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Friday, February 15, 2013
Don't get beat by the mental game

By Summer Sanders

Summer on the Run is a 12-week blog and video series that follows former Olympic swimmer and avid runner Summer Sanders on her journey to train for Disney's Princess Half Marathon on Feb. 24.

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, she will share training tips, and a little inspiration, as she gears up for the main event. Use hashtag #GoRun on Twitter to follow Summer and be part of the ongoing conversation.

I don't let myself get stressed out very often, but we all have our moments.

I remember a time when I didn't get to run, and that made me feel less calm, less like myself. It was when I was on "Celebrity Apprentice." In that high-pressure Hollywood environment, my family gave me the support I needed to relax. It was the same for the Olympics, too. My family has always been that stable force in my life.

Find your happy place, your calming thought -- something that will bring you back when your mind goes wild. There will be some moment during race weekend when you can't find your socks, or you spill your Gatorade or you feel overwhelmed by the task at hand. The endorphins will kick in eventually, but you may need something to get you through rough times and give you balance.

Race day is mental. Your body is fairly used to the motions and, occasionally, it needs a push to keep moving. Your emotions are working overtime, so you can't always trust them. Remember what you've practiced for so long, and rely on your muscle memory.

When I finished my first tri, it was perfect. The final leg was a 10K run. I was emotional at the finish line, taking everything in. But even before I caught my breath, my kids Spider and Skye were there, which made me smile even brighter. Immediately, Spider wanted me to pick him up and Skye wanted pigtails. They had no idea how tired I felt or what it was like to do all three disciplines in a row at race pace. They just wanted my attention, and it made the moment even more perfect and normal for all of us.

In some ways, things haven't changed since I was a little girl. I loved competing in sports and it always helped to have my family around me. I could always see them on the other side of the pool or in the stands. Having Spider right there with me in Orlando will be just like that.

I imagine, after my race, Spider and I will play in the pool and go out for a fun Disney treat. The kid inside of all of us looks forward to a reward. By then I'll have earned it, and I want Spider to have a fun vacation weekend. I bet he'll want to wear his medal, too.

My family also keeps me in check. My brother has been doing that since we were kids. If I ever got ahead of myself or uppity, he knew just how to put me in my place. We can say almost anything to each other. No matter what else we do, we appreciate one another as parents now. We enjoy seeing each other's kids learn the same lessons we did (his kids are now 13 and 15). They are the older cousins who have led the way for my kids.

Spider and Skye are discovering so much every day, in the pool or on runs, just like my brother and I did. I get to see them running for the sport of it, not just play. They're learning what competing and doing something good for your body (and hard at the same time) feels like. I'm more proud to be their mom every day. I want to keep showing them ways to make life fun and fulfilling. It's a great lesson to learn early on.

Summer is ready for whatever comes her way over the next 10 days. She knows now is not the time to worry about the weather (snow, you can't stop me now!) or missing a long run earlier in her training (forget that flu!). As Summer looks ahead toward race day, come along with her on this fantastic journey. Your goal this week: Be sure to get multiple nights of good sleep while you're still home.