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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Mental Training Techniques

I have written up below some of the mental techniques I use during races/training from short to long distances.
The key to these is that it means something to you and the more sensory rich the thoughts are the bigger impact they should have. Ideally you would try these during training before a race so you know which works for you.

The examples I use below use the mentally training techniques which are summarised on this web page, which you can search more on if you are interested in finding more about them.

Some a based on TV programs I have watched, lyrics in songs (not necessarily the song itself), keywords or personal experiences. The key point is that it is relevant for you and used in short bursts between focusing on the run. These examples hopefully give you ideas how you could adapt them to be more relevant for you.

Pre Race
The key point is to stay relaxed as much as possible.

Make sure you read the race information booklet so you know about the race route and any aid stations. Plus any details about the start and finish areas. The less surprises on the day the better.

In the week's beforehand I will listen to my motivational song playlist, look at any photos and/or videos of the race from previous year. I always like to see the finish line before hand (either in person or photos) to help visualise the end point goal for the race.
This helps stay focused on the event when the training amount decreases.

As your are tapering you have more spare time which you can put your feet up and watch a comedy TV programme or film.

Waiting at the Start Line
When waiting the few minutes before the start when I try to stay relaxed to avoid going off too fast and of plan. I focus on slow deep breathing going over my race plan and goals for this race in my head.

One of the songs I use to relax and visualise before the start is a previous song that my football team came out to at the start of the match. I remember the lyrics, the atmosphere and anticipation that I felt at the football matches which can be similar to a big race.

When go up or down hills in addition to trying to maintain proper running form I use some of these techniques.

Using keywords such as strong, powerful, focused...

A visualisation could include somebody shouting keep knees high, maintain form (that will take a lot of visualisation skills to imagine that)!!

Others that I have heard of are wings on feet which make you feel lighter and therefore easier to get up the hill.

Another option is visualising a steam train , this would be good option if you puff and swing your arms a lot getting up a hill or if you have seen a lot of Thomas and friends (formerly called Thomas the Tank Engine).

I use one based on my football team which are known as the tractor boys. So I have a couple of powerful visualisations both mentally and physically, either powerful tractor (blue of course) or a Suffolk Punch (from the club badge) which could be a real horse, Bluey or Crazee (club mascots).

Going Dutch
From the classic Dutch Euro Dance hit "No Limit" by 2Unlimited. Some of the key lyrics "No Limits", "no valley to low and no mountain to high" the high BPM and repetive also helps sink in the message. This one I heard at a European Ironman when on the run and I have used it since.

You'll never guess this Scouse song?
You'll Never Walk Alone is most associated with Liverpool FC although other clubs do use it and was from the musical Carousel. The lyrics have some key phrases which is worth reading them. They could only be improved (for this purpose) by changing the word walk to run which I sometimes do when thinking about it on a run. I use this when it windy, rainy, struggling or even starting to or feel like walking (key bits from lyrics).

Despite being thrashed something like 6-0 thrashing at the end of the season when we were being relegated, it was a sunny day and felt more like a carnival atmosphere. Seeing all the red scarfs, banners and flag at the other end (Kop end) and the sound was very impressive and emotional still to this day.

Video at Anfield

Video of Musical

Other versions of this have been released by most notiable by Gerry and the Pacemakers (good running reference in band name), Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Alicia Keys just to name a few of the well know performers from different eras and musical backgrounds.

Can you tell this is my favourite motivational song?

This song gets into your head especially as it repeats, if you get it in your head on a long run it is hard to forget about it, sorry. However a bit of humor is good to remember on a long run to help you relax and not tense up as much, so relax those shoulders.

Why did X happen to Y? E.g. a family member lying in hospital with all sorts of medical "bits" connected to them and I am moaning about a bit of a run. This has Very Strong mental images and emotions for me.

I get angry, my muscles get bigger and only communicating by grunting (only slightly green if had a toasted egg and bacon sandwich before long run). I only use this when struggling a lot in a particular point in a race, as can be emotionally draining and you should try and stay positive with your thoughts.

Sesame Street
This video has from the Black Eyed Peas along with various sesame street characters. It has some quite positive lyrics and up beat, the section with the various "what I am is..." you could add your own phrase to the list. If you have children who like sesame street this could be good option as would also use mental association.

Using the Force
Using the Jedi mind tricks to help against the dark side (e.g. pain a long run in this case). Again a bit of humor is good to remember on a long run to help you relax and not tense up as much.

Mr T
I pitty the fool who doesn't listen to Mr T's advice.

Post Race
Once rehydrated and had some suitable protein based nutrition to aid recovery, perhaps you could try some of the drink mentioned in this video :-)

Days after a marathon
Don't forget about the achievement of completing a marathon (or whatever your goal is) in the days afterwards, despite any soreness and difficulties trying to complete simple everyday tasks :-)

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