As a professional runner, Roisin “Ro” McGettigan has learned the hard way that mental preparation is as important as physical training.McGettigan, who represented Ireland in the 3,000-meter steeplechaseat the 2008 Olympics and attended Providence College on a track scholarship, used to become overwhelmed by stress and anxiety before major competitions.“I’d think, oh, my gosh, I’m wearing the Irish uniform, a lot of people are looking at this,” she said. “And then I’dhave a really poor performance andnot even come close to my normaltimes. I had to learn how to deal with that.” One thing that helped was redirecting her attention to upbeat words and symbols or “cues.” McGettigan would often draw a smiley face with the words “free, fast and fun,” on her hand to remind herself to think positive and focus on the moment. She is convinced that the simple practice helped improve her performance. “It transformed me,” she said. “It reminded me that I’m supposed to be enjoying this, and when I do that I run better.”
McGettigan and her business partner, fellow pro runner Lauren “Lo” Fleshman, are now using the power of positive thinking as the basis for their lifestyle company, Believe I Am. McGettigan, who lives on the East Side of Providence with her husband and baby daughter, teamed up with Fleshman, based in Eugene, Ore., to launch the brand last fall. The two met in 2003 when McGettigan paced Fleshman during anindoor race in Boston. Over the next few years, they developed a friendship around shared personal and professional interests.Through Believe I Am, they offer apparel— T-shirts, tank tops, hoodies and casual dresses— plus greeting cards and a training journal. All items feature positive images or “cues” embedded in floral images. You have to look closely to see them, but encrypted in the flowers are words such as “strong,” “relaxed,” “joy,” and “beautiful.” “That way you know what you’re wearing, but the world doesn’t necessarily;have to know that you’re feeling strong or you want to feel strong,” said McGettigan, who holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’sdegree in counseling. The duo use a garden as an analogy for the mind, promoting “planting” flowers (happy thoughts/goals) and removing weeds(negativity/limiting beliefs) as the first step to achieving a dream such as making it to the Olympics or launching a business. “The whole idea is, you’re better off putting positive thoughts in your mind rather than allowing the anxiety to go in,” McGettigan said.
The line, available online at believeiam.com, is produced with help from McGettigan’s husband, Myles Dumas, a graphic designer, and Central Falls-based Devil’s Rainbow, which does the screen-printing. Although McGettigan and Fleshman —a seventh place finisher in the 5,000-meter at the 2011 World Outdoor Track and Field Championships — formed the company based on their experience as professional athletes, they say the concept is transferrable to other sports, as well as life itself. “I think it could be useful for anyone overcoming a stressful situation or an obstacle,” McGettigan said. McGettigan and Fleshman have also created a training journal that includes room for recording not only workouts and times, but also goals, dreams, lessons and emotions. The journal has a personal feel, with several hand-drawn doodles included alongside writing prompts and quotes from other pro athletes. “Training journals are one of the most important things when you’re an athlete,” McGettigan said. “You learn a lot about yourself and the patterns in your body. This one also asks you to think about how you feel, because it’s important, too.” After ups and downs at the 2008 Olympics –– she finished second in her preliminary heat but a disappointing 14th in the final —McGettigan is now back to training with the goal of making it to this year’s games in London. She says she’s trying to take some of her own advice by being a little easier on herself throughout the qualifying process, especially now that she has a young family and a new business in Believe I Am. “At the Olympics, I went from super high to super low and it took me awhile to get over it,” McGettigan said. “This time, I’m a bit more balanced going into it.” For more information, visit believeiam.com.