Danny Dreyer has written a very interesting Blog recently on Chi Running's Strength Training Triad. It's work reading now if you haven't already.
I have 3 running goals for the year, one of which was to reach under 40 minutes in a 10k road race. I had a race yesterday (the Joe Percy 10k in Huddersfield, which is an undulating course) and finnally achieved that goal. So how did I prepare?
With Danny's blog in mind, I realised that I already fit as much running/ physical training as I can in to my weekly schedule. I was drawn to the sentence at the end of the blog:
"a strong mind directs your body well"
Well since working as a Chi Running and Chi Walking instructor, I spend a large percentage of my time focussing on the mental aspect of my running - ie body sensing and being aware of the ways I need to move my body to improve my Chi Running form. I have quite a good idea how to 'allow' speed to happen by focusing on the way I am moving my body. That's one of the things I love about Chi Running - if you already running as fast as you can physically, you can use mental focus to relax and allow your body to move that little bit faster. I also do a lot of form intervals, so as I prepared for my race my guess was that I had worked quite a bit on the mental part of the strength training triad as well. So that just left the emotional and psychological strength.
That element is something I've been pondering for a while. I have been very attentive to my self talk, and I asked myself a few questions. Why do I always feel I could have given a bit more when racing? Do I hold back? Why? Why do I feel I can't keep up with runners when they overtake? Or maybe even don't have the right to chase after them.
I completed the Huddersfield Half Marathon recently (hilliest in the UK) in a time I was very happy with. In that race, I very much felt that starting the race with a deeply relaxed mental attitude had a huge impact. So one principle I had in mind when I started preparing for the 10k was to start with a calm and peaceful mental attitude. No more pumping rock music on in the car on the way there - serene classical music went on instead. I warmed up on my own, slowly, focussing my mind n relaxing my body. A few Chi Running body looseners and I was ready to go.
Mental training on 'King of The Hill' race - maintaining a mental focus even for a 25 min race can be hard sometimes.
So what else brought me to the start line? Well my wife Becky is a hypnotherapist, counsellor and mindfulness teacher and has worked with me several times to explore the mental barriers and self defeating internal talk that goes on in my head during a race. When I was young, I was bought up in a good Christian household. I still affirm that faith, but I am very open minded and tend to critique a lot of the things I was taught that have nothing to do with the centre of Christianity. I am very often far too polite and 'nice' and have sometimes found it hard to stand up for myself and be assertive when needed. In a race this can come out as letting people who overtake me get away with it - bring polite is def. not a quality needed when deciding how to respond if someone overtakes in a race! In my quest for more mental steel, I have undergone hypnosis and counselling and hopefully I'm a lot less 'nice' about being overtaken now!!!
This certainly seemed to be very effective in the race - after about 1k in I was overtaken by about 6 people and I overtook each and every one of them back again, 3 of them just before the finish line. How? Well various mental gymnastics went on, but the main thing was to be very attentive to my self talk at those key points when I was looking at the runner in front and deciding whether to overtake or not. As soon as I caught myself considering this, I gave myself the answer 'right now.'
It's amazing how if you make a mental decision to catch someone up and overtake, your body can respond - even if you are tired or already running fast.
I've added a poll to the front page of my website regarding mental focus - please consider responding.
Thanks Danny Dreyer if you read this for an interesting and inspiring blog post. It's so easy to get stuck with all that mental focus stuff.
So what do you do to maintain mental focus? What's your running mantra? I'd love to hear what you think helps you challenge the mental demons and keeps you going - especially as I now start to prepare for my first ultra - The High Peak 40. Please let me know ....