A New Approach To Mental Training

A psychotherapist offers a way to keep you running in the zone.

It doesn’t happen on every run, but most runners can tell you what it feels like to be in the zone. It’s that period of a run when you don’t feel like you’re running. You’re breathing effortlessly and moving comfortably. Your mind can wander and suddenly miles go by before you realize it.

“People run best when they’re in that zone,” said Joseph Renguso, 42, a practicing psychotherapist and running coach in the Chicago suburbs. “So I started to think to myself, how can we get in that zone more often?”

After studying the topic, he discovered that there was very little information about the mental side of running.

“Everyone talks about how much running is a mental sport, yet when you look at the information available, it’s all physical,” he said. “There are a million books on how to train for a marathon or a 5K, but almost nothing on how to train your mind to be a better runner.”

So Renguso created his own company, Running the Mind. His first audio program, “Trance State Running,” can be downloaded from his website, www.runningthemind.com. The 45-minute recording teaches runners how to get into a trance-like state despite the physical stress on the body. “It’s a skill you can learn,” Renguso said. “So in a race, you can trigger that feeling.”

For many runners, it’s difficult to keep negative feelings out of their mind, especially during competition.

“You feel little aches and pains, or you don’t know if you can keep this pace up,” Renguso said. “Your body can do it, but your conscious mind keeps creating doubt.”

The amount of time it takes to learn the skill varies by runner. Some pick it up almost instantly, while other need to listen to the recording several times a week.

“The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it,” Renguso said. “And the more you’ll be able to enjoy your run.”

This piece first appeared in the December 2011 issue of Competitor magazine.

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