If this sounds familiar, be assured you are not alone. We all tell ourselves similar things when we commit to a challenging task. That is why the mental battle of any challenge is always greater than the physical.
Yes, a half marathon is a really long way, and yes you can do it by following these five tips.
1. Be prepared
It’s an oldie but a goodie. Prepare yourself by training for the event so you are physically able to do it. This will increase your enjoyment and safety during the event. It also provides ammunition when the self-doubt demon appears closer to the event, which he/she is likely to do. Follow a suitable training programme for both the distance and the time available. You want a plan that gradually increases in distance and balances activity with recovery. Don’t be tempted to take short cuts. It’s better to arrive at the start line undertrained, than not to arrive at all due to injury or illness from overtraining.
The brain is a powerful machine. By imagining yourself performing a task, you fire up the same neurons as if you were actually performing the task. While there is a benefit in picturing yourself triumphantly crossing the finish line, there is greater benefit in imaging the steps that will get you there. Familiarise yourself with the course so you can imagine yourself walking it. Learn where any course challenges may lurk - hills, notorious Wellington “wind tunnels”, or long straight stretches that may lead to boredom. Imagine the challenges and successfully overcoming them. Picture the sights, sounds and smells you may experience on event day. Mentally rehearsing the steps that will take you to the finish line will increase your confidence and mental strength on the day.
3. Positive self-talk
Next time you’re training tune into the self-chatter. Is it positive or negative? Are you saying you’re tired? Slow? Unfit? How does it make you feel? Like imagery, our bodies take on the messages they receive. If you say to yourself over and over again that you are tired, you will feel tired. Your legs will feel as though they are wading through mud, your body will be hunched and you will feel as though your puffing like a train. You can turn this around by practicing positive self-talk: “I am energetic, I am fit, I am fast”. You will become what you tell yourself. Your legs will feel strong and light, your body will be upright and you will feel swift. The more you practice, the easier and more effective it becomes so that come event day when you may actually be tired, you’ll be a seasoned pro at turning any negative chatter around.
4. Repeating mantras
Mantras are short snappy sayings that inspire, energise, soothe and focus. When you say mantras regularly in training and on event day, they become the fuel to keep you going when fatigue, boredom or anxiety hit. As with the other tips, the more they are practiced, the more powerful they become. Try out a few different mantras during training to find one that works for you. The best ones are short, motivational or instructive, and all about you. Here are my favourite mantras, often used together:
- “You can do it”
- “You’ve got this”
- “You are strong. You are swift”
- “One foot in front of the other is all it takes”.
5. Event day plan
Like mental rehearsal, the more you go through a set routine, the more comfortable and confident you become with it. By creating an event day plan and then mimicking it during your training, the more confident you will feel. It also takes the guess-work out on the day which gives your brain a rest. Your event day plan might include:
- What you’ll eat for dinner the night before
- What time you will wake up
- What you will wear
- What you will eat for breakfast
- Where you will start from and how you will get there
- What will you eat and drink during the event
- How will you recover after the event
Failing all else if the self-doubt demon just won’t quit, I like to give a ridiculous name, personality and voice to the demon. It’s hard to take a demon seriously when it takes on the characteristics of someone like Porky Pig.
Look out for my next article where I’ll share more tips on winning the mental game on event day.
© 2019 Spring Coaching Ltd
Director Spring Coaching