In running, mental toughness can make or break you good + good

AndAnning is sometimes referred to as 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. Which makes sense: Think about how much energy you spend fighting that voice in your head that’s telling you to stop.

And yet almost all training plans, whether they’re couch-to-5K or advanced marathon preparation, focus entirely on preparing your body physically and rarely mention mental wellness. So we asked performance psychologist Stuart Holliday, who has worked with Olympic and Paralympic athletes, about the mindset tools you can use to train your brain and become a stronger runner.

1. Ride the wave of emotion

The phrase “mental toughness” gets thrown around when it comes to running, especially long distance training. But Holliday believes the key to handling tough training sessions and the stress of race day is being more emotionally flexible.

Adapting to difficult experiences is more effective than disaster. Instead of dwelling on how terrible you feel, try to adapt to the situation: This might mean adjusting your pace, drinking some water, or asking a running mate to tell you a confusing story.

“Try to think, ‘If I get past this sticky patch, I’ll see where I am.’ It takes the pressure off, and makes it less likely to become a self-fulfilling prophecy,” says Holliday. “And we know that runners of all levels go through waves of difficulty in their events. So try to ride the wave instead of bulldozing through the wall.”

2. Learn when to mute that voice in your head

Our inner voice is there for a reason: to protect us from harm. And when we’re pushing ourselves, it’s constantly telling us to stop. This voice is completely normal for athletes of all levels. But be aware that this is over-protective – your body can push enough of this instinct without actually doing any damage.

“It’s totally normal if you get the urge to stop running, but see if you can go another 100 or 200 meters,” Holliday says. “See if you go through with it and see if the desire subsides.”

With experience, you’ll realize when feeling sick or uncomfortable is just because you’re doing something hard, not because it’s harmful. “The skill is learning what is normal discomfort and what pain can lead to injury,” Holliday says.

3. Become a reflective runner

Keeping a running diary or an extra column in your training plan to log how you feel during each run can help you track your progress. “If you can go back and look at what you’ve done and achieved, it’s a great way to build more confidence and say to yourself, ‘Look how far I’ve come – that race seemed really hard and now I can do it without stopping. ,” Holliday said.

Your run record can help you recognize your strengths and where you need to step up. For example, if you find that you constantly struggle with running uphill, you can add some hill rep sessions to your plan and build in some gluteal strength work.

4. Try to slice

Whether it’s a wet, windy day or a 24-hour ultramarathon 5K, any distance can sometimes feel unmanageable. Instead of worrying about the finish line, motivate yourself to run to the next lamppost, and then and the next. Or focus only on the end of the next minute or the next mile. By breaking the run into more manageable chunks, the distance will feel less overwhelming and you can be flexible to changing conditions.

5. Start counting

One way to block out negative thoughts and get into a flow state is to count. This can be counting forward or backward to 100, or counting up to 10 repeatedly as you reach the final phase of a run. Synchronize the counts with your footsteps or hand waves to find a percussive rhythm.

6. Use visualization techniques

If you have a race or training run coming up that you’re worried about, it can help to visualize the route. It helps prime the mind so real experience feels less difficult. Because, as Eric Bean, PhD, CMPC, and executive board member of the Association for Applied Sports Psychology previously stated, good + good“When imagining an experience, a person stimulates the same neural patterns as the actual experience.”

You’ll get the most effect by adding as many senses as possible. Holliday explains: “Close your eyes and use all your senses. What’s that start line like? Can you feel a little cold or rain? Can you hear your heart beat? Can you smell the runners packing up next to you? The sections you Think replay will be tough mentally and how you’ll get through it.”

7. Talk to yourself

Scientific research suggests that talking to yourself in your head can help with motivation, emotional regulation, and self-control. And by going one step further and referring to yourself by name or using the word “you” instead of “I,” you can create an inner coach to push yourself further.

“The best time to use it is when it’s getting really tough and you want to exit the later stages of a run,” says Holliday.

But watch how you talk to yourself: supporting your efforts and recognizing your achievements will be a better motivator than giving yourself a hard time. “Think about the conversations you’re having with yourself. What’s the tone? Put as much of a positive angle on them as possible,” Holliday says.

To learn more about developing good mental habits, Holliday recommends reading Atomic practice By James Clear, The Chimp Paradox By Professor Steve Peters and Run like a pro By Ben Rosario and Matt Fitzgerald.

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