Is your mind keeping you from being a better runner?
We recently met a 72-year-old runner at a marathon expo. He was wearing a shirt that said, “Running is 80% mental. The rest is in your head.” We giggled and complimented his sense of humor before he told us that his shirt was no joke.
Without hesitation, he launched into a mesmerizing and lengthy story about how he found running in his 60s but didn’t think he could run a marathon. He ran a few half-marathons but believed he was too old to handle a longer distance. Shortly after his 70th birthday, though, he decided to give it a try. “It was all in my head!” he shouted, before detailing how he has run six marathons and has no plans of stopping as he gets older.
All too often the barriers in our racing and training are not physical but mental. The body is well-trained and ready to perform, but something in the mind holds us back. Some invisible wall is keeping us from experiencing that breakthrough race we are physically ready to run. If we are to reach our full potential we must train the mind as well as the body.
If you’ve ever thought to yourself, I could have run faster! within moments of crossing the finish line, or you can’t figure out why you don’t race as fast as you think you should, these three tips will help you shatter the mental barriers holding you back and catapult you to greater success as a runner:
1. Visualize: During your runs, see yourself in your next race running effortlessly. Picture yourself accelerating as the race goes on. Imagine fighting through the fatigue and refusing to slow down as you fly past people in the final mile. The more often you see it in your head the more likely you are to come through on race day.
2. Open your mind: Having an open mind doesn’t mean just letting new ideas and beliefs in. It also means letting old beliefs and ideas out. For you to really believe you can do something you must add the new idea that you can while simultaneously subtracting the old idea that you can’t.
3. Compare yourself to others: We normally discourage comparing yourself to others, but in this case if you can find someone who is already running faster than your goals, who is close to you in age, size, and general fitness, it will reinforce the belief that you can do it too!
Just before our new 72-year-old friend walked away to pick up his bib number for his seventh marathon, he offered one last piece of wisdom. “The next time your mind (or anyone else) tells you that you can’t do something, remember that you absolutely can. You just need to believe it.”
And we thought we were the running experts!
How do you break through mental barriers? What do you see as your mental barriers to overcome as a runner?
—Tim Catalano & Adam Goucher, Running Reporters
Running the Edge co-authors Adam Goucher and Tim Catalano became instant friends while running together at the University of Colorado. After college, Adam went on to have a very successful professional career that garnered eight national championships and an Olympic berth; Tim became a psychology teacher and high school coach in three different countries. They write about their passion for running on their blog, “Run The Edge” and on Facebook.