Vail Daily running column: Get acquainted with derailing demons
August 21, 2010
Running is more than just placing one foot in front of the other. The systematic connection between the mind and body enables runners to overcome impossible feats of strength and endurance. The ability to push your body beyond its physical limits can be attributed to your mental toughness. While the mind allows individuals to achieve greatness, the mind can also persuade runners to “give up” and stop moving forward. Thoughts such as “I don’t have the time,” or “I’m too tired for a run today” can quickly derail your running program. To help find internal motivation, runners should get acquainted with these derailing demons.
In order to remain on track and overcome such negative thoughts, you must also mentally prepare yourself for their arrival. When I experience mind-distractions, I quickly lace up my shoes and head out the door. It’s a battle to not sit on the couch and drink a beer. I work hard in the sun all day at my job and come home dirty and tired, where I have to put on my running shoes and go “refresh” myself with an easy eight-miler before dinner.
When I venture out for a training run or race, I sometimes also find that the middle miles of my run are the toughest for me to stay mentally focused. At the beginning, I am excited for my workout. Near the end, I am eager to reach my destination (and enjoy that beer). However, the middle miles remain void of positive feelings. I think “why am I doing this right now?” Over the years, I have learned to refocus and remain mentally tough through out the entire workout.
Here are some strategies that I use to stay mentally tough when I discover that my mind is beginning to go adrift. I always have a strategy for a race and focus for training. Despite being physically prepared and mentally adept, my mind can sabotage my execution. Staying on course and keeping up foot-speed is difficult when I turn around to head back up Bighorn Road in the middle of my run.
Remember to stay calm and gradually increase your speed without surging in panic when your watch says that you have dropped from a 6:50 pace to a 7:50 pace. You did not decrease your speed in less than a minute, so don’t expect yourself to increase your speed that quickly. This method utilizes less energy than a fast surge, and it teaches your body to refocus while adding a little speed. It is incredibly helpful for races.
I also use keywords to refocus when negative thoughts about my physical ability creep into my mind. The words I use are: “I’m fit, I’m strong, I’m fast!” These cue words disrupt the negative thoughts from affecting my physical performance.
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The most important part of running motivation during a long training run is to just get out there. Lace up your shoes and go. Once you are halfway finished, you have to run all the way back.
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