Whether you’ve set the goal to complete a 5K or a marathon this year, you’ll find the coming months filled with physical preparation. In the future, I would love to give some suggestions on training for these different distances, but today I want to discuss another aspect of preparation that will have a huge impact on your final goal: mental training.
There will be a time during your preparation or your race when you want to quit. It is at these times you will find that having a positive attitude, pushing yourself a little further, and believing in yourself will be the difference between giving up or finishing your race.
It's exciting to have a goal to work towards and to see yourself progress over time. You may find, however, that there are days where this excitement is replaced with frustration or lack of interest in training. You are tired, busy, stressed, etc., and to go out and run seems to be another thing to add to your list. This attitude will only decrease your motivation. At these times, it is helpful to remind yourself of your end goal, perhaps see this as a chance to take a break from your everyday list, and then just go out and do instead carrying on a mental debate.
Having a positive mental attitude will get you running, but you'll also need it during and after your run. There will be times where a workout does not feel as easy as it should or you don’t finish a goal as quickly as you had hoped. During these times, you have to develop a positive attitude about the effort that you did put in. I know this all to well as I have tried for 5 years to qualify for the Boston Marathon and have come just short of the goal each time due to illness, cramping up, or my timing chip malfunctioning. I have learned from others to look at what I can improve for the future and then be happy about how far I have come and what I did accomplish.A positive attitude about your efforts changes your experience and your memories.
As you your training progresses, so does the distance, time, and speed. Stretching yourself is difficult and at times uncomfortable, but in order to improve, you have to make this stretch. When you hit what you feel is your limit, it is time for your mind to take over. You will need to mentally push yourself a little more than where you were at. Set a goal to go just a little further than you did the day before (even if it is just a couple of feet) or run a little faster than you did last week (mind you, if you feel a serious injury will result, you need to stop). By practicing this attitude of perseverance, you will be able to draw upon it during your race when you feel like you have given it your all. If you learn to keep going you will be surprised at what you can complete.
You will not only need to draw upon a positive attitude and the ability to mentally push yourself, but you need to believe in yourself. You have put forth the effort to prepare so when you start to doubt yourself or your ability to complete the race, mentally you need to tell yourself that you can do it. One minute you may feel on top of the world, and the next minute it may seem that everyone is passing you. Don’t let your mind wander and don’t question your abilities. You are not comparing yourself with other runners; you are running this race because it is your goal. Tell yourself that you can do it, even if it means repeating this to yourself over and over while you keep moving towards the finish. By believing in yourself and your abilities, you will find enjoyment in your run.
It is important to go into any running goal with proper physical training, but equally important is the mental training. If you can be positive about your efforts and goal, push yourself a little further, and believe in yourself, you will find the training and complettion of your race much more rewarding. You will also see it carry over into your individual race of life. Keep moving: the end goal is worth it!