If you’re looking for a great workout and fitness blog I recommend you check out Workout Headquarters. Here’s a sample blog about staying Mentally tough from Kate over at workouthq.org. Thanks for the great submission Kate!
Running a marathon is no joke. It’s over 26 miles and 3 – 5 hours of gruelling exertion, while you compete with hundreds or even thousands of trained and equally determined participants. Of course, you’d give your best in training!
You work on your speed, endurance, and a host of other skills mentioned in the running books. You incorporate other valuable tips in your training to make sure that you don’t miss out on anything.
Days before the race, you take a deep breath and let out a confident smile because you are very much ready to run your best race yet. But are you, really?
Picture this: On race day, you get to the starting line and see a huge crowd ready to witness the marathon and support their own favorites. Overwhelming pressure dawns on you, and you suddenly feel your feet getting heavy. You never imagined all your hard work going down the drain all because of pre-race jitters!
This, my friends, is where mental toughness comes in – when things are less than perfect or aren’t exactly how you envisioned them to be, but you still go out there and perform at your best. Every runner encounters some sort of race-day challenge, but it is mental toughness that differentiates winners from the rest of the pack.
What qualities characterize a mentally tough runner?
It is extremely important that while you work on getting the body in shape, you also train the mind to be tough.
Before we get to the specific ways of preparing for battle, let’s first get to know the profile of a mentally tough runner.
Of all the qualities, I consider this to be the most significant. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from any type of adversity. Think of it as rising each time you fall, literally and figuratively. Can you imagine the possibilities if no amount of misfortune can dampen your spirit?
While full commitment to a marathon is essential, dropping the rest of your responsibilities is just not possible. The key? Focus. Learn how to attend to all of them while still giving complete, undivided attention to the task at hand.
In the same way, you should be able to minimize, if not completely shut out, the effect of any distraction that may come your way. When the aches and pains are undeniable, a mentally tough runner concentrates on the goal.
Having a dependable support system is great, but it can only do so much. At the end of the day, the only audible voice is the one within you. Go ahead and admire a good runner, as long as it doesn’t turn into envy or negative comparisons. Strengthen your self-image. If you believe that your training will pay off and that you have what it takes to succeed, you most likely will.
Being confident is one thing, but not being open to improvement is another. A mentally tough runner welcomes criticisms and suggestions and sees them as opportunities for growth.
How do you harness mental toughness?
Now that you know exactly what to aim for, allow me to give you some tips on how to get there.
Before you take down notes, this is what I want you to take to heart: it takes time and effort. Just as training speed, pacing and endurance does not happen overnight, the road to mental toughness isn’t the quickest or the easiest. Expect to fail a few times before getting to the level that you want to be at.
Here we go:
Set a more fulfilling objective
We should find purpose in everything that we do. In running a marathon, ask yourself this important question: what is your objective?
Yes, finishing a marathon is an achievement in itself. But that may not be enough to push you beyond your first race.
On the other hand, a more meaningful goal is more likely to be a better source of personal motivation. It may not be the same goal across all races. Most of the times you may aim for continuous fitness improvement while in some cases, you may also run to contribute to the race’s charitable causes.
I personally find fulfillment in joining races for a cause. I consider it a unique and effective way of pushing myself past race glitches and distractions.
No race is perfect and you should be wise enough to acknowledge that. However, be careful not to get stuck imagining the negatives because that will only lead to anxiety. Instead, focus on the positive and visualize yourself overcoming these obstacles.
In a more concrete manner, take action in preparing for anticipated and identified difficulties. For example, run even if it is raining, provided that it is safe. This conditions the mind that you are ready for any all types of weather on race day.
Although it is impossible to prepare for every hurdle, the goal is to practice your mind to react positively to race day surprises.
Paint a visual picture of yourself giving it all
It’s good to expect the worst, but it’s not very healthy to focus on the negatives. Instead, visualize yourself doing your best throughout the race.
Take note that I did not ask you to imagine yourself winning the race. Sure, you can do that. There’s nothing wrong with aiming for a win! But I advise you to focus on your efforts more than the results. You minimize the risk of disappointment if you aim your attention at factors that you can control rather than those that are out of your hands.
Celebrate small wins
Don’t get me wrong. Goal-setting is not wrong. It is actually necessary, or else all your efforts are pointless!
Here is a tip: break down your goals into smaller pieces and allow yourself to feel good after accomplishing each of them. Aside from making the bigger goal more realistic and achievable, this also gives you confidence that will propel you to attain your ultimate target.
Meditation teaches you to remain calm. As a result, you are better able to listen to what your body says or identify what a situation requires. For example, a blister is a minor discomfort by most standards. If you are not composed, it can easily escalate and affect your overall performance.
It is also natural for your mind to wander while running. If you expect meditation to prevent that, you’d be disappointed because it won’t. Instead, it makes you aware and gives you the cue to shift your focus to where it should be.
Having a motto is also helpful. This can be a quote from your favorite runner or something that is more personal. Whenever you find yourself in tough situations, repeat this motto in your head and you will be back in control.
Train the Brain
There is a reason why “mind over matter” is a commonly used phrase, both in sports and in life. The brain has so much power, but only we know how to properly access it.
The brain’s role is acknowledged even in high-level playing fields like the Olympics. In a setting where immense physical talent is common, the mental aspect is the ultimate deciding factor.
Remember to sharpen the brain as much as you train the body. In times of physical limitations or surprise setbacks on the day of the race, a conditioned mind is what will see you through.
Kate started running in 7th grade and hasn’t stopped since. She started out as a sprinter, but moved on to distance running as she got older. You can find her on WorkoutHQ where she blogs with her friend Jason.