Mental toughness is a big part of running. Especially during the longer runs, your head can get the best of you and your performance might suffer if you let your mind wander. Worrying about things you can’t change takes the focus out of what’s important. That’s why we put together these five tips to help you increase your mental toughness and prepare for races.
1. Create a mental image of the upcoming route
It’s essential to know the scenery you’re going running in. Familiarize yourself with the route, make a mental note about where the big hills are and where, for example, the sights are located along the routes of city marathons. By dividing the race into smaller sections, you’ll have an easier time during the race.
You can also go for a virtual run on Google Maps.
2. Plan everything beforehand
Planning things beforehand is a big part of mental preparation and successful performance both in training and competing. Before your workout, think about what you’re about to do and why. This will prime your body and get you ready for a successful workout.
If you’re heading for a competition, plan everything carefully: when to wake up, what to eat before the race, when to arrive to the event area, what to do before the run (for example warm-up), what to do during the run (energy gels and pacing, for example).
Before the actual race day, prepare for an ordinary workout the same way you would for a competition: eat the same breakfast, hydrate well, tie your shoelaces the same way you would, listen to the same music, start your run at the same time as the race will start… Practice makes perfect, even with race preparations.
3. Be prepared for surprises
Plan B’s don’t usually get the credit they deserve.
What if the weather is a lot worse than expected on the morning of the event? What if you run the first mile too fast? What if running doesn’t feel as good as expected, or what if it feels even better than expected? (Notice we’re talking about fairly likely events, not plan B’s for getting hit by meteorites or chased by packs of wild dogs or other unexpected and improbable events).
4. Mental stress is not always a bad thing
Many people associate stress with negative things, but it’s also the body’s way to get ready. For many, getting truly pumped is easier when they’re a little bit tense. Turn stress into your advantage and profit from it during training and competitions. Come up with routines and plans that can make you feel more prepared.
Stressing about the race will often ruin a good night’s sleep. But if you’ve slept relatively well the nights before, one restless night won’t ruin your performance. If you can’t sleep, use the time to your advantage and stay hydrated by drinking regularly.
Your deep-sleeping fellow competitors wake up slightly dehydrated. You wake up slightly groggy but hydrated like a boss.
5. External aids for mental control
Many people use music to get the right kind of drive for performance, but music can also help you to relax.
Music can help you to relax.
Relaxation recordings are a good tool in mental training and finding relaxation. They help you to deal with mental conflicts better during the performance and keep an important balance even when your thoughts are running wild.
If you’re used to listening to music, try running without it and draw energy from the crowd. However, remember to focus and don’t get too carried away with entertaining the onlookers. Usually runners who have entertained the viewers too much are also the first ones to start flagging.
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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.