A Mantra for Runners: Be All In


Mantras are short phrases, or linguistic bumper stickers if you will, that help clarify and direct actions. The mantra, Be All In, was asked recently of the current Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon, Damian Warner of Canada during the lead up to the world indoor athletics championships in March.

In this lead up, Warner’s longtime coach, Gar Leyshon, observed no drop in Warner’s performance during December and January training sessions. However in February, Warner was in a funk at practice, telling Leyshon he felt "terrible" and "not ready" to compete at world indoors. Enter Warner’s support team of coaches Leyshon and Dennis Nielsen, longtime physiotherapist Dave Zelibka and sports psychologist Jean Francois Menard, who rallied around him.

"Dave (Zelibka) told me I had one foot in (world indoors) and one foot out and told me I needed to decide if I was all in," recalled Warner. "I decided I was all in and focused more on my training. I rely on my support team, they're great people to talk to and I'm learning to trust their opinion. I think there's still a little bit of that funk in me, but I'm headed in the right direction with the steps we've taken this year from a technical standpoint and training-wise."

Warner also said, "Indoors is intimate and a cool environment to compete in. The athletes are a little closer, the fans are a little louder, so use that energy (as added motivation) and see what happens.” And in previous years, he usually broke the monotony of indoor training by attending training camps in Florida, California and Louisiana, but declined to travel each of the past two winters due to the pandemic.

Shortly before the event, Warner said, "I'm going (to the world indoors) to win. It won't be easy, but it never is. You want to get a personal best and winning would be icing on the cake. You also want to see that you're in good shape.”
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From Damian Warner's example, by asking - Am I all in? - age-group athletes can use this mantra as an opportunity to re-evaluate competition goals. Maybe like Warner’s example, being focused more on getting a personal best and/or “being in good shape” rather than final standings can get training back on track. Sometimes just completing a race or competition is the goal.

In addition to racing, being all in can help athletes refocus on their training goals (e.g., workouts to build aerobic fitness, workouts to build upper body strength for the pole vault, etc.), to make sure these workouts are headed in the right direction.

Warner's example also highlights the importance of a support community that can come together when problems arise. For self-coached athletes, their support community will likely look different from Warner’s. However, if one becomes stale from training, a training group can help to keep moving forward and to push it a bit when needed in workouts.

The example also highlights factors like workout location, training groups, and techniques can be a spark that gets workouts moving forward again. 
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Damian Warner after setting a personal best and winning the World Indoor Championships in Belgrade, Serbia

In the end, Damian Warner did achieve his goal of a personal best at the world indoor championships in Belgrade, Serbia in March 2022. He became the season world leader with 6,489 points, which exceeds his Canadian record by 146 points.

Warner also became a first-time world athletics indoor champion. But, in a dramatic ending, he needed to come from behind to overtake Simon Ehammer of Switzerland in the last event to win the competition.
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I’ve posted before on the importance of being part of a running community for motivation and goals. For more, check out this post: Motivation & Goals for the Running Journey

In another post I talked about different goals that endurance athletes can use: quantitative outcome goals, qualitative process goals, dedication goals, and self-acceptance goals. For more, check out: An Exclusive Club Provides a Lesson on Setting Running Goals

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