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Visualizing vampires to run faster

When I am running, I try not to think about the fact that I’m running. That is because running sucks. Anyone who tells you running doesn’t suck is a liar. Have you ever seen the runners at the end of the Boston Marathon? They are thrilled to cross the finish line because it means they don’t have to run any farther. Even the fast people are exhausted at the end of the race.

I love running too, even though it sucks. I love the happy chemicals it releases in my body. I get a great feeling of accomplishment after I survive a race. Sometimes, I even feel like a graceful, yet powerful gazelle, jaunting across the Sahara, even though I probably look more like a chubby housecat sprinting for a bag of Friskies. Still, running is uncomfortable. It makes me breathe hard and leaves me very sweaty and sticky and stinky.

This is why I try to ignore the fact that I am running while I am running. I didn’t quite realize that I was doing, until I started reading one of the latest bestselling social science books, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children. I don’t have kids, but it’s fascinating to learn about why humans are the way they are, be they kids or not. Chapter Eight is about self-control, and it mentions a Russian study from the 1950’s where they asked kids to stand still as long as they could. The kids lasted two minutes. Then they asked another group of kids to pretend they were guards who had to stand still at their posts. These kids lasts eleven minutes.

When I run, sometimes I pretend that I am somewhere other than a boring gray fitness room. Sometimes I am in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, chasing down vampires. Other times I am trying to escape a building before a bomb explodes. I have even been known to pretend I am a spy trying to outrun pursuers after I have stolen secret data that is stored in the disk partition of my MP3 player. All of this is quite silly of course, but it keeps my mind off of the running and even makes running a kind of game. It’s not work, it’s play! If I’m exhausted, I can pretend it’s only 2:47 minutes to the border! I can’t stop now! Try it sometime and working out might be more like play.

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Molly Gambrell • October 14, 2009 at 9:41 am

I just started running on the treadmill and I ALWAYS have to pretend I am somewhere else or I won’t make it. I’m with you, sister.


DanaDanger • October 14, 2009 at 9:46 am

I’m disappointed that your alliteration ended halfway through the title. You totally should’ve called this post Visualizing Vampires for Vigorous Velocity.


Ayesha97 • October 14, 2009 at 9:55 am

You might enjoy the kids in this Youtube Video for the “Marshmallow Test.” Its so cute to see them try NOT eating the marshmallow.



Sarah • October 14, 2009 at 9:55 am

Hah! What a great idea! I really like running but I definitely do not care so much for the actual running part. I thought that probably meant that I didn’t have a huge running life ahead of me so it’s good to know that maybe that’s normal. :-) I never even thought of pretending to be something else while running but now I see great superheroics in my future!


Jack Sh*t, Gettin' Fit • October 14, 2009 at 10:00 am

That’s why I always wear my garlic necklace when I run (that…and I sometimes get hungry)…


K • October 14, 2009 at 10:15 am

I have VERY silly visualisations when I’m on the treadmill, mostly about having superpowers. Though I suppose if I did, I would be able to keep fit by leaping tall buildings in a single bound and so on. When I’m outside on my bike, I don’t need to make up stories so much.

I have also been known to entertain myself if I’ve forgotten my headphones by reciting poetry, or singing (silently) to myself. “The Pirates of Penzance” has lots of good tunes to run to!


Poppy • October 14, 2009 at 10:20 am

I too visualize myself in different situations to make running more palatable – for me it’s all about the getting it over with so it helps to imagine that I’m running for a greater good of some sort.

I disagree that all people hate running though. I have a nephew who runs track and cross country in college and he runs a 5K in about 16 minutes. He loves running and actually looks forward to it. I just volunteered as an ‘Answer Lady’ at the finish line for the Chicago Marathon and yes, alot of people looked beyond relieved to be done and some looked almost close to death, but there was also the lady from L.A. who joyously told me how much fun she’d just had on this, her 25th marathon and the young woman who excitedly told me that she had just made her P.R.


Runeatrepeat • October 14, 2009 at 10:45 am

I need to try this. I actually don’t run with any music or any imagination. I bet I could go further if I did!


Bionic Librarian • October 14, 2009 at 10:48 am

Me too! Me too! I imagine I am running races and that all my friends are cheering me on (and I’m beating any enemies along the way).


Jessica • October 14, 2009 at 10:50 am

I believe I will try the vampire today on my run. I have been running outside, and you are right…it’s not very fun but the end feeling/result is spectacular!


Caron • October 14, 2009 at 10:59 am

I imagine people are watching me. That keeps me from stopping because I don’t like people to think I’m a quitter. Even if the people are only in my head…


Shannon • October 14, 2009 at 11:08 am

HA! I do the same thing and I thought I was the only one! The whole time I’m trying to run I think My liver thanks me for this! My lungs thank me for this! Run from the bad guys! LOL It’s nice to know I’m not the only weirdo out there!!


Lyn • October 14, 2009 at 12:28 pm

When I go for a walk, I visualize the fat melting off my and leaving buttery footsteps wherever I go. It helps.


Quix • October 14, 2009 at 1:02 pm

What an awesome idea! I have people tell me they wouldn’t run unless they were being chased – maybe that would help me get through that BLEH part of 5ks around 1.5-2 miles where I just want to be done.

I would like to say that there are seriously and honestly times that I enjoy running, during running, and just enjoy pushing myself and being fully consumed by each step and breath to the point where I cannot focus on anything else. However, those days are not everyday, and some days I’m slogging through the miles just like every other mere mortal. :) I like to visualize I’m dancing or singing on a stage to whatever is in my headphones.


adrienne • October 14, 2009 at 2:14 pm

Wow- why didn’t I think of that? Running might be slightly better than total misery. Sadly, whenever I run (and it’s always for necessity never for health or recreation) I picture myself back on the 90 degree, 90% humidity high school track in a polyester gym suit trying to meet the bare minimum standard for the Presidential Fitness requirement. Pure misery laced with utter teen self-consciousness. It would be far preferable to imagine myself being chased by wolves than slogging past the bleachers of jocks who met the mark on the first day of testing.

Life so often gets back to attitude, doesn’t it?

p.s. I’m glad you’re reading Nurture Shock! Great read.


Lainey • October 14, 2009 at 2:37 pm

Ha ha! How fun! I’m going to have to try that!


Kimberly • October 14, 2009 at 4:20 pm

I often imagine myself on The Amazing Race, running to Phil at a Pit Stop. I like yours, too – I may have to steal them!


Rebecca Hoover • October 14, 2009 at 4:59 pm

Can someone please explain to me what it means to meet your P.R. in a race. I realize I’m a dunderhead but it’s really bugging me.


Penny Broome • October 14, 2009 at 5:11 pm

I’m a happily married mid-30s stay at home mother of two kids. But when I run, I imagine a great big sexy navy SEAL bodyguard running beside me, sort of taunting me to keep up with him. mmmmmmmmm. Excuse me, I’m off to the gym now.


PastaQueen • October 14, 2009 at 5:18 pm

@Rebecca Hoover – It stands for “personal record.” It means you ran the fastest time you’ve ever run for that race.


Kathryn • October 14, 2009 at 7:10 pm

I like to knock out a cartwheel at the end so I can pretend that I was just taking a really, really, really long run-up.


PastaQueen • October 14, 2009 at 7:23 pm

@Kathryn – Ha! LOL.


Ashley • October 14, 2009 at 7:41 pm

I use the “make up outlandish stories about everybody you pass” strategy. I usually start with what the person does professionally, then decide about their personal life, and then add on weird hobbies and such. It’s particularly fun if it’s two people because then you also get to make up the facts of their relationship as well.


Sharon • October 14, 2009 at 8:33 pm

I love running–the running itself, not just the rewards. I love the feeling, I love the work. I love the feeling of power.

The best way to convince yourself you’re not looking at grey gym walls is to get off the treadmill and open the door and go outside.


Couch • October 14, 2009 at 8:37 pm

I do this during spin calss, but I’ve recently started running, and think I might need to put add it to my treadmilling too. I totally have the Buffy soundtrack somewhere too.

You might find this t-shirt amusing. It runs along the same lines:


I’m totally buying it next time I need a treat:)


Kathy • October 14, 2009 at 9:28 pm

oh man! I totally do the imagination thing! It’s nice to find someone else, I always thought I was the only one becasue it’s kind of weird. I do the Buffy one, or sometimes a really cool ninja, just about anything that explains why I’m exerting myself but is more fun then actually running


Stacy • October 14, 2009 at 10:51 pm

Awesome idea! You go girl!


sian-girlgetstrong • October 15, 2009 at 10:06 am

the mind is such a powerful thing…its certainly beats all the negative input!! I will try this today and perhaps post about it in the future! love your site!


Jenna Z • October 15, 2009 at 4:25 pm

I have done most of my running outdoors since I just started in June. I like to pretend that a rapist is tailing me and that I need to run faster to shake him of my trail. Sometimes when I’m running, I tell myself if I stop before that stop sign or that light pole, my dog won’t be there when I get home, someone will have broken in and stolen him. It’s like some stupid childhood superstition that for some reason still manages to keep me motivated. But for the month of October, I will adopt the Vampire visualization! It’s so Halloweeny!

And when I am holding plank position for however long my instructor demands, I pretend there is a kitten sleeping under my stomach and that if I even sway my back a tiny bit, he’ll be crushed by my gut and die a bloody, terrible death.


Misty • October 16, 2009 at 11:18 am

One of my major motivators for any of my exercise is how well it will enable me to perform like a heroine :-D Running from zombies, werewolves…being able to pull myself up after being thrown over the side of the railing by a bad guy…being able to scale a rope up the side of the castle….


CLD • October 16, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Running on the trails each day, I imagine I’m running from thunderstorms. Of course, there have been days when I actually *did* run from a thunderstorm. It’s quite invigorating in a running-for-your-life way.

I’m running my first half marathon in January. I so glad I found your blog; been reading back to your first half marathon. It makes me feel a lot better about it.


Jessica • October 18, 2009 at 4:44 pm

I like running to The Matrix soundtrack and pretending agents are chasing me.


Sara • October 21, 2009 at 6:00 pm

I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer. My license plate even has LUV BUFF on it. But I still hate running, even if I get to pretend to be Buffy. Sigh.


nolafwug • October 22, 2009 at 2:22 pm

I love running most of the time. But I’m lucky to live where it’s never too cold to run outdoors. I think a treadmill would be dreadfully dull in comparison. Never tried one.

I let my mind wander and I do great problem-solving while I run. Sometimes I do great meditation.

But I have 2 kids so perhaps other people have lots more moments in which they can think clearly and don’t need set-aside “me time” like running is for me.

That said, I do have a number of theme songs and superhero scenarios I’ll visualize myself in. The top one is that chick from Heavy Metal who rides around on that cool flying beast. Followed closely by zombie-slaying Milla Jovovich in the Resident Evil series.

Um, running is obscene amounts of fun for me. I am not a liar. :)


Kristine Senko • March 16, 2010 at 6:12 pm

Wow, i’m not the only one? i still run with DJ Beatsmith podcasts and think of Alias or Dark Angel. The music really pushes me when i need it the most, too.


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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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