Taming Your Sports Gremlin

As an athlete you are driven, have goals and want to achieve. Many of us are in the habit of pushing our bodies to the brink of collapse, injury or sickness to succeed. Our taskmaster inside, sometimes called our sports gremlin, scares us into making bad choices for our body and soul.


Using skewed logic and fear tactics our gremlin convinces us to continue even when it is self-destructive. Our gremlin urges us to train constantly, harder and longer than the competition. Train till we can’t train anymore and than dig deeper. Our gremlin warns that we’ll get fat and lose fitness if we take a day off.


Do you know this voice? I do. In the past my gremlin didn’t let me rest, and my body suffered the consequences.

Even though my knee hurts I have to do my intervals today because I can’t do them tomorrow. It’s my most important workout of the week and if I don’t do them right now my training plan is shot. The race is only three weeks away and I need to get fitter if I want to be on the podium. Don’t be a wimp, take a pain killer and get to work!


It’s difficult to say NO to your gremlin, especially during competition. When racing our sports gremlin is revved up, urging us to go faster and faster, to catch anyone who has slipped out in front. Thoughts of weakness, fatigue or quitting are not tolerated. Any signals of body discomfort or pain are suppressed. Keep going and tough it out is the message our gremlin screams.


Our sports gremlin is a part of us, something we have created. We can choose to give him/her power and control of our actions or we can choose to quietly observe and make our own choices. Our gremlin does not have our best interests in mind and is intent on making us miserable.


Through bullying and intimidation our gremlin tries to get us to do what s/he wants. Becoming aware of your gremlin and the tactics s/he uses and the forms s/he takes can empower you to make the right decisions for your health. Learn more in the book, Taming Your Gremlin by Rick Carson.


Over the last couple of years I have challenged and conquered my sports gremlin. Crashing in my pre-ride at mountain bike nationals and deciding not to start the race was the first time. And last weekend I again nurtured the protective little voice in my head that told me to stop trail running at 10 km instead of going on to complete the 15 mile course.


There are many reasons why I wanted to continue running and my gremlin was cheering me on to go, go, go! The wisdom of my body, however, told me it was time to quit. Paying attention to the growing tightness in my hip and lower back were clear indications that I wasn’t moving well and continuing to run was only going to exacerbate the problem and lead to a longer recovery.

Competitive and always wanting to finish what I start it was hard to end my race. I felt like I was letting myself and others down and would be seen as weak. Interestingly, instead of the criticism and disappointment I expected from my peers I received support and increased respect. It turns out that honoring yourself, your needs and your body are highly valued.


Remember that the next time you impose a self-directed goal of walking three miles, swimming 2000 meters, skiing 20 km, etc. Listen to your inner guidance, not your overbearing gremlin to make the best decision for yourself.

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About the Author


Jessica uses an integrative approach to help you overcome chronic pain. She believes in treating the whole person utilizing the biopsychosocial approach to healing. Her offerings include posture therapy, online exercise classes, pain science education, and individual or group wellness coaching. She is certified by the Postural Restoration Institute® (PRI), Egoscue University®, National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), American Council on Exercise (ACE) and Wellcoaches.