Going Mental – 4 Tips on How to Keep Your Head in the Game
Any long distance runner will tell you — running is about 75% mental and only 25% physical. It’s one of the most natural exercises the human body can do and, as science and ultramarathoners have shown, our bodies are built for it. While it takes physical stamina and endurance, it also requires a strong mind, too. As with any sport, mental toughness is huge part of your performance and can mean the difference between a PR (Personal Record) and DNF (Did Not Finish). Read on for some tips on how to keep your mind going strong even when your body tells you otherwise.
Before you lace up and head out the door, spend some time thinking about why you’re doing this in the first place. Some people find their mental toughness comes from a goal like achieving a PR at their next race while others use running to escape something in their current lives. Regardless of the reason, having a purpose will help you tolerate the discomfort and soldier on. Once you realize the why, you can work on the how.
Many professional athletes use visualization to help their mind to triumph over their body. By taking a few minutes to run positive situations through your head, you’re forcing your brain to think about how good your run or race can be. Sometimes it’s helpful to think about past performances where you felt relaxed, strong and happy. Other times it helps to visualize the course, looking out for problem areas and how to overcome them. If you can see yourself doing it right, your body is more likely to follow along.
If you spend all your time training indoors on a treadmill in an air-conditioned gym, you’ll be thrown off guard when you race turns out to be too hot, cold, humid, rainy or is stricken with unfavorable weather conditions. If you make it a point to train purposely in unpleasant conditions, your body and mind will be better prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws your way on race day. And when you force yourself out the door when you’re too tired or conditions are less than ideal, it will train your mind to work through uncomfortable situations, increasing optimism regarding your physical state.
Talk to Yourself
Just like The Little Engine That Could, if you think you can, then you can. By repeating a mantra in your head over and over, your brain is going to eventually believe it. Repeating a mantra can also somewhat put you in a meditative state, where your brain is more likely to absorb the positive suggestions. Regardless of what your saying may be, this boost of self-confidence can help during the down times.