Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Part of my job as a run coach is to prepare my runners for every aspect of racing. The physical part of training is often not the most challenging component of getting ready to crush goals. If a runner doesn’t have her mind on board for the challenges ahead, it is really difficult and sometimes even impossible for them to reach their goal, even when they are successfully completing all of their training runs.
Training your thoughts is a life-long process that takes dedication and work. Recently, I had the amazing opportunity to eat lunch with a group of other runners including World Record holder and Olympian Deena Kastor. One of the things she said that resonated the most was, “We aren’t born optimists.” I often feel guilty for not being as optimistic as I think I am supposed to be and hearing these words immediately caused me to reframe how I look at my own thoughts and mental training.
Successfully training your brain for race day means being mentally prepared for success and for tackling any obstacle that comes your way. It can also mean knowing how to change your thought process and redeem your race day experience should things work against you that cause some or all of your race day goals to go out the window.
Your training plan includes rest days, interval workouts, tempo runs, long runs, easy runs and strength training days but it leaves out mandatory days of the week to work on training your thoughts. On your weekly training plan pencil in two days per week that you’ll dedicate ten minutes to working on training your brain. If you aren’t sure what to do with that time here is where to start:
- Spend time visualizing your perfect race day. This means see everything going as smoothly as possible from the time your alarm goes off on race day morning until the time you cross the finish line. You’ll want to visualize every single detail of race day.
- Write out a list of race day obstacles that might come up and then write out how you’ll overcome each of those. Having a plan in place and knowing how you’ll handle obstacles will help you stay optimistic when a challenge arises.
- Read articles that can help you learn how to improve your mental game. Here’s a good one from Dorothy of Mile Posts.
No matter what, remember getting into the habit of training your brain and building optimism takes work and dedication in the same way it takes time to build speed and endurance.