«A contest is decided by mental factors» is a credo you get to hear a lot. It’s true. Especially with a run like the World Run when you don’t know exactly how far it’ll go, the importance of mental strength cannot be underestimated. Those 5 tips will get your thoughts running along for the race.
Text: Franziska Greuter/FIT for LIFE
Undivided attention for one issue has become the exception in our everyday lives: We quickly check our e-mail while we’re talking on the phone, or we clean up our desk. But generally speaking, our mind is only able to concentrate on one sensory stimulus at a time. Make use of this fact in a competition: Take in your environment, pay attention to every detail by the side of the running trail so that emerging fatigue won’t even find its way into your awareness. Try to perceive surrounding sounds in an intense way or focus on colors. Or focus your concentration on internal stimuli and play games with your senses: Try to feel your heartbeat or count your breaths.
Many factors that play an important part in the decision of a competition depend directly on you as an athlete: You can put enough kilometers of training behind you, find out which kind of nutrition is best for you, and get used to your new running shoes. But there are things you cannot change, the weather for instance. If you fret about the rain or about losing energy because it is cold, you are bound to lose additional energy and motivation. So here's the rule: Come to terms with circumstances you are unable to change and put all your strength into factors that can have a positive effect on the outcome of the race. This is a skill you can work on in your everyday life. What good does it do to fret about the bus that you've just missed by an inch? There you go.
Close your eyes for an instant and imagine yourself biting forcefully into a lemon wedge. An unpleasant feeling is going to spread in your mouth or even across your whole body. Just like this, you can create positive feelings using happy imagination and nice memories - especially in an instance of crisis. If you hit rock bottom at some stage during the run, recall a situation when you felt especially strong and determined. Also, it can be extremely motivating to imagine friends and family standing by the track and cheering you on. Imagine reassuring situations as vividly as possible, including every detail such as colors and scents.
Your legs are heavy, the temperature is going down, the field has stretched out so that you’re by yourself more and more. And isn’t there a muscle aching? Your inner doubts are growing louder and louder: Another 15 km – why am I doing this to myself? Probably every runner has encountered situations like this one. The important part: Postpone your decision! Re-evaluate the situation at the next provision post or at the next kilometer sign. That way you avoid taking premature decisions that you might regret only a few minutes later. Plus, you can split up the remaining stretch into manageable parts this way. Only think from one provision post to the next.
Nobody in his or her right mind would even think of participating in a marathon without training. Just like that, you can develop your mental abilities in advance. There are many books and CDs on mental training in sports. Try out various techniques when you run or during a recreational day. What do you respond to? Don’t overdo it about mental strength, though. In running, as in any other sport, it’s about your health first and foremost. It’s part of your mental strength to be aware of your personal limits and to accept them.
Recommended reading on mental training