Positive Imagery And Mental Cues
The first step to racing well and pushing through mental barriers is to be prepared mentally. Letting negative thoughts creep into your mind is a critical mistake many runners make. Whether those thoughts are as inconspicuous as, “oh no, I am feeling tired way earlier than I should” or as pessimistic as, “wow, this really hurts, I can’t push any harder”, once negative self-talk begins, research has shown that performance severely declines.
Therefore, using positive mental imagery and cues is a powerful weapon. In a previous article, I discussed the benefits of developing positive mantras such as, “I am strong” and “I can do this” as opposed to “push through the pain and “don’t give up” because the second mantra elicits negative connotations with the words “pain” and “give up”.
Break The Race Down Into Smaller Pieces
Another effective mental trick is to break the race down into bite-sized and optimistic pieces. For example, in the last mile of a 10K, you might say, “only 800 meters left until I start my kick”, which sounds a lot more promising than one mile to go. Furthermore, you can associate the remaining distance of a race with your favorite workout. For example, when you hit mile 7 of a half marathon (often the most difficult point in the race) you can think to yourself: “now it’s time to roll, just like that 6-mile cutdown I did three weeks ago when I finished with a 7:00 last mile – go!”
Visualize Reeling In The Runners In Front Of You
Visualization can help disassociate your mind from the painful task at hand to an actionable and visible goal. This particular tactic is a favorite for many of the athletes I coach: pick one runner who is in front of you and imagine yourself casting a fishing line to the back of their jersey. Slowly reel the runner in and focus on nothing but slowly gaining ground on your “prey”. Before you know it, you’ll be right behind your target and you can recast your line to the next runner in front of you.