Today’s guest post is from Kim Ingleby, a GB Team Sports Therapist and International Personal Trainer of the Year 2007. She’s dropped by to talk to us about mental strength for athletic performance, particularly for those of you currently training hard for the London Marathon (or any Spring race).
Mental Strength for the London Marathon
The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives. — William James
Last April, as you sat and watched the London Marathon, you may have felt compelled to sign up to the race. Or you may have just completed the race, and decided that you really wanted to do it again. Or maybe you’ve decided that you wanted a challenge?
Now you have to start training!
But what can you do to train you brain for the race? How can you complete that marathon and enjoy it? How can you believe that you can actually do it?
I work with many athletes, from beginners to international elites, from rugby to running, triathlon to synchro swimming. All have the aim of enhancing their performance, unlocking their full potential and increasing their enjoyment.
Training your brain is like training any muscle in your body – the more you do it, the more effective and powerful it becomes. Races can be won or lost, completed or unfinished, on the mental state of the athlete, often disregarding the amount of physical training they have done.
So I am going to share some of the top mental strength training tips with you! These will strengthen your training for any goal and enhance your enjoyment and focus.
Top Ten Mental Strength Tips
Write down all the reasons why you are aiming to run the marathon, and next to the reason why this is important to you and how it makes you feel. This all needs to be stated in the positive. Then highlight the top three motivators and pin them somewhere to remind you when motivation is low.
It is important to write things down as this will clarify things in your mind and make things a reality.
Focus on what you want and remember to forget what you don’t want
Take a moment to write down all the things that are concerning you or making you feel stressed (you don’t know how you are going to do the training, worried about illness, injury, improving your times, not letting people down…)
Then write them in a list and, next to them, write what you can do to change this worry, and how it will make you feel when you begin to focus on the positive. Create a step by step plan for each limiting area.
We get more of what we focus on – so choose to focus on what you do want, and let go off what you cannot control. It will make everything much easier and more enjoyable.
Make a plan that works for you and stick to it
Write down the amount of training you are going to do per week to allow you to reach your marathon goals (if you are not sure, ask a qualified professional to give you advice and support). Then write down all the other things you would like to do, and things that are expected from you (time with family and friends) and your own time to recharge.
Prioritise the main training sessions in your diary, followed by the key family things and your own time. This will allow you to feel in control on your training, and your family to realise you have valued them which will allow them to support you more.
Make sure you discuss the plan with your close family and friends so they support and encourage you.
Make yourself accountable to two people
Once you have a clear training plan, motivation and positive focus, tell two people what you are planning to do, how you would like to feel and how they could support you. By sharing things with people you are much more likely to achieve your goal and enjoy the process. Choose people who will be positive and encouraging in their support to you.
Keep a feel good training diary and use positive self talk
Everyone is advised to keep a training diary of the physical side of things but I would like you to add the mental side of your training to this. Write down how you feel on different runs, with different people and on different days. Then you will notice a limiting pattern and can do something to change this – different route, time of day, more sleep, different people, more food or water – the options are many, but only if you keep a record..
Be flexible and listen to your body
So you have your plans and goals but it is important to be flexible. Listen to your body and if you need to move your rest day then do so. If you are constantly tired and unmotivated, look at your nutrition and have good quality sleep to give you the energy to do quality training. Without this your mind and body will suffer so be kind to yourself.
Model qualities and training from people who inspire you
A really important one tip is to choose two or three athletes who inspire you and ‘act as if’ you had those qualities. For instance, you may admire determination, strength and enjoyment as qualities in different athletes. Watch how they behave, listen to what they say, and try to imagine what it would feel like to be in their body – then ‘act as if’ you did have these qualities. It can be a famous athlete, a club runner you know, a celebrity or a friend – it doesn’t even have to be a runner – just a quality you would like more, and a person who represents that quality.
Anchor positive qualities for your race (with music if you like)
Decide on the four main mental qualities you need to be able to complete your training sessions, and the race. These could be anything from calm, relaxed, motivated and focused to strength, power, enjoyment and energy. For each quality write down all the memories you have of times in your like you have felt, say strength and any people who represent this quality for you, and any music.
Each time you are training focus on these four qualities – breathing in what you want, and out what you no longer need (any limiting thoughts) – allowing your physiology to be relaxed and focused. If you press your thumb and forefinger together as you think about the qualities, it will act as an anchor point and enhance their potential.
Create a clear, positive outcome
Take a big sheet of coloured paper and write in the middle “What do I need to make my race a really positive experience” and then write down around it all the things you need from the qualities and training runs, to the clothes you will run in, the sports massages you will have, the money you will raise for charity, the friends who will be there, the food you will eat before and after and the way you will feel when you have completed the race – write down every single positive detail.
Make the outcome really real and then work towards it and make it your reality. It is also useful to put some goals down for after the race which will keep it in perspective, and help should injury or illness mean you need to postpone the race.
Relax and enjoy your training and racing
Some may argue easier said than done but I can assure you that if you focus on positive motivation and what you do want – you will be able to relax and enjoy your training – and if you are not – do something that makes you feel good inside and out!
Happy training and racing… see you on the start line…!
Thanks Kim – some really powerful food for thought there. I hope you all enjoyed reading Kim’s valuable tips.
Guest post: Kim Ingleby on mental strength for athletic performance is a post from The Fit Writer blog.