Mental Strength Training

Hello from California! Husbandface and I raced yesterday and I will have a full race report most likely next week about that. I’m going to a jet lagged mess the second half of this week, so nothing coherent is going to make it’s way out of my mouth or onto my computer.

So while I spend my last couple of days gallivanting, I thought I’d go ahead and introduce you to April. She’s a seriously badass runner with some killer accomplishments under her belt. She’s offering some solid advice on building strength for endurance training and racing that is well worth the read. Enjoy!

I’m so honored to be guest posting on The TriGirl Chronicles for Courtney while she’s off running!  As a runner myself, I love hearing and reading about races that I haven’t had the opportunity to run yet.  I’ll be eagerly awaiting her race recap when she gets back!

My name is April Mims and I blog at Everyday Fitness and Nutrition.  After I started running in 2006, I gradually started eating healthier foods and becoming healthier overall.  And if I can do it, I figured that anyone could.  I’ve loved the changes that healthy eating and getting more active has brought into my life.  I’m a happier, healthier person because of it and trying to set a good example for those around me!  I hope you enjoy my post and will connect with me on social media!  Your comments, progress and accomplishments really inspire me and I love reading them!

When I was first invited to do this guest post, I wasn’t sure what to write about.  Since most of you are amazing triathletes and I am merely a single sport athlete, I wanted to find something to share with you that would help you all throughout your training or race, not just the run portion.  I won’t admit to knowing anything about swimming and very little about biking but I do know that we all go through ups and downs during our training cycles as well as events.  So I am going to talk to you about talking to yourself.  It’s up to you whether you say these things aloud or not, but we all need to talk to ourselves at least internally to keep us focused and moving in the right direction.

I’ve done a lot of races in the 8 years that I’ve been running.  I’ve completed a 50K, 5 full marathons, 55 half marathons, and way too many shorter distances to count.  I don’t throw out those numbers to brag but to show that I am very experienced at the things that go through an athlete’s head during training and races.  I won’t admit to always having pleasant happy thoughts during the race but I have learned how to handle those thoughts and get past them by changing them to something positive.  While training has prepared your body physically for the race, it’s important to focus on the mental aspect as well.  And let’s be honest here, aren’t all athletes a little mental? 🙂

These are three of my favorite, most-often used mental strategies.  Like I said earlier, it’s up to you if you want to keep these thoughts in your head or say them aloud – just be prepared for some odd looks if you speak them (not that I’ve done that or anything) 🙂

1.  Have a mantra.  Having a short phrase or a few motivating words already prepared is helpful for those times when you may be struggling.  It’s important to have it prior to this point because this is not the best time to come up with a good one.  When you feel that doubt start creeping in, start repeating your mantra until you get past it.  You’ll have to come up with your own mantra since different words affect people in different ways.  One of my favorites is simply “believe”.  My longer mantra is “I am strong. I am confident. I AM a marathoner.”  A few times of saying that gets me back to the mental place where I need to be.  Other mantras that I’ve heard and liked are “one mile at a time”, “define yourself”, and “you’re doing this”.  Be sure to keep it positive, energetic and action oriented.

2.  Choose positive words.  This one is tough when you’re in the midst of the pain but practicing it during training helps you be prepared for race day.  My rule is to make every word positive.  While I’m no psychologist, I read that the brain hears words individually and interprets them that way.  For example, if you tell yourself “don’t stop”, those are both negative words.  Even though they are put together to be positive, somehow the brain hears “don’t” and “stop” instead.  But if you replace the individual negative words with positive words, your brain will have no opportunity to misinterpret what you mean.  Replace phrases like “don’t stop” with “keep going”.  Both say the same thing but one eliminates any negativity.  I can’t explain exactly why it works, but it does.

3.  Add a “but”.  No matter how hard you try, sometimes a less-than positive thought creeps in.  We just can’t help it sometimes – it’s the reality of our current situation and the challenge we are giving our body and minds.  All races are tough (some tougher than others) and we’re all human so not everything goes as planned every time.  Every now and then a thought pops in your head about how tired you are or how hard this is.  Those are definitely legitimate feelings but you don’t want to let them derail your progress and your positive thoughts.  What works really well for me is to acknowledge those feelings and add a “but” to the end.  For example, “I’m so tired” becomes “I’m so tired but I’m doing this!”.  Or “I want to quit” becomes “I want to quit but I am strong and will keep going”.   Such a simple word as “but” can really change the direction of your thoughts.

Do you have any positive thought strategies that you use regularly?  I’d love to hear your favorite mantra!

I’d love to connect with you on social media!  You can find me on Facebook, Pinterest, Bloglovin, or my website.  I even have a free 30 day fitness and nutrition challenge that you can start any time – it’s only 10 minutes a day!