Friday, February 24, 2006


I was going to address relaxation today, but Miler raised some good points with his comments yesterday and I wanted to address them. While it seems the author took some liberties, I do see his book as more than a “pep talk.” I believe, with practice, I can improve things like relaxation, visualization skills, ability to focus, positive imagery, etc., which will lead to better running and faster times.

In fact, I know these things work because I used them effectively in college. During winter break of my sophomore year I read The Competitive Edge and practiced my mental skills. That indoor track season, without any change in training, I was doing workouts with guys that had been drilling me during cross country. I went on to set PRs at 3K and 5K.

Here’s another simple example that shows, if nothing else, that just being more aware of your mental state can help. Tuesday night (before this new focus) I was running hills with my training group and (I’m ashamed to mentioned this) I verbalized that I was a terrible hill runner. Wednesday I was thinking about this during my run and I realized I’m not a terrible hill runner. I might not be the fastest, but I’m strong. I don’t get tired, which allows me to recover quicker than other runners. So now when I run hills I don’t think “I’m terrible,” I think “I’m incredibly fucking strong” (f-bomb added for emphasis).

Today’s run gave me a chance to practice some of my mental skills. I ran a 12 mile strong aerobic workout that included 4 x 2 miles with a minute jog in between. The first two were into a slight wind. Looking at the times (14:59, 13:57, 13:34, 13:52), it’s obvious that it takes me awhile to get going in the morning. This reaffirms what I learned last year at Grandma’s. Even though I hit the first mile right where I wanted to be, it felt like I was pushing too hard, too soon. I’ll keep that in mind for this year. I’d rather use the first 2-3 miles as a warmup, even if it means being 1 minute slower than my goal time.

Some of the things I tried to practice today included staying as relaxed as possible by using a cue word (which I’ll talk more about during the relaxation post), acting as if I’m running with someone, and trying to hold onto a thought as long as possible. This last one is tougher than it sounds. Next time you go for a run try thinking about just one thing, like your breathing, stride, arm swing, etc. for as long as possible. It’s amazing how quickly other thoughts flood your mind and you won’t even realize it. One minute I’m focused on my stride rate, the next I’m thinking about emails I need to send, my next blog entry, how much Sasha Cohen looks like an elf, etc. - just random thoughts zipping around my head.

I believe if I can hone those skills in the next 4 months, I’ll have a better shot of reaching my goal at Grandma’s. The last thing I want is to put in all this training, only to screw the pooch on race day because I left the mental aspect to chance.
Quote of the Day:
“The deepest personal defeat suffered by human beings is constituted by the difference between what one was capable of becoming and what one has become.” Ashley Montagu


Anonymous said...


I find that concentration is critical for running fast. Over the years I have learned to pick a simple motivating tune to play over and over in your mind, and think about splits, form, pain level, and nothing else. I find this mental approach critical for anything half-marathon race pace or faster. In fact, without proper concentration I am unable to sustain my half-marathon pace even for a quarter.

Christine said...

I read somewhere a little mental trick that I use often. When you start to feel pain, when you are running, just relax and accept it. Saying something like, "Hello pain, there you are again. Come run with me." I don't know why, but I like that.

Anonymous said...

I remain a skeptic (-; However, your comment about focusing on breathing and trying not to get lost in thoughts is interesting, it is very similar to the idea of mindfulness.

Of course I view running as a means to mindfulness, not the other way around.

btw I do have a blog. It's very low key, mostly for me and friends, and I'd rather it not show up in search engines (so don't link to it), but you can find it at rumba5 dot rutgers dot edu slash webboard

Chad said...

Hey Sasha. I'd agree with the half-marathon pace or faster comment. Marathon pace takes a lot less mental effort for me. In fact during a marathon, I try not to focus at all during the first 10 miles.

Christine, I've read that trick too, but can't say I use that one. Maybe I need to incorporate it into my racing.

Miler, I don't mind having skeptics. I'd rather have someone come on here and challenge me to really think about this stuff, rather than just blow sunshine up my ass.

Thanks for the link to your blog, I'll check it out.