Four tips for staying mentally strong during a race

Vrijdag, 2 oktober 2015
Four tips for staying mentally strong during a race

I can’t do it. I still have so far to go. I'm not going to reach my goal now anyway, so I’m going to take it easy. Every runner recognises those discouraging thoughts that stand between you and achieving your goals. If you want to get the best out of your sporting achievements, it is important to train mentally as well as physically. We have four tips that will help you increase your mental strength.

1. Visualise

Run a race a few times in your mind. What conditions will you encounter, how fast will you run per kilometre, when will you drink or take in some calories, where will your support be (if available), how will it feel to cross the finish line? Be prepared so that you have a plan to focus on, know what you are going to encounter and are fully motivated.

2. Replace negative with positive

No matter how well prepared you are and how much experience you have, every runner has gloomy thoughts from time to time. Why am I doing this and why don’t I just stop right now? It is part of life, but you can learn to deal with it better by replacing negativity with positivity. “It’s so hard and there’s still so far to go” is not going to help you as much as “It’s hard, but I know I can do it”. Have faith in yourself and the training you have done and keep up the positive self-talk.

3. Self-care

A lack of fluids and/or energy can make your race even harder and throw you into a negative ‘hitting the wall’ spiral of obstructive thoughts. This can be easily remedied. Make sure you get enough energy along the way and take in fluids and energy regularly right from the start, for example, in the form of gel packs. Start trying out the type and amount of nutrition during training sessions well in advance so that you do not have any surprises during a race.

4. Distraction

What will you do to shut out any obstructive thoughts, fatigue and pain during the race? Paula Radcliffe, for example, counts from 1 to 100 and then again from 100 to 1. No idea what works for you? Every runner has the occasional training session where you feel like a wet rag and you want to turn in and go to bed with some hot chocolate. These are the perfect moments to test what distracts you from your discomfort and improves your focus. Perhaps music or counting would be effective solutions for you too. Try this out before a race, so that you can immediately switch to your diversionary tactics if you find yourself struggling during a race.