Motivation and Mental Aspects of Running for Training and Race Day
The mind is a powerful thing. I am sure you now know that running is as much mental as it is physical, if not more so. Training your mind to stay strong can mean the difference between having a great run and a not so great run. Everyone can attest to that – being in the best shape of your life, yet having a disastrous race, all because you let the word “I can’t” get into your head.
The last few weeks of training are VERY critical so it’s important to stay motivated and focused with your training. Here are a few tips to keep those legs moving when your mind wants them to stop.
1. Remember why you chose to sign up with TFK. Whatever the reason, it is a good one!
2. Reward yourself. Training isn’t easy and should be rewarded for all of your hard work. When you’ve reached one of your goals, reward yourself with a new pair of shorts, a massage or whatever else is a treat for you.
3. Use imagery and visualization. Imagine yourself floating up a hill or effortlessly gliding over the pavement with perfect form. Visualize yourself crossing the finish line, hands in the air and wearing a big smile. The more you imagine yourself doing these things, the more your body follows suit.
4. Have a Mantra. Mantras are short, positive phrases that you can repeat during your run. Here are a few examples; “Slow and Steady” at the beginning of a race; “Short and Quick” when going up a hill; “I can do this, I get to do this” when I feel like my mind is getting weak. Others include: “I am strong”, “One foot in front of the other”, “Mind over matter” and many others.
5. Focus on your body. You want to make sure your body is in check. Is your breathing in control? Are you hydrating and taking in nutrition? Focus on your strides – keeping a quick turnover, shortening them up when on the hills. Focus on your arms – are they relaxed? Switch your focus to your arms when your legs are feeling a little tired. If your arms keep moving, your legs will go with them, promise.
6. Focus on the surroundings. Take it all in; what’s around you? The cheering crowd, funny signs, ridiculous costumes, the runners around you, etc.
7. Play games. Go ahead and distract yourself a bit. Day dream of being in your favorite place. Count the number of white hats or red shorts you see. While distracting yourself is OK for a bit, don’t let yourself get too distracted. Make sure to check back in with your body every once in a while.
8. Break up your long run or race in segments. Oftentimes thinking about a long run in segments is less stressful or overwhelming than thinking about the whole time or distance. Don’t think of the run as it’s total mileage. Break it up into more manageable segments- if we’re doing a 2 hour run, break it into 4 x 30 minute easy runs. Pick a landmark, mile maker or water stop in the distance and focus on getting to that point.
9. What if I have a bad run?
If you have a “bad” run, don’t stress about it. It happens to everyone. One bad run is not an indication that everything is going wrong.
a) Find something positive that came from your workout. It can even be “at least I got out there”. It may be that you kept a steady pace, practiced good nutrition/hydration or found a pair of shorts that are great for running. There is always one!
b) Figure out what went wrong. Were you properly rested or out late the night before? Are you stressed at work? Did you follow a hydration/nutrition plan? Figuring out what went wrong helps you make adjustments so that the next time you can have a better run.
c) Talk to others and your coaches. We’ve all had our fair share of bad runs. Sometimes they are just flukes, sometimes they happen because we have one too many glasses of wine the night before.