No Category selected Eric Gillis and the 20-80 rule

    Eric Gillis and the 20-80 rule


    Last week, I had Eric Gillis as a guest speaker at my beginner running clinic* at The Running Works. As a full time runner who is also the father of a young daughter, works part time, and whose wife worked shifts up until recently, he was there to talk about fitting everything in.

    Of course, that part of the conversation only lasted about five minutes, because let’s face it, unlike the clinic members, running isn’t the part he’s just “fitting in.”  And really, we all just wanted to pummel him with questions about the Olympics.

    But one thing he managed to get in before we changed the subject was totally worth the price of admission all by itself.  It was a point on how to make sure your runs stay enjoyable, even when you don’t really feel like running.

    He called it the 20-80 rule and it goes like this: he allows himself up to 20 percent negative thoughts, such as “I’m tired,” or “It’s windy,” and that’s it. The other 80 percent need to be positive thoughts.

    While he didn’t really elaborate on how he does it, I have been thinking about it a lot – I think it’s a terrific rule, and I have used it repeatedly to pull myself out of a taper-funk.

    Of course, I am not the kind of person who self-sabotages myself into bad runs** very often, because I don’t stay grumpy for long once I get running – kind of in the same way that I can’t stay mad at my cat for making a beeline to the carpet to throw up a fur ball once he starts purring and bonks my hand for a cuddle. However, it is still much more pleasant to start the run in a good mood.  So if I am about to go over my 20 percent, I use good old reframing to bring it around.

    For those of you not familiar with reframing, it simply involves looking at a thought objectively and considering it from another point of view.  It doesn’t mean telling yourself you are wrong in many cases, just looking at it differently.

    For example I have a notoriously hard time falling asleep at night – my brain just won’t stop talking to itself.  But of course then I start fretting about how much – or how little – sleep I will get, and think things like “my run in the morning is going to suck on four hours sleep!”  So I stop that thought in its tracks and remind myself that I am going to be tired in the morning no matter what, so I might as well be happy that I get to start the day with a run.

    Try it:

    It’s cold outside! …………………………I get to wear my favourite hoodie!

    I hate that hill! …………………………..Hills make my butt look good in jeans!

    I am frustrated and tired from work……………A run will help me burn off the frustration and rejuvenate my tired mind.

    See, it’s not so hard!  And if you can stick to Eric’s 20-80 rule, you might never talk yourself into a bad run ever again.


    *Okay, so I actually had very little (okay, nothing!) to do with it…the owner, Andrew Catton, set it all up. I swear he knows everyone – and I mean everyone.

    ** Don’t get me wrong, I still have bad runs for a lot of other reasons, I just don’t talk myself into them all that much anymore.

    Gratuitous photo of my clinic with Eric Gillis!
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    A runner for just over four years, Karen has already completed a marathon, two half marathons and a variety of 5k and 10k races. She describes her first marathon - the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon last September - as "a nightmare." However, she met a very interesting person in the process - a man named Sydney who was running his 152nd marathon! Although the race didn't go as well as planned for Karen or Sydney, he showed her that no matter how experienced a runner you are, you can still have a bad day. "Does that mean we shouldn't bother to prepare, or maybe just shouldn't bother at all? Of course not!" says Karen. "In the end, it is what we make it." We like her optimism!


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