Runner’s World February 2004
By Jeff Galloway
This Is Your Brain on Running
Overcome mental barriers with these can’t fail training strategies.
- By Jeff Galloway
There’s one part of your body that might be hindering our
running. And it’s not your quads or your calves. It’s
Many runners allow mental hang-ups to limit their running performance.
Running hills seems to challenging? The avoid ‘em. Regular
speedwork sessions sound too painful? Scratch them off the training
schedule. Pretty soon, you’re left with little more than easy
jaunts around the block. Not that there’s anything wrong with
that. Except that you’d be a better runner if you added these
challenges to your program.
Luckily, our bodies can be just as strong - if not stronger - than
our minds. The following training techniques will show you how to
use your body to overcome all those negative mental messages that
have been holding you back. End result: a whole new set of running
challenges and accomplishments.
HILLS: SNEAK UP ON THEM
No doubt about it, running hills can be tough. But don’t let
the thought of hills psych you out. Once a week, schedule a run
in a hilly area. Jog very slowly for the first mile to get into
a comfortable rhythm. Then run only a dozen strides up a hill and
jog back down. Walk for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat, but this time
go a rew strides farther up the hill. Keep your effort level faster
than a jog, but it shouldn’t be too taxing.
Your brain will begin to enjoy the rhythm of this exercise as you
contine to work your way both up and down the hill. When your repeats
finally take you over the top of the hill, say “I loves hills,
“ as you conquer it. The first time out, do only three of
four repeats, Increase the number of repeat by one each week.
SPEEDWORK: TAKE ONE MORE LAP
Complex speedwork sessions can be too much for your mind to deal
with, especially as your body begins to tire during the effort.
That’s why you need to focus on completing one very limited
segment of work at a time.
For example, at the beginning of an 8-lap workout on the track,
start out by running just one lap. At the conclusion of that lap,
say “one more,” and then power through the next one.
Allowing your body to complete the task at hand (running one lap)
without thinking about the next will simplify the entire effort.
LONG RUNS: GO 1 MORE MILE
Long runs are tough on both the brain and the body: Your mind doesn’t
like the workouts that take a long time, and your legs don’t
like workouts that cover significant distances (lots of pounding).
Walk breaks can help you overcome both of these obstacles.
A long run becomes a series of short runs when you insert regular
walk breaks from the very beginning. If you insert 1-minute walk
breaks at the end of each mile of you 10-miler, your mind has the
simplified task of just focusing on runs that re 1 mile in length.
And your body gets planned break that allow your muscles to recover
while you continue to make progress, ultimately reducing the physical
and mental stress of the run.
RACING: SEARCH FOR THE EXTRA REWARD
Your mind can come up with lots of reason to hate racing: the pressure
of competing, the hard effort, the fear of failure. So you need
to come up with even stronger reasons to enjoy racing. Start with
the race flyer. Skip over al the info about the race itself, and
zero in on the postrace refreshments and freebies. Add another reward
by getting a friend who is also running the race to meet you for
lunch afterward so you can share war stores. Free stuff, good food,
great company, and the satisfaction of completing the distance will
keep you way too busy to focus on the negatives.
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