5 Mental Tips for Racing
1) Mental Trick #1: Dissociation: disconnecting yourself from pain or fatigue by thinking of anything but running. For example, some people think of squishing bosses’s faces with each step or, more positively, imagining yourself as a gazelle prancing gracefully through the finish line. Dissociation has powerful advantages but should be used sparingly because it has been found not to help performance in the long run. Your mental approach should generally be focused with occasional periods of musing. When things get bad it is best to look in. The best athletes can focus on the pain and what their body is doing. “When you don’t pay attention to the body, you lose touch. When you lose touch, you lose control”
2) Mental Trick #2: Visualization: Many runners use a technique called visualization, or mental rehearsal, to improve their technique. All you have to do is sit or lie still with your eyes closed and spend 10 minutes imagining yourself running smoothly, efficiently, and powerfully. The more vivid and realistic you can make these images, the more effective they will be. When you visualize yourself running, you activate the same parts of the brain’s motor centers that become active when you actually run. But the advantage of mental rehearsal is that you can change these brain patterns for the better by seeing yourself running more efficiently and powerfully than you really do. Then your goal becomes turning visualization into reality.
3) Mental Trick #3: Mind Games: Every runner occasionally finds himself or herself dreading a planned run. Overcoming this dread and having a good run anyway can be as easy as using motivational “mind games” like change your route to something unfamiliar, buy new running shoes or clothes for your run, find a friend to run with, tell yourself you’ll just run for fifteen minutes (you’ll almost certainly wind up running longer!), drive somewhere cool to run (the beach, a nice park), change your pace: do something short and fast
4) Mental Trick #4: Positive Self-Talk: Researchers at U of I found that athletes who believe they can tolerate leg/muscle pain performed better in a running test than those who doubted their ability to withstand pain. How do you believe in your capabilities? Think of all the challenging workouts and races you have already made it through to remind yourself how strong and capable you are. Repeat those images in your head over and over. Develop your own mantra such as “I’m fit, I’m good, I’m fast.” Or “I’m healthy, happy, and light on my feet”. Mantras can be performance-oriented or feeling-oriented.
5) Mental Trick #5: Break the Race into Pieces: Split the race into mentally manageable chunks. When you start to tire look up the road or path and focus on getting to the next lamppost or stop sign, then when you reach it find another object up ahead or tell yourself you will run for 5 more minutes, then 6 more minutes, etc. It is like reaching little satisfactory goals along the way.