Runners World Articles: Archives
You can get in a workout in just a few minutes. You won't sweat.
You won't get tired. In fact, you'll feel better than ever, get
faster and enjoy running more than you ever have before.
How? If you haven't already guessed, I'm talking about taking a
mental jog, the kind you do by closing your eyes and thinking about
running. A few minutes of mental training each day, in addition
to your regular training, will prepare you for any running challenge,
whether it's a race or tough workout. The key phrase here is every
day. You must do mental training regularly to make it effective.
You won't have to look too hard to find the time. Most mental jogs
last just 4 minutes or less. So instead of daydreaming during that
morning break, go on a mental run. Or try it during those otherwise
boring situations when you're waiting for an appointment, sitting
on a plane or train, or standing in a line.
What you think about depends on your goals. Below, I offer three
mental workouts that you can do to (1) motivate yourself to get
out the door, (2) prepare for a race, or (3) boost performance.
As you'll see, I believe it's important to end each mental session
on a positive note.
The motivation booster. The more stress you have
in your life, the more self-defeating your thoughts may become.
You know how it goes. A hard day at work and a sick kid at home
makes you think, "I don't have the time or energy for a run today.
As a matter of fact, I never have the time or energy. I donŐt even
know why I run. Why did I ever sign up to run that dumb race anyway?
I'll never be ready for it!" Such thoughts can be incredibly destructive
to your running program.
To overcome these motivation drainers, you need to be ready for
them. For a mental motivation booster, imagine yourself confronting
your most difficult running challenges-from getting out the door
to leaving the office on time to surmounting fatigue. Hear yourself
think, "I don't feel like it," or, "This isn't my day." Then watch
yourself ignore those thoughts, lace up those shoes and get out
to run. Feel that surge of confidence and pride that comes with
surmounting a challenge. Tell yourself how much you love this endorphin
rush, these feelings of peace and renewed energy. Then, when such
challenges or thoughts do arise in real life, you'll be ready for
The race-preparation workout. Running a race in
your mind can help you run more confidently in reality.
Envision yourself on the day of a race, before you ever get on
the starting line. For instance, I imagine myself an hour before
the start. I'm eating my energy bar and drinking a cup of coffee.
I feel my central nervous system wake up. I see myself walking for
5 minutes, then jogging and walking for 5 more. The gun goes off.
Now I'm running the first 2 or 3 miles at a pace somewhat slower
than what I could run on that day, planning to speed up later.
As you do the same, remember to think about how good you feel when
you're running this race. You feel comfortable, energized, in control.
Fast-forward to the finish line, when you feel tired but proud-the
satisfaction that comes when you've done the best you can do.
The performance enhancer. Seeing yourself improve
is the first step toward actually getting faster or running longer.
Once a week, visualize a tougher workout-those extra 2 miles on
your long run, faster splits during speedwork, more climbs up that
steep hill-as you progress toward your anticipated goal, whether
it's a 20-mile run or a faster 5-K.
First, emphasize the positives, such as the accolades and the attitude
boost you know you'll get. Toward the end of your mental rehearsal,
however, imagine the discomfort and fatigue as much worse than they
probably will be. Then see yourself rising to each challenge with
ease and confidence. End by remembering past races or workouts where
you broke through barriers-when you kept running even though you
didn't think you could go on.
World, September 1998, p. 34
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