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5. Train your mind
While Salazar’s athletes have access to top sports psychologists so they can hone in their focus and help improve confidence, you don’t need professional help to give your own mental fitness a boost.
Physical training aside, a big reason why Farah and Rupp were able to medal in London was simply because they believed they could. When the two training partners stepped on the starting line in Olympic Stadium, they each possessed a high level of confidence in themselves and their preparation that had been developed through years of physical and mental training.
When Salazar started the Oregon Project some 10 years ago his aim was to get under-confident Americans to believe that they could compete with the seemingly untouchable athletes from Kenya and Ethiopia. Aside from getting runners like Farah, Rupp, Ritzenhein and formerly Adam Goucher, Kara Goucher and Amy Begley fit enough to compete against the best runners in the world, he had to get them to believe they could compete with the best runners in the world.
You might not be competing against top runners from East Africa anytime soon, but you can, and should, work on your mental game. Recognize progress when it occurs and see it as a necessary step toward long-term success. Practice visualization techniques and see yourself accomplishing your goals. Use mantras while racing to stay focused and work through rough patches. Remain relentlessly positive and focus on the things you can control in training and racing rather than be rattled by the things you can’t. And last but certainly not least, have confidence in yourself and your abilities when you step on the starting line. Without that key component, none of the other stuff really matters all that much.