Coach's Corner: Train the brain...
One day Id really like to run a half marathon under 2 hours. I tried a few times, trained really well, but each time it came to race day, pain got the better of me. Maybe I didn't train as hard as I thought?..actually...I think it was just that...my thoughts.
Before I discovered a love for trail running, I had a love-hate relationship with running. As much as running felt like a gift because of recovering from Chronic Fatigue, some days it was also a drag, I couldn't wait for the run to be finished. I would spend most of my run thinking about how I had to keep up the pace, who I'd be failing if I didn't, the disappointment others would have in me if I didn't reach my goal...it was all negative.
I trained hard for those half marathons, I thought I believed in myself, but when the going got tough, I didn't have any faith in myself at all. So I gave up on the dream and focused on crossfit.
What I learnt in the space of a couple of years and entering a few competitions was that my mind often failed me. I had the skill, I had the strength, but I would give up before I would get to the end of the work. Not only that, I would see a workout, not like the look of it, then talk out loud about how hard it was going to be, or how I didn't like the movements that were chosen. Negative, negative, negative.
It was in reading some of Ben Bergeron's book, "Chasing Excellence" that I realised how much my words and thoughts were affecting my performance. I knew it could affect other areas of my life, but I didn't realise the impact it had on my ability to achieve the goals that I had set...If I didn't believe in myself, I wasn't going to get far.
I never wanted to reduce my goals to a size that I could achieve, so I needed to change my attitude. It took a long time of consistent work, writing positive words on the gym windows, telling myself over and over "you can do this", calling myself an athlete and believing in my abilities...but soon enough I started to see the benefits. Especially with my running.
An ultra marathon is not just a run with your body, it's a marathon with your mind. It takes a lot of work to train your brain to focus on the positives, and learning how to overcome the negatives when they arise, like how to deal with a stone in your shoe, or the rubbing from your pack on your shoulders or back, or the feeling that your toenails and fallen off (let's be honest they probably have), not to mention running alone for hours on end.
I've had to learn this over and over, but hopefully I'm getting better at it, especially when I anticipate a 100mile run will take me minimum 24hrs...
Whatever your activity, your sport, your goal...whether its physical or not, your mind can affect the outcome of what you want to achieve. What are you telling yourself today that can change the way you cross the finish line?