Learning To Say Yes


Early in my career, I attended a workshop with advertising creative director, Jelly Helm, who worked for Weiden + Kennedy at the time –  a big agency with clients like Nike and Coke. He guided us through exercises that helped us visualize saying “yes” with a purpose, “If you say an idea is bad, you’re creating conflict. You want an energy flow that moves you forward, as opposed to a creative stasis.” With that sentiment tucked neatly in the back of my brain, years later I finally said yes to an invitation for a relay I’d been rejecting for months for no concrete reason. And wouldn’t you know, that word pulled me out of a road marathon rut – or stasis, if you will – and was how I fell in love with running ultras. Here are some ways to learn to say “yes” so an opportunity of a lifetime (or two) doesn’t pass you by.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Remember a time when details got in the way? Thoughts can get tripped up – whether it’s a torrential rain storm that turned your sunny aspirations to gloom, or a hydration pack that sprung a leak – try to turn each hurdle into a challenge. There’s something about saying yes to an opportunity, whether it’s crewing someone to the finish line of a 100-miler or overcoming adversity by struggling through a 50K-long mudfest, that can energize the soul. Jump at the chance and enjoy the journey.

Confront your fears. If you’ve ever said no due to a fear of being unable to complete a distance, or because you thought a race would be too hard, ask yourself why. Maybe an erratic elevation chart scared you off, or running trails in the dark caused nightmares of unwelcome acrobatics. Talk to others who’ve have tackled those challenges successfully, and know that you are not alone. Fear of the unknown is a common feeling, and conquering it can be empowering.

Finally, in a sport that practically coined the term FOMO (fear of missing out), listen to your body. With (or without) a coach guiding you through a training plan, make sure to recognize when the body, mind and spirit need a break. For those deep in training, the pressure to get in our daily workouts can feel like another job. Add family and work to that scenario and it’s a delicate balance. When something jostles the schedule or rattles the anxiety dragon, there’s no telling how your body will respond. Refine your listening skills and when it’s pleading for a break, say yes. Running will always be there, as long as you are kind to your body.

Saying yes is not always easy.  Fear and anxiety can easily paralyze us with thoughts of failure and rejection from doing what our mind so badly wants. So practice. Start slowly by saying yes as you venture out one trail at a time, and let the energy flow. Eventually, the negative thoughts will subside and you’ll realize that saying no was never an option.


About Author

Amy Clark is the Editor of UltraRunning Magazine. She began her career at a small advertising agency in Bend, Oregon, where she enjoyed the fast pace and creative environment. For over 15 years, lunch hour runs were a ritual. Amy also joined the board of the local running club, became a race director and finished her first ultra. She has completed over 35 marathons and ultras combined, and continues to run long distances while encouraging both kids and adults to ignite their own passion for running.

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