Running With Your Head

by kbarry on June 20, 2012

Runners contributor Jeff Barry talks about the mental aspect of running in today’s post.  Running is as much or even more of a head game as it is physical ability.  Jeff reviews how to mentally prepare for training and how to be in the right mind on race day

Running is a very physical sport, no one can deny this, but one thing many amateur runners overlook is the psychological aspect of running and racing.  Along with getting in your proper training you should also make sure that you have the mental toughness to get through workouts, races and even your easy runs.  Starting off with general easy runs, I can’t tell you how many times I just haven’t felt like lacing up my shoes and going out for my scheduled run of a certain day.  Maybe the weather wasn’t as nice as you were expecting, you have some aches or minor pains, or you just don’t feel like it, all I can say is: get out there and start running!  Before you know it you’ll be feeling much better than you did before you started your run, and by the time you’re finished you’ll be asking yourself why you even thought about not going.

Now, for workouts and racing one thing you need to understand from day one is that they are going to hurt.  Workouts are vital to gaining fitness, becoming a faster runner and can take your much further than just straight distance running.  If at all possible find a running club or group that you can do workouts with because that will make them 100x easier.  Not only is running with a group easier in general, but it can also be a lot of fun.  Not that you can’t do workouts on your own, but with others around you there is a certain level of accountability on everyone’s part.  When you are with others doing a workout you don’t want to be that person who didn’t finish the last interval or mile repeat because “you were tired” do you?  Like I said before, workouts are going to hurt, and you just need to keep pushing yourself (within limits) and finish them strong.  If you’re doing workouts by yourself, or with a group, just keep up the effort and keep telling yourself you can do it, you can finish.

Its race day, you’ve gotten in months of quality training, proper mileage, made it to the race without injury and are about to step up to the line.  You’re going to have a great race right?  Not necessarily.  This happens to amateurs and elites alike; they are not mentally prepared on race day or during a race, and they let their thoughts get the best of them.  You’re going to have some pre-race jitters, and that’s normal, but you need to keep reminding yourself that you have done the training and are prepared to run a good race.  I can personally say that I have had bad races just because I told myself I wasn’t ready before a race or I just couldn’t keep going in the middle of a race.  I usually have that point during a race when the little voice in my head says just ‘stop!’, and what you need to learn and train yourself to do it just ignore that feeling, keeping pushing on and you will be surprised at how well you do and feel after that point.  I am by no means a sports psychologist, but I can say that being mentally tough is just as important as being physically tough.  I’m not going to give specific tips but just want to guide you in the right direction to becoming a better runner.

Jeff Barry

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