Runners are quick thinkers who are resilient and crave challenge more than the average person. As a runner you might find that you are a little obsessive, can be overly competitive, absorb all of the information you can get your hands on and at times can be irrational. This is ok! The one downside to this is that this can translate into pressure on yourself that can lead to self-defeating attitudes when the going gets tough.
Depending on your training and distance you will likely push your body and brain to the limit. As I discuss at extensive length in the Academy, the human brain is an essential tool to leverage in your training. It organizes your steps, maintains your temperature, monitors your heart rate and provides signals of needs your body has while performing.
Here are 8 mental strategies you can leverage to help you maximize your mental ability to persevere and squash any negative thoughts during your next race.
1. Trust Your Training
For weeks and likely months you have been putting in time training. Regardless if there were a few missed workouts or if everything went according to plan the fact is the training is done. It is showtime. Your preparation has brought you to this point.
Think of your race as a victory lap, a reward for the hard work to this point. If you haven’t already done so, start visualizing your pre-race routine and race day itself. Practice your race routine in advance if you can. Race day is different than just lacing up and heading out for a typical training run. Prepare accordingly for it and you will reduce anxiety and be focused come race day.
2. Eliminate the “What ifs, if thens, ya butts” in your thinking
Running is not about making deals with fate but rather taking ownership of the here and now. Let only positive thoughts move through your head as your feet move along. Know your ability and have your plan to execute against.
3. Leave Life’s Distractions On The Sidelines
You’ve been working hard towards this point, so let all your other cares go before, during and after the race. All that matters is the task at hand. Unless it is a life or death priority, it can wait until later. Others are more understanding than you think.
4. Accept the Unexpected
If the weather turns rainy and windy, an old nagging injury or sore muscle comes calling, wardrobe malfunction – just take it in stride. Accept whatever happens for what it is. Perfection is not a requirement to finish your race.
5. Talk Yourself Through Tough Spots
Big hill on the course? Hitting the wall? Be your own coach. Let the positive thoughts flow. Break up whatever challenge lies ahead into more manageable pieces. Leverage the power of your motivations for running the race. Mental cues can provide the boost you need to push through barriers.
6. Perform Superstitious Acts
Lucky shirt? Hat? Socks? Shoes? Pre-race routine you must do? Then do it. Superstitions no matter how silly act as a catalyst to get your mind in the race. They can cue your body for the task ahead. Just don’t let them ruin your race day if you forget your lucky shirt. Thousands of shirts will cross the finish line. Whatever you wear won’t make a difference in the race. Maybe you will set a PR in a different shirt and it will become your new “lucky” shirt. Superstitions are no reason to have a poor outing.
7. Set Several Race Goals
Many runners only focus on one goal – a new PR or a certain race time. This can put undue pressure on you and may have a detrimental effect on your performance. Think of some smaller, more incremental goals, that you can achieve during the race. Regardless if you hit the main goal, you will feel as if you have still accomplished something. Additionally, achieving smaller race goals can provide a boost and be a stepping stone towards the ultimate goal for your race. Some examples would be to aim to hit the 1/4 point at a certain time, feeling a certain way, sticking to your strategy, etc.
8. Remind Yourself Why You Are Running
In Runner Academy Membership, we identify your reason for running as a motivation. Leverage these motivations. Think about what brought you into running in the first place. No matter what happens during your race, remember why you are there and what you have accomplished. Many are proud of you.
Once you cross the finish line, never say I’m not doing this again. You know you will be thinking about your next race immediately. The pain and exhaustion is always long forgotten.