Most people underestimate the mental game of running. Of course there is a science to the sport. You have to train certain ways to obtain desired outcomes. The toll our mind takes is just as hard as the toll our legs take pounding the pavement. There are times we literally have to take our heads out of the game. I am a huge advocate for mental toughness in this sport. Visualizing and truly believing in your goals in very important. However there are times when runners push their minds so hard they can become over trained mentally.
From my own experiences there are times when I have had to step back and just look at what it is that I wanted? I don’t want to admit it, but I will. When my injury streak came, in a way I was thankful. I was exhausted from training at such a high level. It is hard working and focusing so much and never seeing the desired results. When doctors told me that I should find another passion part of me wanted to take their words but deep deep down buried underneath it all. I could not accept giving up. I had doctors tell me I did not have the ideal body type for running, hence all my stress fractures. I have heard it all. For 5 years I fought with myself trying to decide if I really loved the sport or if I just wanted it because everyone else wanted me to run. Any time I tried to get away from the sport I found myself right back to it. I realized that I did LOVE running. I was and still am willing to do whatever it takes to run. It took me 5 years to refocus and find my true passion, but I found it.
It is ok to step back and figure out if all the pain and heartache is worth it. Failing is inevitable. You will fail, not only once, but time and time again. Then the one time it all clicks, you will realize those failures were worth it. You have to find your roots. What is it that is holding you to the sport? Why do you want to be out there every day? Why do you love running? Or DO YOU REALLY EVEN LOVE IT?
One of the best sprinters of all time once stated, “the medals don’t mean anything and the glory doesn’t last. It’s all about your happiness. The rewards are going to come, but my happiness is just loving the sport and having fun performing. (Jackie Joyner- Kersee)
Take each failure and disappointment with a grain of salt. You are not a failure. You may just have to refocus your mind and figure out if you really love what you are doing.
Get out of your head and enjoy the ride!
Races are in full throttle. On the agenda this weekend, we have Seth and Andrew competing tonight in the Kirksville Relays. Then tomorrow afternoon Maria will head to Harrisburg to race against some competition. After a slow start to the season the runners are finally making up for lost ground.
I have decided to make a chart to compare last years races to this years races. I believe many have lots motivation do to the slow start to the season. I figured by comparing last year races to this year, runners will notice that they are right where they need to be. Improvements have been made and they will continue to be made. I will post this chart at the end of season once all results have been compiled.
The 3200 meter race is my favorite. Most spectators find it long and boring. Young runners circling the track over and over again becomes monotonous, especially when there is really no competition to watch. However, there is more to this race. The most important aspect is keeping focused. It is easy to focus for 15 second, it is even easy to stay focused for 4 or 5 minutes. To have pure uninterrupted focus for 9 to 10 minutes is difficult. Only the trained mind can tackle this feat. Luckily for me, I have been there and raced this distance before. I can relate to those who are competing in this event. My biggest advice is to train your mind. If you have a long bus ride to your track meet. Sit quietly and visualize your race. Training your mind to focus so intently for a prolonged period of time takes practice. We practice every day to run faster. We run intervals to increase speed and we run for miles to develop our endurance capabilities. we even do drills and strength exercises to keep us strong and efficient. My question for you is … WHAT ARE YOU DOING FOR YOUR MIND.
I have told many before, based on my experiences, laps 5 and 6 are the most difficult. Tackling the minutes between 5 and 7 minutes is where the mentally weak get beat. Keep that in mind when racing. All you have to do is surpass 1.5 miles. After that… The race is all down hill from there. I like to picture the last 2 laps as if i am literally running down a hill. You only get faster!
Mental endurance is just as important as all other aspects of training and racing. So don’t loose your focus!
My most memorable food mishap happened during the 2003 Texas State track championships. I was still young and learning how to properly fuel myself for races. Long story short, I learned my lesson when it came to preparing for a race. To this day I remember how horrible and unprepared I felt for the 1600 meter race. The entire race I kept telling myself, “if I only had fueled myself properly!”
I could go on and on with stories where I learned valuable lessons when it comes to fueling myself correctly. You live and learn through trials and tribulations. What works for one person my not work for another. In my case I have learned over the years what my body can and can not handle. For example, I can not eat peanuts before running. I would not recommend it either. High fat foods typically do not sit well when consumed within an hour of intense exercise. Right before I run I have found the most success with plain bland foods. Something easy to digest with not much flavor. Before I was diagnosed with Celiac in the mornings prior to heading out the door I would eat half of a cliff bar or a slice of bread with a dab of peanut butter and honey. I generally stick to roughly 100-200 calories in the mornings before heading out for a run. Don’t forget to drink some water too!!! As soon as I finish my workout I indulge in a more satisfying breakfast such as oatmeal and yogurt or an egg dish or some variety.
This may sound silly or even a little obsessive, but when it comes time for racing I would really buckle down. The day before a race, even to this day I follow the same eating habits. First I stay away from dairy products the day before the race. I do this because I tend to produce a lot of mucus (hope that does not scare you away.) Second, I always have the same foods for dinner. Typically dinner consists of some sort of pasta. I have switched from whole grain to a quinoa/brown rice blend pasta in the past year due to Celiac.
It is important to stick to comfortable foods. The day before and morning prior to racing is not the time to try sushi or some new spicy restaurant. If you want to race well, you need to be fueled properly. Find what works for you and stick to it. My top recommendation is to find a food that is easy on your stomach. This means avoid high fatty foods the day before and day of your race. Go and enjoy the steak after your race! 🙂
What is your go to pre race dinner?