Mental Preparation

In order to successfully complete a half or full marathon, the endurance athlete must possess both physical and mental toughness. Up to this point you should already feel confident in your physical training status, but how comfortable are you mentally?

The mental aspect of long distance running is often overlooked; however this aspect of training and performance is vital if an endurance athlete wants to compete at his or her best.

By signing-up for the Buffalo Marathon you have already set a goal for yourself. No matter what that goal may be (finish within a certain timeframe or to just finish, period) having a goal in mind is the best mental starting point for any endurance athlete. Having realistic goals and demonstrating self-determination will serve you well during the remainder of your training and into race day.

In conjunction with clear goals and self-determination, the endurance athlete must utilize self-talk, breathing skills and imagery throughout the course in order to find his or her “zone.”

“You must have dreams and goals if you are ever going to achieve anything in this world.” –Lou Holtz

We utilize self-talk every day. Whenever an individual thinks, they are practicing self-talk.

Self-talk can develop from inner or outer stimuli, but it is ultimately up to that individual to determine how he or she will interpret and process this information.

Self-talk can take many shapes: It can be positive, negative or neutral. It is imperative the endurance athlete focuses on positive self-talk while running.

Both training days and race day will bring unique challenges, and distractors, to you – by repeating positive self-talk to yourself, you will assist in the process of blocking negative states or situations and turning them into positive or neutral thoughts. For example: Race day could be hot.

Not only should you be hydrating appropriately, but having positive self-talk will assist in “blocking” out this distractor (the heat) while keeping your mind focused on your goals (keep going/finish the race).

Negative thoughts can become distractors very quickly. Understand you are in control of your self-talk from start to finish.

“My thoughts before a big race are usually pretty simple. I tell myself: Get out of the blocks, run your race, stay relaxed. If you run your race, you will win… Channel your energy. Focus.” –Carl Lewis

Breathing is arguably one of the simplest of skills we can control. Controlling our breathing helps decrease our heart rate which then provides relaxation for our body.

Beginning at the starting line, the endurance athlete should focus on his or her breathing as a way to decrease anxiety and eliminate negative self-talk (breathe in through the nose and out the mouth).
Breathing regulation should be incorporated within an endurance athlete’s training regimen so he or she can apply this skill on race day.

When negative self-talk floods your mind, focus on the air entering your body (chest rise) and then focus on the air leaving your body (chest fall).

“One way to break up any kind of tension is good deep breathing.” –Byron Nelson

Imagery is a process by which the endurance athlete will create mental images in his or her head that pertain to the activity he or she will perform. Imagery can be a powerful tool to increase confidence, focus and athletic performance.

We often see athletes being “pumped up” before a game or race – this is a form of external imagery (through music, video, etc). Imagery can also be formed by internal thoughts or positive self-talk.

Imagery is a powerful tool that is utilized by amateur, professional and Olympic athletes around the world.

Whichever method you prefer, external or internal, imagery can be valuable and should be incorporated in your training and implemented on race day.

“You cannot know if you will be successful or not. You can only prepare for battle, and it must be done with all of your heart and with all of your consciousness. In that manner, you will have an edge.” –Sun Tzu, The Art of War (translated by Kaufman)

If you experience a training injury or have an ongoing issue limiting your training, please contact the Excelsior STRIDES Team. To learn more about Excelsior and our STRIDES program, click here. You may also contact us via phone at 716-250-6539. Be sure to let our Patient Contact Specialist know that you’re registered for the Buffalo Marathon and we will get you in to see a member of our STRIDES program ASAP.