We’ve all had a bad run at one time or another, whether it was a race that didn’t go to plan or a jog around the park where your legs felt like lead. You know how it starts you focus on the niggle in your calf or worry about the hill halfway through your route, and when you finally drag yourself out of the door (if you manage to at all), you can’t seem to find your strider, let alone enjoy it. In short, a lack of confidence can hamper your physical ability.
According to Jacqui Cleaver, life coach at New You Boot Camp (https://newyoubootcamp.com), positive thinking is vital. The body is physically capable of so much yet it is people’s minds that prevent them from achieving their running goals,’ she says.
Becki Houlston, a life coach based in Bournemouth and London (www.beckihoulston.com) agrees. ‘The formula to elite achievement is Potential- Interference = Performance’, she explains. Put simply; remove the obstacles your mind throws in your path, such as fear and worry, and you’ll be able to achieve your potential.
Need some help to boost your mental strength? Here are four confidence-zapping scenarios and how to push through them…
1. Get Out There
If you’re new to running, getting out of the door in the first place can be a huge challenge. ‘One of the biggest issues we deal with at New You Boot Camp is our clients’ utter conviction they ‘can’t’ run,’ says Cleaver. ‘The first step is to erase the word ‘can’t from your vocabulary. There’s no ‘can’t’ about it- you simple don’t want to.’
Next, set achievable goals. Many people start training with a specific goal in mind, whether it’s a SK or a half marathon,’ says life coach and personal trainer Karl Frew, based in Lichfield, Staffordshire. However, when you first start running, there might be such a big gap between your current ability and your end goal that you may end up feeling demotivated.’ The key, explains Frew, is to break your goals in to more realistic chunks. ‘Set yourself a small, manageable target each run, even if it’s as basic as trying to run a few more metres,’ he says. ‘These small goals will give you a sense of accomplishment at the end of every session.’
2. Go the Distance
As a regular runner, it’s likely you have set routes if a certain distance that you can complete comfortably. But what if you want to up your mileage and are struggling with the extra distance? According to Cleaver, this is a common mental block. ‘A regular runner’s mind-set tells them they’re already pushing to full capacity,’ she says. ‘The key is to break those personal boundaries by setting new, attainable goals. ‘So, if you currently run 5k three times a week, but want to complete a 10k race, add 1k every two weeks. ‘It’s imperative that you pre-plan your new routes, so your new mind-set is in place before you head out,’ says Cleaver.
Houlston also points out that it’s important to breathe easily while you run, in order to keep your mind on track. ‘The brain needs oxygen to stay focused, but it’s common for runners to hold their breath when they start to feel fatigued,’ she says. ‘This results in the brain shutting down all but essential life systems. It will stop you thinking clearly, which will limit your performance. ‘So, if you start to feel tired, focus on your breathing to stay in control. ‘A good mantra to run with is ‘My lungs are relaxed’, says Houlston.
So you have made it to the start line of your race- but what if race day nerves set in? ‘A fabulous mechanism to calm nerves is ‘anchoring’, says Cleaver. ‘Anchors can be set at any time and will help your mind stay grounded and calm. Cleaver suggests that music can be a great race-day anchor. It’s a good idea to create a playlist of calming music that you can listen to before your run, she says. If it’s music you’ve listened to before in a relaxed, happy setting, your brain will acknowledge the calming influence and subconsciously bring you back to that time.
Back on Track
If you’ve had a bad running experience, whether it is a race you failed to finish or a training run you struggled with, it can be difficult to get past your feelings of disappointment. But a little brain training will go a long way. Try visioning to mentally prepare yourself to success, says Justine Swainson from Turning Point Coaching and Training in Cardiff. This involves creating a detailed mental picture of how your next run or race will look, sound and feel- it’s like mentally rehearsing your success. So, picture yourself running with the perfect technique and- if your goal is a long-distance run- mentally rehearse breaking through that wall. The more perfect you can make your vision, the better, says Swainson. That way, when you come to physically running your race you’ll be perfectly prepared, as you’ll have mentally achieved your goal many times.