The distance doesn’t seem to matter – 5K up to a marathon – the battle is always the same. Mind over matter or matter over mind?
Some races I feel like my own counselor:
Me 1: Man, this is hard; maybe I should slow down.
Me 2: Why would you slow down? You feel great. Stay strong.
Me 1: Oooh, my IT band is kind of nagging.
Me 2: Your IT band is just fine; keep up the pace.
Me 1: Are we at the next mile marker yet? Why hasn’t my watch beeped?
Me 2: Woohoo, halfway mark; almost there!
We train physically; but do you train yourself mentally?
No matter if you are a novice or seasoned runner, I believe the mental battle always rages on. Thankfully, I do feel the little voice inside of you shouting negative feedback can be trained to be softer and softer.
Running is 90% mental and the rest is physical.
Whether you are running short or long, the mental aspect is always there. I feel once you start running longer races (half marathons, marathons and ultra), you have a lot more time to think about what you are doing and once fatigue starts to set in; you could easily start to struggle.
Let’s explore a few strategies to help you work on your mental game:
1. Visualization. Knowing what is to come can help prepare you mentally. Get a map of the course and try to run or drive prior to your race. Watch for changes of elevation and places where you can run the tangents. Using this knowledge and visualizing yourself on the course will help you strategize where you can use your strengths along the way.
2. Find a running mantra. Consider finding a short phrase which inspires, motivates or relaxes you. Practice using your mantra during tough training runs. When your brain starts shouting negative thoughts at you, repeat your mantra to maintain focus. Even at the starting line, I have a specific set of words I run through internally to ease the starting line anxiety.
3. Stop worrying about everyone around you. Run YOUR race. It’s no surprise; I am highly competitive. Seeing my competition on the line can spike my heart rate and increase my anxiety. However, I remind myself to run my race. I cannot race harder than I train and if I run my own race, to my best ability, the results will come.
4. Prepare yourself for the worst. Creating a couple of goals (Goals A, B and/or C) can help you stay positive. If you have just one goal and start to miss the mark, negativity can set in and you may not have a reason to keep pushing. Having a secondary goal can help; especially if you encounter the unexpected (blisters, cramps, GI issues, etc.).
Find something that works for you and start training that brain! Already training that brain? What works best for you?
Happy Valentine’s Day!