Matt Centrowitz winning the gold medal in the 2016 Olympic Games 1500 meters
Photo Credit: The Associated Press
Train smart and hard
It sounds so simple. “You have to train smart and hard to reach your goals”. Wow, not exactly rocket science is it. However, when you’ve put the work in, you can step to the starting line with confidence and know you'll do well.
Knowing at a heart level that you did everything possible to prepare for a race is one of the most important things you can do for your mental racing health. Consistency in training is by far the number one predictor of running success.
Your mental bank account should always be full when you go to the starting line. Training smart and hard each day makes this happen.
Don’t second guess yourself
If you have done everything possible to prepare for a race, don’t second guess yourself.
Second-guessing is a waste of time and the enemy of hope. Have confidence that your training will take you to a personal best.
Leave the second-guessing to someone else. Close off all distractions when you go to the starting line. Focus on the race in front of you.
Sweat the small stuff
Make sure you create a race day checklist to help keep yourself calm and focused on race day. You don’t want to be rushing around looking for things at the last minute. Think about the things you need to do long before a big race.
Do I have the proper socks and other items to prevent blisters/chafing?
Have I hydrated properly for several days before my big race?
Do I have the proper food and water/other hydration items ready and available for race day?
Do I know what breakfast or type of lunch works best for me on race day?
Have I allowed 2-3 hours for my food to digest before I race?
Am I rolling properly, getting a sports massage when needed, and doing appropriate strength exercises?
Do I have the proper racing shoes for race day? Will they hold up in the race? Do I have sharp, not dull spikes in my shoes?
Do I have the proper uniform and other clothes for race day?
other items do I need for my race?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen small things like blisters stop someone from reaching a personal best.
Make sure you take care of the seemingly small things like having the right kind of socks to help prevent blisters before a race. Also, understand the type of food that works best for you on race day.
Focus on what you can control on race day. All of the things listed above are in your control. Focus on these things rather than worrying about your competitors.
Champions focus on what they can control. They don't focus on things or events that are outside of their control.
Brace yourself for the pain ahead
Evidenced-based research indicates that the acceptance of pain is a critical part of reaching your running goals.
Denying that pain is a part of the journey is not an effective coping mechanism when it comes to running and setting personal records. Acknowledging and accepting that pain is part of the deal is a much better way to cope.
You can either have a good attitude or a bad attitude when it comes to pushing through the pain of a race.
For example, stating that your next race is going to be the hardest of your life is not being negative; it is being truthful and prepares you for the competition ahead.
Expect the pain to come and you are much more likely to push through it.
Have a flexible race plan
Developing a race plan (s) helps ease the jitters and uncertainty of racing.
Olympic Gold medal winner Matt Centrowitz stated that he had several race plans before his 1500-meter gold medal race in the Olympics. Depending on what happened in the race, Centrowitz was ready to respond.
Walking through various "race scenarios” before a race is a great way to develop mental toughness and iron will endurance.
Always prepare for and “expect the unexpected” when racing. Nothing ever goes exactly as planned.
Be resilient in the face of uncertainty and adversity. This means to be flexible and ready to adapt your plans if things are not going the way you expected. Don't let your emotions get the best of you. Mid-course corrections are normal and part of daily life. Nothing is ever perfect. Adapt well.
In all my years of racing, no race ever went perfectly smooth and seamless. My most successful races were those races where I adapted to change quickly and kept my emotions in check. Just smile and say, "this too shall pass", then adapt quickly when things are out of sorts.
I’ll talk more about ways to develop a championship mindset in future posts.
Copyright Larry Weber 2021