The Mental Game

Fatigue whispered, you cannot withstand the storm. The runner replied, I AM the storm.

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.

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Coach leading me through a race visualization – ~1992

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.
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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!

TRM

Tackling Your First 5K

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” – John Bingham

 

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So you’re thinking about running your first 5K. While running 3 miles in a row may seem intimidating or overwhelming, you can train and complete a 5K in approximately 8 weeks. Training for a 5K is very feasible and can be accomplished in less than 30-45 minutes each session.

To help get you started, I recommend finding a walk/run program to begin your training. There are several free and easy-to-use apps that will help keep you on track. With a walk/run program, you will begin building your training base – alternating walking and running in varying increments of time. For example, week 1 would include walking for a 5 minute warm up and then alternating 60 seconds of running with 90 seconds of  walking for 20 minutes; then a 5 minute cool down. Plan on training at least 3 times per week.

A few tips to help you along the way:

Choosing a 5K Race: While not necessary to plan at the beginning, selecting a race and having a set date can help you stay motivated and have a finish line in sight. Can’t find a local 5K? Websites such as active.com or runsignup.com list races all over the country.

Selecting the right shoes & gear: If you’ve never run before, it’s usually a great idea to visit your local running store. Most running stores will have a fitting process – they can analyze your gait and help fit you with the ideal shoes for your feet. In addition to shoes, be sure to find the right undergarments, socks and other clothing for running. If you are local to Winchester, try Runner’s Retreat or Two Rivers Treads.

Schedule your runs: Life can be hectic. Most of us use a calendar to accomplish daily appointments and tasks. Treat your workout just like another item on your to-do list. Morning runs may work for some people; but others may like evening best.

Unsure where to run? Check out a site such as www.mapmyrun.com to plan your route in advance. Check out your local tracks, trails and paths to mix up the scenery. Don’t be afraid to take on some hills along the way!

Find a friend to join you: Having someone run/walk with you can help keep you accountable and you can also have someone to chat with!

Don’t worry about your speed: Work towards finishing each workout and not your speed. Don’t be afraid to walk in the beginning. Each week you’ll be building a base and I promise, it will get easier!

S-T-R-E-T-C-H! Before you run, try to add a few dynamic stretches to help warm up your muscles and can also improve your range of motion. Walking lunges, slow high knees and butt kicks are a few examples of dynamic exercises. Also, stretch after you run. Stretching can also help prevent injury and increase your flexibility.

Continue your strength training, HIIT and/or cross training: HIIT workouts are effective cross training for runners and other endurance athletes, due to the focus on anaerobic work, which increases the body’s lactate threshold and allows your body to work at a higher intensity for longer before reaching fatigue.

If you’ve already tackled the 5K and want to attempt a 10K, check out this article and program being offered by Runner’s Retreat.

Or, want to strive for something longer? RunningDad.com offers coaching/training plans for half marathons and marathons.

Hope to see you at the finish line!

“The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.” – John Bingham

Year in Review and a Blank Slate

“A good goal should scare you a little. And excite you a lot.” – Joe Vitale

This past year was the first full year of running for me since we all sat around watching and waiting to see what disaster the year 2K would bring.

Heading into 2016, I had little idea the year would be full of milestones. When the calendar flipped into the new year, I was still working towards my weight loss goal and I made the decision to try for a new distance; the half marathon.

Looking back over the year, I’m still amazed of what I accomplished and most importantly, what fun I had. I tackled new distances, yet still fit in my old favorites.

Here’s my year in review:

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  • Not 1, but 2 half marathons (1:52 & 1:53)
  • Apple Blossom 10K – only my 2nd time running this race since we moved to Winchester; crushed my time by about 12 minutes (47:40)
  • Loudoun Street Mile – it’s been a long time since I ran an all-out mile so I was excited to see what I could do. I was pleased with 6:03
  • Several 5Ks. In 2015, my 5K time was 22:59. This year, I bested my 2nd running career PR – 20:40
  • An 8K trail race – a lot of fun!
  • 20K – close to the half marathon distance (1:36)
  • A 4 miler (26:42)
  • MY FIRST MARATHON, Richmond (3:46)! At the beginning of 2016, a full marathon was not on my radar. After 2 half marathons, I decided, why stop here?

Non-race related highlights:

  • Reached and surpassed my weight loss goal in the 1st Quarter – Total of 66 lbs. lost.
  • Became an instructor for HIIT Like A Girl
  • Became a kid’s running club coach through our county Parks & Rec program
  • My stepdaughter and husband have become runners (my son has already been running for a few years)

Over the 12 months, I was lucky to share so many miles with a great group of friends. I had a fun (and adventurous) 12 mile trail run with friends, several loooong training runs, breakfast runs and a Christmas fun run. I’ve had the opportunity to get to know people better and meet some amazing new folks too.

So, where does that lead me for 2017? Wow, it will definitely be hard to beat!

I have a target in mind and I’m going after her – the old me. 

Now that Mack Attack is back, I have some serious work to do. I have a target in mind and I’m going after her – the old me. Unsure if I’ll ever touch my old PRs (20 years and 20 lbs lighter) but that won’t stop me from getting as close as I can.

Goals for 2017:

  • Race-Related:
    • Mile – all guts. Back in high school and college, the mile and half mile were my specialties so I still have a sweet spot for this distance. I love the feeling of laying it all on the line and finishing keeled over; all energy spent. I’m hoping to break the 6 min. mark and aiming for 5:45.
    • 5K – Striving to break 20. Up until about 2 weeks prior to the marathon, I was hitting the track once per week. Now, I’m ready to add speed work back into my weekly plan to help achieve my 5K and mile goals.
    • Half Marathon – My initial try at this distance was a good race; although freezing cold and very low key (no spectators and an out-and-back). Second try was awful – high humidity and a rough course. My split at Richmond was a 1:47; so I aiming towards the 1:40 mark.
    • Marathon – Yes, I’m going to do it again! I’m going to follow the same path as last year and train for a fall marathon. I’ll announce which one soon. Unfortunately, a lot of my weekends are already unavailable due to work, so I’m trying to determine which will fit best with my schedule. Goal: Beat 3:46. Aim towards BQ? Possibly.
  • Other goals 
    • Try for an ultra? Maybe – if I have a friend that’d join me  🙂
    • Trail race – love the trails – also want to do a Ragnar; so maybe I can knock out two at once.
    • Run a race in my hometown
    • Training my first person (my husband) for his first half!
    • I also plan on finding more opportunities in the fitness/running industry and have been working towards my PT certification. It’s been great getting back into my career.
    • Blogging more often!

 

What accomplishment are you most proud of from last year?

What goals are you working towards this year?

Let me know! 

Until next time,

Becky