When it comes to your running, your mind can be your greatest asset or you biggest inhibitor. Regardless of what your goals are for a race whether your want to win the 5K or simply not walk, your mind is an essential component to reaching our running goals that often goes untrained.
We spend a lot of time mapping our our running schedule, adding strength training or even seeing a massage therapist to keep ourselves limber and injury-free.
Few runners devote enough time to training their mind.
Yet, when it comes down to the difficult moments in a race, the mind is what makes the difference between achieving your goal of running the entire 5K or stopping to take a walk break.
Regardless of the pace you are running, mastering the mental game is the key to unlocking your best effort and maximizing your potential.
Over the last year I’ve devoted more time to breaking down the mental game and finding out how my expectations leading into a race and my thoughts during a race have been holding me back. In the process, I’ve learned where to focus my attention so that I can truly do my best. Here are a few tips for mastering the mental game of running:
In the book Mind Gym, the author Gary Mack encourages his clients to create a mental space called their Mind Gym, a place where you feel completely confident in your ability and can “scroll” through moments where all the pieces have come together and you’ve achieved your goals. It’s also a place to ‘dream big’ and prepare mentally. When I imagine my own “Mind Gym,” I’m sitting on the porch of my family’s Adirondack cabin (its a place that makes me feel ultimately happy).
When I’m there I imagine my first long run I ever did and how that made me feel like I could do anything if I set my mind to it. I also imagine my best marathon-the marathon where everything clicked and I enjoyed every moment. And I imagine future events, the hard work it will take to get there and how I want to feel in those performances. Take some time to visualize a place where you prepare mentally for future performances and replay successful moments on a screen in your mind.
When you are pushing your body to do something difficult, negative thoughts and doubt are inevitable. One of the most effective tactics I’ve found is not to combat the negative thoughts with positive ones. Often times we can get “aggressive” with our positive thoughts, slinging them at the negative ones in a weird mental battle: “I don’t think I can run up this hill, I have to walk.” “Yes you can!!! You can do it!!!”
Instead I like to try to stay as open as possible, acknowledging the negative thoughts and doubt, but delaying my mind from dwelling on and internalizing them as truth. This idea of delaying negative thoughts is from The Rock Warrior’s Way a book recommendation from my coach, Chris Dunn. So if my mind says, “You’re not as fit as you were last year, you don’t have the endurance to finish strong.” or “You went out to quickly, you’re going to bonk at the end.” My response is to think: “Ok, those things could be true, but even if they are I need to give my best effort in this moment. I’m going to give everything I have and see what happens. I know I’m strong. I’ve trained hard. I can trust my training.” Even just saying, that may be true, but I’m not going to think about it right now, is a way to keep you mind clear and focused on your effort.
Choosing focus words before your event is a good way to give your mind something to hang on to when you’re struggling or you lose focus. I like words like strong, tenacious, grateful and relentless. You can write these words on your arm or simply repeat them to yourself as you are running. Often times words will come to me as I am running, like in my most recent race a mantra became “stay steady.” I ended up latching onto that phrase and repeated it frequently throughout my race.
Looking for more mental training tips? Check out these great suggestions from a few of my favorite running bloggers!
Check out this great post from Allie.
Or this one from Carly from FineFitDaily.
Check out these tips from Nellie.
Get mentally tough with these tips from Laura.
And hone your mental game with these suggestions from Angela.
What mental tricks or tips do you use during tough runs or races?
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Email: RunFarGirl [at] gmail [dot] com