Book Review: Beyond Grit by Cindra Kamphoff, Ph.D.

“Karen, keep moving towards your BIG DREAMS one step at a time! Stay gritty! -Cindra”

These were the first words from Cindra Kamphoff that I ever read, when I opened my signed copy of this book. They are powerful words, and since then have started to mean something different each time I read them. Kamphoff is a sports psychologist and performance coach for professional athletes and teams around the nation, including the Minnesota Vikings. In addition to this book, Kamphoff does numerous speaking engagements on the high performance mindset, and is a professor at Minnesota State University. She also runs marathons (including 5 Boston Marathons), so I found her to be a great source of inspiration and wisdom.

I have read Beyond Grit twice. The first time was when I was training for marathon #3, and was trying to work on my mental game. The second time was just recently when going into marathon training #4, and I realized that the book read completely differently. The first time I read it, I was trying to learn how to become gritty…what do I need to do to think myself into successfully running a marathon? This re-read, I realized maybe I do have some level of grit! Kamphoff says, “Being gritty means you do not give up…You keep going despite setbacks, failures, or difficulties. When you are gritty, you have the inner strength and motivation to keep going when it is difficult.” Anyone who gets up to run miles week after week, month after month, who works through an injury to be able to run again, who doesn’t give up running after not reaching a race goal time…they are gritty. It really does take “one step at a time” to move towards a big dream.

Kamphoff’s book takes the reader step by step through practices that can help them improve their performance in a variety of areas in their lives, whether career, in sport, in relationships, or the happiness within oneself. My focus is on running, so as I read through the strategies, I found concepts to implement that help me in the area of training and racing. Some of my favorite go-to concepts and quotes:

  1. “There can be joy in the struggle.” Difficulties happen FOR you, not TO you. Our response to obstacles or setbacks is what matters most–explore the opportunity in a setback and it can lead to something better.
  2. High performers set outcome goals, performance goals, and process goals. The emphasis needs to be on the process goals 95% of the time and outcome goals only 5% of the time. Outcome goals “focus on the desired result,” but outside factors can influence them, and therefore can cause anxiety if a person focuses heavily on the outcome (ex. I want to run a sub-2 hour half marathon). Performance goals are specific, in your control, and more measurable (ex. I want to improve my times in my one mile repeats). Process goals are the “actions that you need to take daily to perform well,” and will improve confidence (ex. I will do my training runs and focus on a positive mindset). If you focus too much on your outcome goal, it will create anxiety and pressure, which are not helpful components of staying motivated and focused.
  3. “Your mind simply becomes what you tell it the most. What you think about, you create. What you think about yourself, you become.” When running or racing, how you talk to yourself can cause a shift one way or the other, and change your entire run or race one way or the other.
  4. Be mindful. “Mindfulness is choosing to be awake in the moment and know what you are thinking, feeling, and doing” without judgment, and by accepting what is. Mindfulness can bring happiness and gratefulness during a tough run, and can also help you identify what your needs are to improve because you are more self-aware. Meditation can help you learn to practice mindfulness during a run–more on how mediation can help your running coming soon on the blog.
  5. “You can’t be exceptional on your own. You need support and a crew of like-minded superstars who believe in your vision and push you to be the very best version of yourself.” Find a running group and running partners who bring you up, inspire you, and give you positive momentum.

To learn more from Cindra Kamphoff, check out her book, or her website My favorite way to keep her strategies in the front of my mind are through her podcast, the High Performance Mindset.


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