We train hard, we try to get enough sleep, and we watch what we are putting in our mouths (post Christmas holidays, of course). We rarely, if ever, miss a workout and yet we still approach the start line lacking one major weapon: mental training.
What is mental training, exactly? I like to think of it as the foundation for confidence. The foundation for carrying out all the physical prep work we put into a race day. Without confidence, what good is all of our training if we don’t even think we can? If you have experienced this lack of confidence even after putting in all the training - ie: can I make it to the finish line? What was I thinking making such a lofty goal? - you’re likely missing one very important aspect to your training: mental training.
Mental training takes on many forms. The one that I am most familiar with and can attest to is that of internal mental imagery. This is mental training inside yourself - it’s imagining yourself as you persevere through those tough workouts seeing the finishing clock with your goal time on it or imagining what you’ll feel like in a moment of a dark place during a race and pulling through it. It could be imagining yourself easily running your race pace as you hit it during training sessions. Mental imagery is a very personal thing as everyone’s goals, aspirations, and fears will be individual and unique. In the past two years I have learned the power of mental imagery, firsthand. I can recall very clearly three races that I have applied mental training to my training plan. And as good as it can be, you have to be careful to not let it have the opposite effect. One was the BMO Okanagan half marathon, another the BMO Okanagan 10k and the other the Last Chance Half. The former two I imagined breaking the ribbon towards the end of my training. I imagined myself sticking to my paces and feeling like I had wings. The latter I had not trained specifically for; however, I run that distance with my husband often. I questioned what I was thinking running that race and walked to the start line feeling like I had tucked my confidence away for winter. What happened? I ran through two ribbons (the former) and pulled out of my first race ever (the latter). Sure, things happen. And maybe mental imagery won’t make us win a race (heck - we never know who is going to show up to start line). But what it can make us do is have confidence in our training and ourselves. So, promise me if you’re reading this post you will give it a try. Next time you’re on that treadmill or racing past someone during an interval on the pathways, put your hands up in the air, like you just don’t care, and imagine that finish line at the end of your run. If you can do it in training, you can MORE than do it on race day!