Get your Mental Game on - Page 2
Feed Your Head
Even the greatest mantra won’t do any good unless you’re fueling your brain. According to Gillis, late stages of exercise—such as the last miles of a trail race—are associated with increases in certain types of hormones including epinephrine, cortisol, glucagons and growth hormone, among others.
“Increased tryptophan in particular will affect mental strength because it gets converted to a chemical in the brain called serotonin. Sero- tonin is responsible for what’s called ‘central’ (brain) fatigue and makes you feel as if you’re working harder than you actu- ally are,” she says. “This will negatively affect motivation levels and mood. Proper nutri- tion is key to avoiding such a serotonin increase.”
Glucose intake is important. Like your muscles, your brain needs glucose to function. “The exact amount of carbo- hydrate intake depends on the individual and the intensity of exercise. Most studies show that 25 to 60 grams of carbohydrate per hour of exercise is sufficient to improve a sustained perfor- mance at 70 to 75 percent of VO2 max,” says Gillis. “Eating too many carbohydrates can result in high glucose concentrations in the blood, a con- dition known as hyperglycemia, which will increase your anxiety levels and make it more difficult to concentrate.”
Pre-race and during exercise, eat what your body can easily digest, such as a sports drink, whole-grain bagel or banana. Avoid foods that will give you gastrointestinal issues, and avoid combining the pre-race carbohydrate with fatty foods, which are harder for the body to break down. For instance, if your pre-race meal is a whole-grain bagel, avoid putting butter, cream cheese or peanut butter on it.
Every run is an opportunity to incorporate mental training. Be patient. mental focus comes with time and experience.
Just as it can take months (or years!) to shave time off your 5K PR, it will take time to find your mental groove. But when you do, you are in for some unforgettable trail runs.
Vanessa is an ultra trail runner and freelance writer. Follow her at VanessaRuns.com
5 mental training goals for your next trail run
- Work to stay in the moment. focus on the present.
- Strive to control your mind. are your thoughts helping or hindering you?
- Transform negative thoughts into positive ones.
- Use imagery. imagining a strong performance makes you more likely to accomplish it.
- Devise a mantra and recite it to yourself throughout your run or race.