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Stephen P. Gonzalez, M.S. Tuesday, 10 April 2012 15:08 TWEET COMMENTS 0

Mind-Body Connection - Page 2


Before the gun had even sounded, Jerry’s mind was running a race of its own. A few miles into the race, feeling emotionally drained, he dropped out. Despite such textbook preparedness, Jerry had missed a vital part of training: his mind.


Mental training is the science of improving and enhancing human performance by developing skills such as goal setting, relaxation, visualization and coping with performance anxiety. It is the combination of mental and physical training that best prepares an athlete.

Here, we examine four common race-day mental mistakes and how to counteract them.

Mistake 1: Worrying about what you cannot control
I can’t beat Susan
. After all this rain the trails are going to be too muddy. If you allow yourself to be consumed by anything out of your control, you will grow frustrated and waste emotional energy.

“When I ran the 2011 The North Face Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc in Chamonix, France, a storm came in and threw off the race start by several hours,” says Krissy Moehl, an accomplished ultrarunner in Seattle, Washington. “I had trouble letting go of what my splits were supposed to be, and dropped out of the race.”

WHAT TO DO INSTEAD. When you think of something out of your control, such as bad weather on race day, replace the thought with something you can control. Since Moehl was unable to shift her focus to something she could control, like simply running from aid station to aid station, the race became too overwhelming to complete. “I learned that you have to be prepared to give only what you have on that certain day,” she says, “not what you would have been able to give had circumstances been different.”

Mistake 2: Focusing on the outcome

Obsessing over a specific outcome, like running a PR or qualifying for another race, may cause frustration, because you can only control the process of getting to the finish-line, rather than the finish itself. You may run your best race and still not run as well as you wanted. You must be prepared to accept that outcome.

WHAT TO DO INSTEAD. “Mental energy is similar to muscular energy,” says Luke Humphrey, running coach and professional marathoner with the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project in Rochester Hills, Michigan. “Muscle glycogen is limited so we conserve it till we really need it. Mental energy functions similarly. Don’t waste mental energy thinking about a race’s outcome. Focus on running relaxed and in a good rhythm. Then late in the race when things are really hard, you will have mental-energy reserves.”



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