Physical strength is only half of the challenge. For your toughest training runs, and certainly those races you worked so carefully towards – maybe you only set 1 major goal for the year! – your mental strength will determine whether you fail, or blast across the finish line, crushing that longed for time or distance.
You know that little voice, whispering in your ear you won’t get there, it’s too far, too hard, etc.? I happens to the best of us, during the darkest moments of a seemingly endless hill climb or never-ending long run in the rain.
Well, you just need to know how to fight back. Mind games are just the thing!
Here are some of Jenny Hadfield’s favourite mindgames:
“Eat the elephant one bite at a time.”
My teammate said this to me as we waited to start the Eco-Challenge in Borneo, Malaysia, a 10-day adventure race through jungles that house snakes the size of my car. I was paralysed with fear of what was ahead, and that simple mantra pulled me out of it.
When you find yourself overwhelmed by the magnitude of a challenge, break it down into smaller, more digestible pieces and focus on only the next step. This is effective for interval workouts, long runs, and pretty much anything in life that scares you………..
“It could always be worse.”
This is a fun game I played with my adventure racing team as we sat covered in red, biting ants in the middle of the jungle. I had a moment of panic, and then my teammate yelled out, “Hey, it could always be worse – we could be being bitten by cobras!”
For the rest of the race, when one of us began to suffer mentally, we would start up a game of “it could always be worse.” Playing this game brings perspective to your struggles. If you’re on a long run and it’s feeling tough, think about all the ways it could be harder, like if you were running it through sand, or running it up a mountain. It can always be worse, and when you think about the worst things, it makes everything seem a little easier.
This is a game of reflection that’s good for after tough runs. When you get down on yourself and start thinking, “I’m never going to get there,” take a look back at your training log to see just how far you’ve come.
You could look at your very first run or the five-miler you ran last month. Every run is progress. Pretty soon you’ll be saying things like, “I only have a six-miler to run this weekend,” and your non-running family and friends will look at you like you’re nuts. Remember when I couldn’t run down my block? Remember when I thought running three miles was far? Remember when I ran at that pace? Remember when I didn’t think I could run a race?
Keep an eye on your rearview mirror and reflect back every once in a while. You’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come and inspired by your efforts. If you let it, your running history will propel you towards your running destiny.
Image by Praveen Kumar. Article source.