science nerd with a passion for fitness and health

Me, picture taken by my brother M. Linke

As per request from Dr Mehmet Yildiz and following the example of other fellow Illumination writers, I feel finally confident enough to introduce myself.

My life has been a journey of recovery, and with each passing year my life gets better.

I grew up in a dysfunctional home with an alcoholic stepfather and a mother who let out her aggression on me and my 7 siblings.

Until my 20’s, I lived with extreme social anxiety and self-hatred that was so extreme that I couldn’t manage to look into the mirror longer than a few seconds at a time. I managed…

red cord around a tree branch
Photo by Will O on Unsplash

I don’t remember the first time I cried during a run.

Maybe it was on those lonely plantations in South Africa, where the only sound that overlayed my inner voice was the cry of an unknown bird — when I just started running and didn’t know how it would shape my character and life.

Maybe it was in the lush forests surrounding the small town that was then my home in Germany. After I returned from my trip to the black continent, I continued running and exploring the trails in Europe.

The sounds of a stream nearby, the jumping over…

A love letter

coffee, pen, letter sitting on an antique table
Photo by Freddy Castro on Unsplash

Dear Running,

When we first met in South Africa in 2006, I couldn’t fathom how much you’d impact my life in the years to come.

We had a rough start. Our first dates didn’t go well. In fact, I downright hated you.

I hated how you gave me a racing heart and a head so hot; it felt like exploding after spending only 10 minutes together.

I hated how you left me breathless, how my legs ached. How stiffness and pain reminded me of our date long after we parted.

And yet, I did come back. Day after day. …

Why you should think twice before reaching for some liquid courage

women holding wine glasses and having fun
Photo by Kelsey Chance on Unsplash

Social anxiety has been a constant in my life for as long as I can remember.

As I have written about here, I grew up with an intense fear of people.

However, step by step, I learned how to manage anxiety and social anxiety. Especially my years at university were a period of immense personal growth. Reading, journaling, and exercise were pivotal to my success.

During my first semesters, however, I used a crutch to socialize — alcohol.

I used it to calm myself down when I spend the evenings with other students at the campfire. I used it during…

Lift your moods by lifting weights

barbell on tiled floor, one plate lying next to barbell
Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash

Physical exercise has been an integral part of my mental health program.

Running was the catalyst for my triumph over social anxiety, and I have been interested in the role of exercise on mental health ever since.

Five years ago, I started a weight lifting routine and fell in love with the process.

While endurance exercise receives high praise for its mood-enhancing capabilities, strength training is still mainly touted for its positive effect on the body.

While the physical benefits are well known, much less has been written about the mental health benefits of resistance exercise.

But, there is some…

Calm the f* down and rise to the occasion

Runner running past a marathon sign with a red arrow
Photo by Capstone Events on Unsplash

Are you wondering which sports-psychology self-help book you should read next? If swear words don’t put you off, and you’d like to get a broad overview on how to solve the most common psychological roadblocks endurance athletes face, then read “The Brave Athlete. Calm The F* Down And Rise To The Occasion”.

The authors are a husband-and-wife team that consists of sports psychologist Dr. Simon Marshall and XTERRA Champion Lesley Paterson. Together they own the company Braveheart Coaching, where they help endurance athletes improve their performance.

Their book “The Brave Athlete. Calm The F* Down And Rise To The Occasion”…

Do you like your running self?

a flamingo who sees himself as reflection on water
Photo by Gaetano Cessati on Unsplash

Did you know that your self-image plays a vital role in your ability to achieve any goal you set for yourself?

You can do all the goal-setting exercises you know, use the SMART process for goal setting, and apply positive thinking strategies. But without a positive self-image, you will need tremendous amounts of willpower to make meaningful progress.

Why is that? What is a self-image, and what does this have to do with your running abilities? Let’s find out.

What Is the Self-Image?

I first came across the concept of self-image by reading the book: Psycho-Cybernetics: A New Technique for Using Your Subconscious Power…

Master your emotions to master your running

3 women running in the dark
Photo by Fitsum Admasu on Unsplash

You are halfway through your long run, and you are out of steam. Your legs feel wobbly, and your breathing feels shallow. The sun is glaring. Somewhere in the distance, you hear a dog bark.

“I hate this,” you think. “Why does it feel so freakin hard today. Maybe I should just stop and postpone the long run to another day.” You feel spent and also rather grumpy.

But you trudge on. You slog forward, minute by minute, mile by mile, until you reach your final destination. Until you’ve completed the task. You were in control. Not your emotions.


Nicole Linke

ultra-runner, running coach, poetry nerd, // Website:

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store