There is so much being written and said about mental preparation when it comes to racing, and for good reason. The mind and body connection is so strong and, if you’re not using it to your advantage on race day, you’re leaving out a key element in achieving your goals. Not training your mind is like leaving out speed work. It’s that important.
I want to share with you a simple technique my coach taught me, that has helped enormously when it comes to race day. I wrote about it for USATriathlon Magazine because I think everyone can use it to their advantage.
Since we’re only days away from the New York City marathon, I know there are lots of runners out there who are searching for just this kind of last minute tip. And, even if you’re done with racing this season, you can add this to your tool kit for next season.
[Tweet “The simple #mental #preparation technique you can use for #race day!”]
If you’re anything like me, your mind can run wild with “what ifs” in the weeks and days leading up to a race:
What if the weather is horrible?
What if I don’t fuel properly?
What if I feel sluggish right from the start?
What if I hit the wall?
And the list can go on and on and on.
There is very little we can control when it comes to race day. You prepare as much as you possibly can and then, it all comes down to that one day. In a lot of ways this seems unfair, unless you take control with your mind.
The technique my coach taught me is this:
- Sit down with an actual pen and paper.
- Write down every single worry or way the race could go wrong.
- Write a solution (or several) to each.
My list usually looks something like this:
What if my goggles get knocked off in the swim? Practice swimming with the goggle strap under your swim cap or wear two pair of goggles. But seriously, this has never happened so stop worrying about it.
What if I get a flat tire? Change it. You know how to do it and, let’s face it, you’re more worried about the time it will take to change it than the actual flat. There’s nothing you can do about it but change it as quickly as possible and do your best to finish fast.
What if I get a blister on the run (from running without socks)? Make sure to add some glide to the backs of your running shoes in the transition area. If you forget, just deal with the pain. You’ve done it before and you can do it again.
What if the weather is horrible? Everyone has to deal with the same conditions. Think about the adjustments you have to make and then get out there and do your best. You have raced in horrible weather many times before and come out on top. This is what you chose to do for fun so…
Obviously the list can go on for as many fears or unknowns you can think of. I usually try to keep it to the things I’m most concerned about and, I can tell you it works! Most of my fears never come to fruition but it only helps to have a mental plan.
Why It Works
A lot of athletes, myself included, practice visualization. Visualization works on so many levels but, it’s only focusing your mind on everything going exactly to plan. Using this technique you are not allowing your mind to create any other outcome than perfection, which is great, until it isn’t.
The technique my coach taught me and, the one I used for the last several races of my triathlon season, works because it takes care of all the unknowns as well what your mind and body have already perfected. It completes the circle. It calms your fears. It works.
Good luck to everyone racing NYC this weekend! Remember that there will most certainly be highs and lows but, you have trained your body and mind to handle the distance and you will accomplish your goal!
[Tweet “#NYCMarathon #runners read this before #race day! #mentalpreparation”]
Do you use mental preparation techniques?
Will you try this? Why or why not?
Running NYC this weekend?
I ADORE THIS FOR ALLLLL FACETS OF MY LIFE!
And typically I need both parts.
I need to visualize myself being a huge 🙂 success AND list and “negate/solve” any roadblocks I might encounter.
The visualizing success is key here.
If I cant do that? I rarely am successful.
Precisely!!! I like to have all the bases covered 🙂
I agree with Carla – this is great for everything in life! I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to mental preparedness. I need to do something like this from now on! Great tips coach!
Sometimes it seems so silly but it really works. I use it for flying all.the.time…although it doesn’t always work there!
That is so true. Thank you for sharing. I’ve always feel a little bit stressed before a goal race so this is great advice I will put into practice. Also, congrats on being published! I know it’s probably “not a big deal” but it’s awesome!
It actually IS a big deal so THANK YOU! I keep all the magazines I have articles in so I can show my kids what a “magazine” was 🙂 LOL!
I hope this technique helps Hollie. I want to be a very tiny part of your success 🙂
THis is great, and to echo everyone else (particularly Carla)–how do we not do this for every aspect of our lives???
Totally!!! It’s beyond useful for all the things!!
This strategy looks perfectly awesome!!! I will definitely try it even though I’m not racing anytime soon. It’s just a great strategy for life! Like interviews for new job or anything where you plan and prepare for something.
I used to try visualizing myself achieving my goals but that didn’t always work fir me. I would drift off from my vision and end up in fairy land thinking about random stuff like laundry. I need hard objectives and lists. I truly need to write stuff down. The process of writing or typing helps me work out the kinks. This is perfect. I go through this in my head but to actually put it down on paper would totally take it to another level. Thanks Ali!
Oh yes, the mind wandering totally happens unless you’re actually writing. I seriously hope you can use this for some facet of your crazy life right now 🙂
thank you for these tips!! I spent a great deal of time with a fast runner I met in Jamaica at the conference (who happens to be a CEO of one of the sponsors–nbd) and before I found out about her position she was offering me all the food and I told her I was keeping a lid on it for the marathon and we got into this entire conversation about mental prep for marathons. She basically coached me right there on the spot for hours on how to keep your head in the game. So with both your tactic and her strategy I feel good about Sunday.
*THE STARS ARE ALIGNING FOR YOU* It’s all happening and you are going to just thrive out there on Sunday!! Go get it!!
Mine would be what if I poop my pants? There’s no good answer for that! And I don’t want to be a meme…
Seriously, tho, back in the day when I had anxiety attacks, that was a technique my therapist used to help me. She told me to ask myself what was the worst thing that could happen to me during one, which of course was nothing. It’s a great way to extinguish fear!
It would not be the first time a runner pooped themselves, right? And, being a meme for something is better than nothing?? Maybe? No? Ok.
And yes, that therapy works most of the time except for my fear of flying because, fiery death. Ugh.
You know I need to practice this! It’s funny because I do this is other aspects of my life but lately with running it’s been a mental shit show (damn time goals!). But I love this and will definitely be doing this as Philly draws near!
You can bullet journal it 🙂
As for those goal times? Let it go and let your body do it’s thing! You are trained and ready.
You know this is one of my weaknesses, so I definitely will be trying it out!!
YES!…but still no more plyo please! 🙂
I’m going to share this post and practice with some of my athletes! I wish I actually had a practice like this back for when I was in academia and would become a bundle of nerves before conferences and defenses. Now I’m definitely going to do it before CIM. Thank you for sharing!
Sweet! It makes me so happy when you share.
Let me know if it helps before CIM too!
This a a great technique for life! I’m forever running through scenarios for whatever it is that I’m doing and I just make sure I’m prepared for the worst possible thing to happen. Does that sound horrible? LOL!
Also, that Chuck Noris funny… OMG.
Um, no not horrible – it sounds exactly like my life!!
And, that Chuck Norris thing didn’t even really fit the post but it was too hilarious not to add in 🙂 Thanks Laura!
I love this tip! I need to do this to get all of the what if’s out of my head to stop the worrying and get onto the fun!
Exactly that – YES! And, seriously…it works!!
This is so good! Thinking through the worst case scenario so specifically takes the fear out of the unknown. I’m not stressing about NYC since I’m not planning to race, but there are many races where this would have been helpful!
There is always next year 🙂 Thanks Laura and I hope you have a great (fun) race on Sunday!
Oh, you know what this totally reminds me of? After I had Jake (my first kid, when I was 22 years old) I developed a maaaaaajorly huge case of post partum anxiety. When I went to the psychiatrist she told me to write down every single thing that I was worried about and I legit filled 4 pages back to back single spaced lines of what ifs. I kick myself for not keeping those pages because they were CRAY. But such a great thing to do. Sometimes we just need to get out of our heads and put shit down so that we can see it more objectively.
Totally!!!! I was journaling like a mad woman when the boys were born and it’s like the ramblings of a lunatic…because that’s basically who I was at that time!!
Brilliant. I wish I had read this before my last marathon snafu. I’ll definitely be using this in the future. Thank you for sharing your smart race strategies!! As per usual you continue to inspire. Keep up the good work !
Thanks so much and I really hope you try it in the future – it works!