as originally posted by Cocoa Elite
So much thought and planning goes into designing workouts, mapping out racing seasons, and making sure to get every last mile in. Creating a training plan is an essential part of reaching your goals and continuing to improve. But while running, cross-training, and strength-training are essential to being a successful runner, an often overlooked aspect of training is mental preparation.
Improving mental strength and preparation can help take you from a good runner to a great runner. But what does it even mean to be mentally strong? And how do we prepare beyond physical training?
High school runners frequently ask me,”How do I learn to push through the pain?”. Or “How do you deal with race nerves?”. The scary part of racing isn’t running the race itself; it’s the mental battle that you know will ensue once you start to get tired and the doubts begin creeping in. Preparing mentally for these tough situations is a key step toward improving performance and learning to enjoy the tough days. Below are several methods I use to improve my mental preparation.
Visualization is a powerful tool. It’s helpful to prepare for race situations by imagining and playing out the race in your mind ahead of time. It allows you to run through several different scenarios and practice responding to those situations. I like to take visualization one step further and imagine my emotions throughout different parts of the race. I envision the starting line and feeling calm and confident. Then I imagine how I’ll feel if someone makes a huge move during the race: will I panic? Or will I respond? If I get dropped, will I feel defeated? Or will I mentally regroup and continue to run my best race? I practice these situations and my responses, and I can enter a race feeling confident that I’ll be ready to get the best out of myself.
By preparing mentally for tough races and workouts, you will be in the right mindset. Positive mantras, or short, simple sayings that you can repeat to yourself during your run, help you maintain a positive and excited outlook and can block out encroaching doubts and negative thoughts. I often use simple sayings such as “You can do this” or “You’re fit, you’re fast, you’re strong”. These sayings don’t seem like much, but they can keep you focused and on track when you begin to have doubts.
Small, tangible goals.
At the start of each season, I like to write down my overall goals for the coming year. These often include time goals and where I want to place at my biggest competition, the USA Outdoor Championships. While these goals keep me focused all year, they say nothing about how I will achieve those results.
Instead of merely focusing on the outcome, I try to set small, tangible goals every day. I focus on the process to achieve my bigger objective. This can mean ensuring I get enough sleep at night. Or perhaps scheduling massages once a week to help with recovery. I also make sure to attend to my nutritional goals by using Cocoa Elite Recovery Protein. Using this product after all my hard workouts helps me ensure that I am getting proper nutrition. Each of these small steps helps me prepare to reach my big goals and gives me the confidence that I’ve done all I can to prepare. For me, one of the best ways to combat nerves is to get the best out of myself each day so that when I’m ready to race, there’s no doubt I did everything I could to reach this moment.
Turn anxiety into excitement.
Negative thoughts and doubts plague every athlete at times. It’s easy to approach a coming race with a sense of dread or fear of not being good enough. Instead of worrying about what can go wrong, try to focus on what can go right. Think of each competition as an opportunity to succeed and a chance to see what your hard work has done.
Personally, I have a difficult time winding down at night. My mind is full of thoughts of things I need to get done, reflecting on the day’s workout, thinking about upcoming races, etc. Learning how to relax and unwind is important for getting proper sleep and recovery. Establishing a nighttime ritual can help in this aspect, such as enjoying a relaxing cup of hot cocoa (made with Cocoa Elite cocoa powder, which gives me my daily flavanols to help support my circulatory system!), finding a good book to read, and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule. Taking “me” time is a great way to recharge.
Preparing mentally will get you the confidence you need and provide a strong foundation for success!