Mental Training for Your Best Performance: 3 Ways to Up Your Brain Game
You’re registered for your goal race, and you’ve committed to training so that you can be as prepared as possible to toe the line. You have a training plan to follow and, for the next few months, you’ll steadily and thoughtfully increase your mileage for the demands of race day. Heck, you’ve even bought fresh running shoes. You’re ready to go. Or are you? You’re taking care of the physical part of the challenge, but what about mental training?
Written by Coach K (coachk1964[AT]gmail.com)
Edited by Pavlína Marek
Now that you’re digging into your workouts, it’s time to set yourself up with some healthy mental habits. It can feel like a lot to fit your runs and cross-training into your schedule, but there are several small things that you can do to support yourself psychologically. Putting in that mental training will go a long way in supporting your overall training.
Check your work stress
Studies have found that a hard day at work can decrease your physical performance. Make allowances in your training schedule around big deadlines, stressful meetings, long hours, etc. Be extra gentle with yourself and remember that running is a holistic activity. A tired mind equals a tired body—take that into account and create buffer space to occasionally decrease the intensity of your workout.
Take time to tune in
Mindfulness techniques can help you tune into and transform stress and discomfort into ease. It’s hard to put down our phones, and it’s even harder to stop comparing ourselves to others. Use social media for positive motivation, not as a stressor! Try to keep the earbuds at home and run without music or other distractions. It will increase your self-awareness, and, in many instances, make running safer. Once a week or so, don’t start your GPS and just run by feel. Before your workout, do a body scan to tune into yourself, head to toe.
When things start to feel tough, be clinical. Don’t judge, just observe what is happening. Do your legs hurt? Okay, let them hurt. It’s just a part of it all, it’s okay. This is a good time to employ your mantras. Studies have shown that talking to yourself in the third person can help with emotional regulation. This self-talk can feel awkward at first, but if you imagine that you’re speaking with a dear friend, you’ll soon discover self-empathy, a wonderful tool to reduce stress (and ultimately help boost performance).
You might be wondering how these things could possibly work. Shouldn’t mental training include superhero-like feats? Shouldn’t you roll a boulder up a hill just to let it run back down so you can push it back up? Why do gentleness and self-care work better? Because science! Here’s a very cool deep dive into running and the science of mental toughness.
Mantras, meditation, understanding how mental stress affects your running, sleeping a bit more, focusing on your breath, or developing a gratitude practice… the list goes on. These are all tools to help you enjoy your training, not to mention improve your performance and lower health risks.
Do you want some help putting together your own toolbox? Shoot Coach K an email at coachkaren1964(AT)gmail.com!