Mental Training to Run your Best!

We have all heard of the benefits of fitness, especially running, for increases in mood and positive emotions. Did you know that you can train your brain to run at your best? It’s all about shutting down your inner critic, which has shown to be effective in other areas of psychology.

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heav’n and Hell, a Hell of Heav’n”.

Many have clung to the idea that better physical training is all that is needed to propel one through tough spots when it comes to an event. Performance towards the end of an event has much to do with psychology as physiology.  Mental toughness can be obtained by training the brain the way you would train your body. Mental toughness does not come easily and its all about practicing mental skills throughout training, not randomly tossing in a few mantras.  Mental toughness develops over time with the practice of skills and strategies and with consistency just like you would with skills for say emotion regulation.

Mental toughness is not just about focusing on the results because if you do that you remove yourself from being mindful and present focused. It is the “now” that allows for the results later.  The results will come by doing the steps in between. Being positive is a huge aspect as pessimism is ranked as a runner’s top mental roadblock.  Negativity, worry and doubt, often leads to self-defeating behaviour including slowing down or dropping out of a race completely – it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy!

If you want to do well at running – it’s about using your thoughts and your training to feed a belief in yourself. Set personal process goals that lead to your performance goals.  Process goals are specific physical and mental steps that lead to your end goal, such as finishing a race without walking.  Make sure they are measurable and address your weaknesses.  If you struggle with seeing yourself succeed practice 5 mins of visualisation daily.

Select a focus tool such as a phrase or an action that mutes the destructive chatter and keeps you in the moment.  Some benefit from visualising competition and reeling in other runners. Find out what works for you.

Finally, fatigue is highly subjective, and the brain processes physical cues (signals from the muscles) and environmental information (how we expect to feel) and concludes we can’t go any further!!But the good news is, as years of research has shown, the mind can override the body – that fatigue is often a product of perception rather than true physiological depletion.  That fatigue is simply a signal that it’s time to put your mind on something positive.  So, from now on when you go running make sure your inner dialogue is a HAPPY one!!

See you all out on the course!! Happy trails!

Photo by Clique Images and Victor Freitas on Unsplash