Kate Atkinson is an inspiring marathoner, coach, personal trainer and co-owner of 360-wellness. She also manages to pack in a full life as a wife, mum, vegetarian, and a prolific writer across facebook groups on fitness, food and family-fun! You can catch her here.
Below is an edited version of a post I wrote last year in my 360 Running group on Facebook. Hopefully it helps a few of you who are running Melbourne Marathon or Half Marathon!
It’s aimed at RACE WEEK, but mental training is important to practice throughout your whole program. The main aspect I focus on in the last few weeks of training is MENTAL training;
- Self-belief and confidence
Mental training is part of the program and just as important (if not more important) than other aspects of training.
Meditation: Many runners are active, goal-driven and focused, so calming the mind doesn’t come easily. Meditation isn’t easy. I recommend starting with a few minutes at a time and I often refer people to apps like Buddhify. It has short, guided meditations for different scenarios. You may already practice meditation, but if not you can still benefit from it in the last weeks before an event. Deep belly breathing is a form of meditation and again, even if it hasn’t been part of your program, you can still benefit from introducing it now.
Visualisation: this is a technique I became familiar with when I competed in gymnastics (my coach was a sports psychologist). I soon realised the power of the mind! I visualised my routines (like watching a movie). You can visualise yourself running with correct technique; close your eyes and see yourself with a forward lean, strong hips and core, tall posture. Or you might choose to visualise the time on the clock as you cross the line.
Mantras: Mantras are my favourite aspect of mental preparation because there are so many inspiring phrases. It’s fun to make up your own mantra. Mantras I’ve used include –
- Light, Fast & Strong
- You’re stronger than you think and faster than you realise
- You’ve done this before, You can do it again!
- I’ve trained through worse than this (weather, pain… whatever your ‘block’ is at the time)
- This is the final lap
- I have mental toughness, I can do it
- Harder, Faster, Stronger
- You’ve got this!
- Strong legs
… and many more.
There are other conversations you can have with yourself on race day. You can count, do your times tables, sing songs, go to your ‘happy’ place. You can tell yourself it’s easy or you feel like you’re getting your second wind. You can use cues (like, Toe off my big toe).
Self-talk: Positive self-talk is KEY! I’m a big believe in Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). The more we repeat a habit the deeper our neural pathways become. If you tell yourself you hate running hills, then you’ll hate running hills!! If you tell yourself you hate the heat, then you’ll hate the heat. The more you talk to yourself in a negative way, the more difficult it becomes to change that thinking. Positive self-talk means privately and publicly backing yourself; recognise how far you have come, highlight your strengths, talk about what you like or what went well.
I developed a positive habit of saying I have mental toughness (one of my mantras) and I have said it so much, now it’s true! It doesn’t mean you’re conceited or you must live up to other people’s expectations. It means you’re choosing to focus on the positives. A key example is in regards to race day goals like your time goal; If you tell yourself you can achieve a certain time, then you have a much better chance of achieving that time.
Meditation, Visualisation, Mantras, Self-talk. These skills combined will help develop Self-belief and Confidence!
On race day, it is important to visit all of the above. Take a few minutes in the morning to meditate or visualise. Be mindful of your self-talk. And choose a powerful mantra!
Another Race Day tip: If you are the type to get nervous, stay off social media! Social media make our lives public and expectations can be overwhelming. Keep it in perspective and stay focused on YOU.
And most importantly when it comes to RACE DAY… ENJOY IT! You have trained for this. You are strong, capable and competent! Now go out and RUN!
Running tip #12: What goes on in your head affects your body. Mental fitness can be trained! Practice and train your mind (as well as your body) to prepare for race day.