Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hit me with your best MENTAL training plan!

First, I want to announce the winner of the C-YA lightning bolt giveaway.  Random number generator picked Kristen!  Kristen, since I’ll be seeing you on Saturday I’ll just bring your lightning bolt with me---congrats!

Now onto mental training and my lack of it!  I’ve been thinking lately about how mental running can be.  Sure, without physical training most people can’t go out and run long distances or even more than a mile or two.  But training plans are all about the miles and paces.  There usually isn’t a section on the mental part of training.  I was talking with a friend who I run with occasionally and she told me that I have “major mental hang-ups.”  I was slightly offended when she first said it but then I got to thinking about it and realized hmmm…she might have a point.  I often find myself out running feeling good and then looking down at my Garmin, seeing a faster than I THINK I SHOULD be going pace, freak out and my breathing gets all labored and I have to take a walk break to calm down.  Is this the equivalent of a mental turned physical fight or flight response?  Would I have kept going strong at a XX pace had I not looked down and freaked out?

When I first started running back in 2000, I was strictly a treadmill runner, I never ran farther than 4-5 miles, I never took walk breaks and I always found my “zone.”  I was also a MUCH faster runner.  I remember getting on the treadmill, warming up at a 6.0 (10 min mile) for 15 minutes and then bumping the tready to 6.6 (9:05 min mile) and zoning out, covering the stats on tready with my towel and just running.  About the time I’d start to get a little tired, I’d uncover the stats, wipe my face with the towel, set the treadmill at 6.8 (8:49 min mile) and go for another ½ mile no matter what.  Sometimes that meant I’d run 4 miles total sometimes as much as 5 miles total, depending on when I got to that “slightly tired” phase.  I barely do speedwork at a 9:00 min mile now.  What was it about those days---how was it that I always found my zone and that my speed was always consistent?

Yesterday, I did an experiment.  I set my watch on the total time screen instead of the screen that shows pace/distance/etc.   I also didn’t go out with a set distance just a route in mind that I figured would be “about” 3ish miles.  I wanted to do a tempo-ish run.  Before leaving the house I had planned to run comfortably/easy to a certain street, at that street I’d pick it up a bit and then when I hit X street I’d go back to comfortable/easy.  I think I was still too much in my head about pacing but I think it was a little better.  Turns out my “easy” pace is about 10:45-11:15 min mile and my “pick it up pace” is about 9:50-10:15 pace.  I had the Garmin set to .25 interval catches so I look at my splits when I was done.  Granted this was a short run but if you had asked me yesterday before running, I would have said my “easy” pace was an 11:30 or 12:00 min mile and my “comfortably hard” pace was a 10:30-45 min mile.  It may very well be the case on a longer distance that those hold true BUT for shorter distances I think I’m faster than I think I am.   

So, keeping the afore mentioned in mind what is the best training plan for mental training?  I’m willing to do almost anything to get my head in the game so bring on all the creative and potentially silly sounding things you do to mentally train your brain to run at the paces you want to run. 


  1. Nice job on picking it up! I think that you can be a much faster runner if you don't psyche yourself out.

    I think that most important aspect of mental training is working on maintaining a positive outlook. Whether you need to actively work at that with a "list 5 positive things in my life" each day thing, or it's something you can strive for & correct yourself when you find yourself feeling negative/down on yourself/etc, or a combo of the two (sometimes I need to make "why life is good" lists, but most of the time, I can keep myself pretty happy w/ little effort)....

    ANYWAYS - if you actively cultivate a more positive attitude about EVERYTHING, you'll start feeling more positive in every aspect of your life - including your ability to be a much faster runner.

    After all - you're in your prime! You have the determination, the stamina, and the ability to do anything you set your mind to. Just set your mind to being a faster runner. :)

  2. I think the best mental training is to go out there and pound a ton of mileage. It gets you desensitized to pain and helps you realize that you can suffer through it.

    Also the best runners are always the ones that can dumb down their brain during races. Turn it off and just run until you reach the finish line. It comes easy for me! HA!

  3. I have a post all about Mental training today.. Maybe something in there will help you :) hugs!

  4. I don't have advice on the mental aspect...but I need some!

    I do want to suggest macmillans pace guide because there are so many more types of paces than just easy and hard (it overwhelms me) and i've found it very useful to figure out how to do short fast intervals vs steady run vs easy vs long run. etc

  5. I think mental training is something that often gets overlooked, but it is so important. I don't know if I have any tips, but I always try to start my runs with a positive attitude. Of, if I'm not feeling it, I tell myself to give it a mile. If I still don't feel good about it, I can stop, but usually I end up wanting to finish the run.
    Also, the test you did was a good one. Maybe you should just run without your Garmin for awhile and just run by feel?? It sounds like the act of "seeing" the pace is what gets you mentally.

  6. Mental training...the most difficult part!

    Cheers from Hong kOng!


  7. Yay - I won something!! :) Thank you!!

    Hmm, well, first I don't think you should freak out if you look down and see you are going FASTER than you thought you were!! That is a good thing! I usually freak out when I thought I was going fast but then discover I was going slower - then I am all messed up.

    I think the hardest thing for me mentally is performing where others think I should be - I need to constantly remind myself this is for me and if I am slow I am slow and who cares. It is especially hard running with others who are faster.

    Not looking at the pace is a good start. Maybe run a few runs not looking at your pace and then you will know where your body wants to be and aim to run in those paces. You will know you are capable of at least that. However if you are faster or slower on any given day it doesn't matter - we all have good and bad days.

  8. Running is so mental! I think that is why I hate the treadmill, it mentally drags on me that I'm running and not going anywhere. When I hit a mental rut I'll pick a favourite route that I may not run as often to get out there and enjoy the scenery. That often helps to take my mind off the task!

  9. lots of hard speed work on the track. That will force you to focus mentally and get ready for race day pain.

  10. That was a great post! Thanks for sharing it to us. I am not a runner but I am interested in the running world. I love watching races, and with your post, I learned somthing new. Thanks!
    ~ five fingers ~

  11. I haven't been in the greatest shape in a while but I remember from highschool and college when I was in pretty good shape that when I ran or worked out I would have little day dreams to make it fun just get lost in my imagination or picture myself wowing people by how I run or imagining myself looking my ideal also I think I gave myself a lot more positive self talk back then then I do now... Also just make it fun! However that can come if something is enjoyable you'll do it and the point is health! I remember hearing that the fastest runner or atop athlete would tell himself before each race or run or something that he was the fastest man in the world or something like that.. Attitude can deffinetly help determine altitude!!