Mental Games – What’s In Your Thought Space?

running-advice-bugI’ve been spending a lot of time considering how we control our thoughts and focus lately. If you’ve been following along, recently I was talking about how we respond to others and how we feel during races and how we control our own overall training picture in our heads. Something in this triggered me to start thinking about our old friend, whom we call pre-race anxiety, and how that problematic emotion relates to these topics. So I ask you today, “what’s in your thought space before a big race?”

Let’s start with a concept of the thought space itself. This is the active part of your thinking. It’s what you’re thinking about, pondering, considering, mulling over, and performing strateg-ery on. It’s the stuff that keeps you up at night because you are expending mental energy pouring over it. We’ll distinguish this from things that are going on in your subconscious mind, of which you may not even be aware. I bring up this distinction, because my first instruction is always to tell people to deal with pre-race anxiety by bringing the “fear” that they are feeling into their conscious minds and converting it into thoughts of excitement and energy. This forces them to move these thoughts and feelings into the foreground and actually think about them.

People process information and think about things in vastly different ways from one another. Not everyone has what we would consider the same level of “presence of mind” of what’s going on in their world. To give you an example of this, I was speaking with a runner recently who told me that he was wearing “whatever they gave me in the running store” on his feet. Contrast this with many other people that would be able to articulate to me which of their four pairs of running shoes that they have to choose from for a particular workout and why they would choose this pair over that one. This is due to the level of conscious thought that each of these people are devoting to their shoe selection. This is not to say that one is better than the other — or even that one is a faster runner than the other — but they are simply processing the situation in different ways.

So let’s think about how, when and why our race preparation for a major race should enter our thought space. If you follow along with this thinking you may find that you’ll have less stress as you come up to the race and less (or more controlled) pre-race anxiety.
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Video — Mental Preparation for the Marathon

running-advice-bugIt’s episode 19 in our weekly video series and this week we take on a topic near and dear to Coach Dean’s heart. As a Certified Mental Games Coach, Dean knows a thing or two about preparing athletes mentally to race.

This week we look at issues have to do with the mental aspects of running:
— How much of running is mental?
— What is mental toughness?
— How do first time marathoners differ from everyone else?
— Strategies for focusing in the last miles of a long run or race
— Dealing with mental barriers
— Pre-race anxiety

This video is part of our Desert Series, in which Coaches Joe English and Dean Hebert get their lips smackin’ about all things marathon running. There are over 30 episodes in the series and they come out every week on

To watch the video, just click the play button in the video window below.

There’s much more coming. We’ve filmed over 30 episodes in this series and we’ll be rolling them out each week. To visit our video page with links to all of the episodes in the series, click here.

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Training: the first-time marathon runner 20-miler mental anguish

running-advice-bugIt’s always great to see another group of marathon runners graduate from my program by finishing their first marathons. But before getting to graduation day, they have to make it through their first 20 mile run. One of my groups — runners training for the upcoming Rock N Roll Marathon in San Diego — went through that process this weekend.

First TimeI’ve written about the 20 mile run before. It’s a unique animal for a number of reasons. For most runners it is much, much further than they have ever conceived of running before — even when they began their marathon training program. It’s just sort of hard to imagine the scale of 20 miles in your mind and, until you do it, it isn’t something that we grasp easily.

It’s also tough from the perspective that running 20 miles on your own — even with a small group — feels very different than the energy of race day. There you are slogging through mile after mile, getting more and more tired, stopping at the traffic lights, avoiding cars, and wondering to yourself, “now, why am I doing this again?”

That’s where I wanted to focus today. The mental anguish that the 20-miler sets up in the first-time marathon runner’s mind and maybe some ways to get around them.

The problem was brought into stark relief this weekend when as runner said to me, just after finishing her run, “I don’t feel ready for the marathon.” A 20 mile run has a way of leaving a runner with that feeling. I think the thought process goes a little like this:
– I just ran 20 miles.
– Wow, I need to go another 6 miles in the marathon.
– I’m really tired.
– My legs hurt.
– I don’t think I could go another 6 miles.
– What have I gotten myself into?
– I think I’m going to puke.
– I don’t feel ready for the marathon.
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