If you’re listening to this while running, how’s your run going? Hopefully it’s a beautiful day and your run feels fantastic. But what if it’s not? What if your run feels hard, so hard you just want to quit? How do you motivate yourself to keep running? And how do you use these mental challenges both in running and in the rest of your life to become stronger? Dr. Jacob Cooper has the answers. Jacob breaks down exactly what you need to do and exactly when you need to do it, to convert your self-talk that’s telling you to quit, to an ally that lets the real you triumph. So if you want to perform better at running, or really at anything in life that's challenging, keep listening and be ready to apply Dr Cooper's techniques. Jacob is a clinical sport psychologist who serves as the director of sport psychology at Appalachian State University in Western North Carolina. A former college athlete himself, he has worked with professional and amateur athletes, Olympians, and Paralympians. He has an extensive background in mental health and how it ties to performance. Jacob has developed a style of working with athletes that focuses on them holistically, with the goal of performance optimization in the pursuit of excellence. Jacob Cooper Ph.D. - Full Bio Dr. Cooper is a clinical sport psychologist who serves as the director of sport psychology at Appalachian State University in addition to his own private practice serving professional and amateur athletes. He is a member of the United States Olympic & Paralympic athlete mental health registry, which consists of a selected group of specialized sports psychologists who are thoroughly vetted by the USOPC and then made available to current U.S. Olympians & Paralympians. As a former collegiate offensive lineman turned amateur triathlete and runner (Hello Clydesdale Division!), Jacob has worked with athletes at the Olympic, Professional, and Division-1 level over the course of his career. As a sport psychologist, Dr. Cooper brings an extensive background in mental health and performance enhancement. To this end, he has developed a style of working with athletes that focuses on them holistically, across the spectrum of future-oriented performance optimization, current personal barriers/stressors, as well as more significant mental health issues that can inevitably show up in the pursuit of excellence. As a doctoral student at Boston University, he completed clinical practicums within a variety of settings, including the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Federal Bureau of Prisons system (BOP) along with multiple D1 college sport medicine teams as a performance consultant. Additionally, he has published scholarly articles and cultivated a unique approach to working with athletes and teams that integrates the latest research, evidence-based strategies, and technology to help them reach their goals. In addition to high performance populations, he has a unique background and training in the areas of rural mental health, trauma recovery, serving low help-seeking populations, and military psychology. He has provided performance optimization for military personnel prior to their deployments as well as counseling for veterans transitioning back to civilian life throughout Western North Carolina, Indiana, and Boston. Dr. Jacob Cooper- Ph.D. Clinical Sport Psychologist. Director of Sport Psychology Services at Appalachian State University Licensed Clinical Psychologist & Health Service Provider (HSP) U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Sport Psychology Registry Member Education Background: B.A.- (Psychology) Taylor University (Indiana)- 4 year scholarship athlete & team captain (Football) Dual Masters Degree- Ball State University (Indiana) M.S.- Sport and Performance Psychology M.A.- Clinical Psychology PhD- Counseling Psychology (Sport and Performance Track)- Boston University Matched Clinical Residency - Charles George Veterans Hospital - Asheville North Carolina. Questions Jacob is asked: 3:59 I first found out about you from an Instagram post that the folks at ZAP posted. You were working with the elites at ZAP helping them build some mental strength. Can you tell me a little bit about how you worked with them? 5:03 How do elite and regular runners find motivation and purpose when a lot of races have been taken off the board? 6:19 Maybe this pandemic is a silver lining or maybe it’s a gift because we can look at our running in a different way because we’re all going to get slower as we age and performance is a huge part of why we do it, at least for some people, but once you take those PRs and the clock away, why do we run? That’s got to be the most important thing, right? 7:28 We always talk about, “I want to get mentally tough,” because clearly it’s not just our bodies. We can train our bodies to do certain things but if the brain is not onboard, the train’s not going to get all the way to the station. So how do we train our brain to be mentally tougher when things get hard? 8:30 I’m going to use myself as an example. When I’m running really hard or trying for a specific goal, I have the devil and the angel on my shoulder. I have the voice saying, “Go, go, go. You can do this.” And then I have a very, very sweet devil saying, “Everybody still loves you no matter what you run. You can slow down. This is really hard.” So I’m fighting these two opposing things that are 100% me and I really want to tell the devil to shut up and I really want to keep moving hard. How do I do that? 11:30 So the feelings come and we’re supposed to say, “Oh hello, feeling,” and let it go on its way. Is that what we’re supposed to be doing when we’re trying to run that 400 meter repeat really hard? 12:43 Can you give us a few examples of mental tools that we can use? What’s in the toolbox? 14:37 What is radical acceptance in your RISE model? 16:32 What does the I in RISE mean? 23:50 What does the S in RISE mean? 25:23 Do you have any hints for people who don’t know what their optimal performance cues are? 26:18 When I’m running well in a race or in a group setting, I definitely lock on the dude in front of me. I’m laser focused on him and I pretend that I have a rope attached to him and I pretend that he’s pulling me. And I just link up to him like a train like I am not letting this person go. It works for me. 27:13 What does the E in RISE stand for? 29:06 Let’s talk about the difference between psychology of teams and the psychology of athletes that are in an individual sport. Can you address that a little bit? Or is it the same just on a different level? Are we all talking to ourselves like we would talk to a bunch of people? 31:58 What about teams of runners? What about groups of runners where they’re obviously not always running the same races but they train together? They are in a team environment where they eat, sleep, and work out together and it’s been proven that we work differently in a group setting. Can you talk about that? 33:31 Especially with the pandemic, we’re seeing more and more runners find support, find a tribe, find a group of people online that they haven’t been able to find before, and a lot of people are finding it incredibly helpful. Especially runners are typically Type A, loner, data nerds (or maybe I'm just speaking for myself!), but a group setting isn’t typically comfortable for people who love to spend hours alone running, so any advice for that lone runner who maybe shies away from a group? 35:48 You help athletes work on their mental health issues. And we think about elite runners especially as just having these super tough brains that are as tough as their bodies and they are able to do amazing things that the regular people can’t do. So we think that they are just some kind of machine when it comes to their minds but I suspect that you find some mental health issues. Can you talk a little bit about that? 39:36 People who drive themselves so hard to be excellent, they’re a specific breed of people and you look at them and you wonder if they did have some trauma. Why in the world are they pushing themselves to these extreme limits? Do you find that that is really the case that people that are just absolutely at the top of their game are more likely to have had some kind of trauma in their past? 41:58 One thing I really wanted to talk to you about is the whole concept of balance. When we are striving for something, whether it's athletics, a career, parenting, sacrifice is inevitable and balance is simply not possible (or desired). How can we reach our goals without letting everything else fall apart? 45:21 What is next for you and what questions in sports psychology are you looking to get answered in the future? Questions I ask everyone: 48:54 If you could go back and talk to yourself when you started running, what advice would you give? 50:04 What is the greatest gift running has given you? 51:33 Where can listeners connect with you? Quotes by Jacob: “That ‘why’ is such a valuable thing and it’s very easy in athletics to sometimes lose touch with that.” “I think that it’s helpful to have multiple fuel sources because there’s costs to them all.” “Your attention is a muscle. It’s like a spotlight that allows you to shift to what matters most right now. I call these optimal performance cues or OPCs.” “Anywhere that there’s pressure and stress, we’re all capable of that impacting us and manifesting in the form of some level of mental distress whether it’s just some symptoms of anxiety, depression, eating disorders, trauma, or it’s like a full blown chronic disorder and something like that.” “There’s going to be times and seasons of life that feel unbalanced. But I believe that in every season of life it is possible and worthwhile to live in a way that reflects our values.” Take a Listen on Your Next Run Leave a space for libsyn link Want more awesome interviews and advice? Subscribe to our iTunes channel Mentioned in this podcast: ZAP Endurance Runners Connect Winner's Circle Facebook Community RunnersConnect Facebook page RunnersConnect Focus Classes email Coach Claire Follow Jacob on: email@example.com Instagram Running with Heart We really hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of Run to the Top. The best way you can show your support of the show is to share this podcast with your family and friends and share it on your Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media channel you use. The more people who know about the podcast and download the episodes, the more I can reach out to and get top running influencers, to bring them on and share their advice, which hopefully makes the show even more enjoyable for you!