Mental Training: A Key to Peak Performance

Written by Dan and Kelly McCann

Only when mind and body are in sync can we achieve peak running performance. A bold statement – and a little Yoda-like – but a true one. Think back on your own running and the difference it's made when your mind was in the "right place." If you're telling yourself, "This run is miserable; I hate this..." Guess what?

Tim Catalano, co-author of Running the Edge: Discovering the Secrets to Better Running and a Better Life, is a former elite runner with a degree in psychology. He says you can choose to focus on the positive or the negative in any endeavor and create your own experience.

Pace & Positivity

Tim suggests a key to running faster may be getting back to that place where we enjoy running for running’s sake, not just for its outcomes. That doesn’t mean every mile will be wonderful, but if you take a moment, even in the middle of a raging downpour, to remind yourself how fortunate you are to be running in the first place, you’re more likely, he says, to appreciate the process.

“We can’t change an experience,” says Catalano. “But we can change how we experience that experience. You can let those dark voices overwhelm you and have a bad day, or you can make the voices focus on the good stuff, and it turns out to be a great day.”

Mind-Body Connection

No discussion on mental training would be complete without a few words from the late Lou Tice. Tice was big on the body-mind connection – convince “your mind” you can do it and your body will find a way. Put another way, "All meaningful and lasting change starts first on the inside and works its way out into the world," he said. 

Tice wrote, “One of the best-known techniques, for what sports psychologists and counselors call "performance enhancement," is visualization. Now, visualization is simply a form of mental practice. It's doing your sport over and over again in your mind, with all the right moves and the desired end result. You can do this with your eyes closed in a quiet room, riding the bus, in the shower, while you're waiting to see the dentist -- virtually any time. 

“All that's required is that you see yourself performing -- driving the ball, throwing the javelin, clearing the bar. It doesn't matter what the action is, as long as you are doing it perfectly. Because, you see, your subconscious doesn't know the difference between a vividly imagined picture and the actual event. And while mental practice can't replace the discipline and hard work of physical practice, in some ways it's even better. It guarantees that you are practicing perfection, and when you practice perfection, you are far more likely to perform perfectly.”

Bottom Line - When it gets tough out there or when we're reluctant to starting running in the first place, we don't do ourselves any favors by beating ourselves down mentally, by telling ourselves we "can't."

Have you come up with a mantra, that little something to get yourself back on track when negative thoughts try to creep in?

You're tired -- I am strong.

You're in over your head -- I am strong.

You have too many miles to go -- I am strong.

Never underestimate the power of positivity! 

Mental Training: A Key to Peak Performance
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