Monday, June 21, 2010

Top tips on how to improve your mental approach to running

In the Runner’s World article ‘Mind Games,’ author Bruce Barcott shares five tips on improving your mental approach to running.

The first tip is to identify your worries early on in your training and build a running schedule to overcome them. After completing my half marathon, I wanted to run 5K races, but was scared I would not be fast enough to be competitive. I chose a training schedule that included interval work or tempo runs once a week.

The most valuable tip for me was #2 – Employ a key word. Nike Oregon Project sports psychologist Darren Treasure trains his runners to focus on a key word during intense training moments, and remember to invoke that word during the critical point in the race. If I link the word “strength” to times in training where I am running hard and overcome the urge to slow down, I can repeat the word “strength” in the point in competition when I need to push past the pain.

In the article, Barcott wrote that Spirit of the Dancing Warrior author Jerry Lynch “encourages athletes to embrace a more Eastern philosophical attitude toward their competitors. "The word competition comes from the Latin competere, which means 'to seek together.' So look at your competitor as your partner. You seek greatness together.”

Sports psychologist Jerry Lynch explains that, “when the toughest competitors show up for a race, I'm thrilled. It means I'm going to run together with the best, and they'll help bring out the best in me. That neutralizes my anxiety about my own confidence."

By embracing competition, I can stop being scared of runners that are faster than me and instead use the opportunity of a race situation to challenge myself with competitors serving as partners, not opponents.

The fourth tip is to enjoy the physical motion of running. I am practicing that by mentally taking note of my form during the last few minutes of every practice run.

The fifth tip seems self-explanatory but may not be so easy to do if I focus on winning my age group in races rather than improving my running. The tip is to measure my success in terms of my personal progress.

I would add one more – get in touch with your psychological reason for running. My reason is personal satisfaction. When my training leaves me tired, I ask myself, what will I get out of being competitive at my next 5K race? How will it make me feel to run a fast race and give my best effort? Why do I want that in my life more than I want to sleep in late or lie on the couch after work?

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