages that follow.
“The book is about mental strength and psychological techniques to prepare yourself for competition and for life,” Goucher says. “It’s a little arsenal of ideas and things to do to get the best out of yourself.” The book is part memoir—Goucher shares personal stories and experiences—and part workbook in which readers are encouraged think about and answer prompts such as “list three reasons why you are a strong runner” and “what did you fight through today that you didn’t think you could?” There are also seven blank pages at the very end on which readers can start their own confidence journals.
“People have asked me if Strong is going to be an e-book, and I’m like no, this is a thing you have to work through,” Goucher says. “You need to put your hand to the page with a writing utensil and take the time and reflect; it should only take five or 10 minutes a day.”
Goucher stresses that confidence journals aren’t just for elite athletes. In fact, they’re not even just for runners. “We all have—whether its in your running life or not—these things in our life that make us doubt ourselves, make us question ourselves,” she says. “The book is focused on running because that’s what I do and that’s what I know, but it’s applicable to anyone; it will help you look at yourself differently, and that will go into all aspects of your life: the way you parent and the way you are as a partner and the way you are with your friends and at work. It helps me to remember who I am and what I care about, and that makes me better in all these other areas of my life.”
Strong: A Runner’s Guide to Boosting Confidence and Becoming the Best Version of You will be available on August 14 and can be pre-ordered on Amazon.