The Mental Side of Running
In podcast episode 6 (found here), we talk about the mental game for runners. This blog entry is to summarize the discussion, where we cover a couple topics from Bobby McGee’s book Magical Running. I would fully recommend Bobby’s book for learning all you ever need to know about the mental side of training. Click the link to the right to find the book in the Amazon store.
Visualization is where you see yourself doing something, reinforcing an activity in a positive way. In other words, you see yourself doing something well. The theory of this activity is that by seeing yourself doing something well in advance, you will increase your chances of actually doing it well when you do the activity.
Example: Running up hills
Let’s say you are not that great at running up hills in the middle of a race. This might be one way you could use visualization to achieve your goal:
- In past tense (so, you’ve already run the race and achieved the result), you watch the race.
- Watch yourself take off from the starting line, all the way up to the hill
- See yourself at the point the hill comes in to play (which is when you first see it from a mental perspective)
- Watch as you run up the hill with complete ease, all the way to the top, and beyond
- Think about how it felt, what you did to make it happen
- Now watch yourself through the rest of the race
- Practice seeing this scenario over and over, in different race conditions (i.e. raining, snowing, hot and humid, etc)
Some tips for visualization:
- Visualize in past tense, as if you are watching yourself already accomplish the task
- See how you accomplished the task – what actions did you take?
- Practice visualizing during training sessions to reinforce
- Combine affirmations with visualization to further reinforce
- Try and avoid subconsciously visualizing yourself doing something poorly (e.g. don’t visualize yourself failing at something, like in previous races)
Affirmations are where you write down and say something that reinforces a positive action. In other words, you say out load what you want to become true. Like with visualization, doing this can increase your odds of accomplishing something specific.
Using the same example of running up hills, here are some affirmations that you could use to help accomplish your goal:
- “When I see a hill, I get excited, cause I’m going to kick it’s butt!”
- “I love hills – I run up hills with ease”
- “After a hill, I feel very fresh and finish the race strong”
Some tips for affirmations:
- You don’t have to actually believe what you are saying – just saying affirmations are enough
- Practice saying your affirmations in various settings. Before a run, during a run, during your visualization, etc.
- Create affirmations for all aspects of your running, but especially for things that you have self-defeating beliefs
Level 1 USAT Coach