As a runner, our biggest asset (or sometimes our greatest enemy) is our brain. Physical training is important, but that alone is not enough to put wings on our feet. What we feel on and off the road has a huge influence over how we perform once we lace up.
Professor Tim Noakes MD (author of acclaimed Lore or Running – and a real guru in the running world!), recommends we train our brains to cope with ‘discomfort’. Interval sessions, hill repeats, tempo runs, endurance runs – exactly the type of training sessions that should be included in our training programs. What is a hard training session one week, becomes a manageable session the following week. Why? Our brains become conditioned to accept and manage the ‘discomfort’ – twinned with an improvement in our physical conditioning.
In the Runner’s World book ‘The Runner’s Brain’, Jeff Galloway (USA Olympic Runner) shares his three mental training methods that he has used for over 40yrs:
Visualise the Race
Rehearse the outcome over and over. Imagine what you will feel like at certain stages in the race. When you will have strategic nutrition breaks, when you will walk, etc. Visualise key milestones in the race (historic building, bridge, park), where your supporters will be waiting for you, the various terrain (hills), etc. Rehearse your race step-by-step.
Use Magic Words (Mantras)
Magic words distract you from the discomfort while connects you to your inner thoughts:
- Relax – There is no pressure on me | I am relaxed | I am enjoying the endorphins | I feel comfortable
- Power – I feel good about myself | I know what I’m doing | I can do this | I am going to nail this
- Free – I feel light as a feather | I am floating through the crowds | I am running smoothly
Use Dirty Tricks (Mind Games)
These are quick fixes to get you from one point to the next. Imagine wrapping a giant invisible rubber band about the runner ahead of you, start cinching him/her in towards you so that you can feed off their momentum. Another trick is to create songs of the names on posters of those who are being supported – i.e. Angela | Pamela | Sandra | Rita… “Mambo No. 5” 😚
There is no right or wrong mental strategy. What works for one person, may not necessarily work for another. The key take-out is that we should identify which mental strategy(ies) work for us and then practice them over and over again.
If you train your mind for running, everything else will be easy — Amby Burfoot