Mental Preparation for the TC10K – What are you thinking?

Presented by the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence

“Tell yourself, over and over if you have to, that the race is the fun part after all the training!” Marc Witkes

So you’ve decided to participate in the TC10K! Perhaps it will be your first time, or maybe you’ve experienced the excitement and buzz of race day many times. If you will be running, walking or wheeling… if you are going for first place, a personal best, supporting a team, a friend or just wanting to finish…your mental game will be right there along with you the whole time!

Congratulate yourself on committing to and accepting the challenge. Challenging yourself to get up and put in the work, pushing yourself beyond what you may feel comfortable with, and bringing it all together on race day for that unforgettable experience. That’s what the mental game is about. Finding productive ways of thinking early on in your preparation will increase your chances of maximizing your potential and allow ourselves to perform to your best ability when you want it most. So think about it. Are your mental habits going to help or hinder you in your preparation for May 1st? Allow yourself this time to check in on your plans and make sure you are on the right mental path.

How does one start to mentally prepare? Lucy once said to Charlie Brown, “What you need is involvement”. Ask yourself, why are you participating? I bet each of you have many reasons such as health, family, the personal challenge, fun, to be part of something bigger, to win. Find out why you want to participate and allow those reasons to be your foundation to run on. It will help you when the training gets early, tough, late, tiring, painful, emotional, frustrating and hard. It will also lift you up to enjoy every hard moment and brighten the way.

“Before the race, I ask each person in my family to write a short note of inspiration or humor. I put these all on one piece of paper and tuck it into my shorts…” Esther Dill

Motivation gets you going but discipline keeps you going! One of the most basic and necessary tools to building up our mental game is goal setting. Deciding what you want to accomplish; allowing that to guide your preparation will be key to feeling successful on race day no matter how you define success. Start with the end in mind then decide what small steps that are in your control, you can work on each day. Keep your goals visible to others; sharing them will add ownership and a little bit of that positive pressure to keep you disciplined.

A very effective way to use goal setting is to set small specific goals each time you train. Goals can include a time, a distance, a feeling, or just getting out there! This will allow you to narrow down your focus on certain aspects of your development and create the process-oriented steps to reaching your goals.

At the end of your daily training, ask yourself questions like:

  • Did I accomplish my goal? If so, then own it let it motivate you for tomorrow.
  • What did I learn today? Do I want to change anything in my plan or thinking?
  • How did I help myself today? How did I do it?
  • How did I get in my own way today? What can you change for tomorrow?

This process allows you to gain information, a sense of power and confidence. If you didn’t meet your goal for that workout, use it as an opportunity to learn. Sometimes we fall just short of our goal; a healthy perspective to have for this is to remember that you likely did a lot of good things to get you that close. Take every opportunity to see your successes, no matter how big or small.

“I break down the race into small “mini-runs” between each aid station. Therefore, I reach many “goals” throughout the run.” Denny Fryman

When you do achieve those daily goals, find ways to reward yourself. Think of the little things that let you feel happy and balanced. Make time to make those happen; go out and earn those five minutes of meditation or sinfully delicious food or drink. Share your accomplishments with others too. If you are part of a training group, ask and listen to their challenges and solutions, brainstorm and come up with ways to survive. You will be supported and encouraged to keep working towards your goals.

Runners find many ways to endure the tough stuff. Another effective idea is to keep a journal during your training. You can record your experiences and thoughts associated with your program and progress.

Reflective thoughts like these can help narrow down what works for you and what you may want to alter:

  • When I’m running and feeling good, what am I thinking about
  • When I’m running and not feeling good, what am I thinking about?
  • What distracts me? How do I get myself back on track?

Be creative and flexible in finding fun ways to make it through your training. Perhaps powerful, soothing and inspiring music set to your running route can accompany the process. Say something encouraging to yourself every time you pass a fire hydrant. Visualize the race day and what you hope it will be like. How do you want to feel when you cross the finish line? See the crowds, hear the energy in everyone, feel the pride! Let those thoughts allow you to just one more kilometer today!

“I visualize that I’m INSIDE of a giant rolling ball…keeping it rolling at a steady pace…like perpetual motion.” Jerry Hansen

Allow yourself, by the way you think, to enjoy the opportunity you have to participate in this event. Allow yourself to embrace and face all the little daily challenges. They will make you better and stronger and ready for the next one!

Christie Gialloreto is a Mental Training Consultant in Victoria, British Columbia.

She works with the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence and can be contacted Quotes for this article were found at February, 2011.