Posts

How to Build Mental Toughness for Running

You can become a better runner when you build mental toughness

It’s easy to get caught up in the latest gear and gadgets during training. Runners can get caught up in the newest shoes, the latest GPS watch, or the latest update to your training app. But are these gadgets the answer to potential struggles? Maybe not. Most agree that a big part of success in any sport is due to mental factors. Building mental toughness is about setting up strategies for when we encounter an obstacle or feel uncomfortable. Don’t ignore the need to build mental toughness during your training.

Assume that thoughts, feelings, and performance are intertwined. With that, runners can begin the process of overcoming their runs rather than the feeling overcome by their runs. Mental training is an important part of an athlete’s overall development. Many runners do not identify this part of training and often find themselves struggling during their training or a race. One of the basic principles of success is to simplify the process of thinking. Pro tip: adjust your expectations according to the weather when you learn how temperature affects performance.

As many runners will confirm, you run as well as you think. With so many thoughts running through the brain, it can be difficult to reduce distractions and negatives. One of the reasons why runners ignore the mental aspect of running is that they are not familiar with the basics of sports psychology and mental training. In keeping with the “less is better” philosophy, mental training is better understood using the construction of the following three words: Think –> Feel–> Perform

Think

Before your next run, take a moment to identify your thoughts. Are you optimistic about your planned distance? Are you thinking about how good you will feel during and after the race? Maintaining positive thoughts before and during the run is the first step to controlling your performance. Uncomfortable and negative thoughts might start to creep in. Bring yourself back to your “why” and tell yourself positive “I am” statements. The statements below and these 11 other tips can help make running easier.

  • I am strong.
  • I am willing to push through and complete my goal.
  • I can do this effort longer.
  • I am doing this to better myself.  

Feel

Determine your emotional state as you warm up with these 4 stretches. Identify your thoughts. Are you excited about the run? Do you feel a personal challenge with the distance? Do you feel confident in your abilities? Are you anxious, nervous, or stressed about the mileage? Maintaining positive emotions before and during the run is the second step in gaining control over your performance.

Visualize other times in your life or training where you have achieved a goal you set for yourself. Harness this feeling and project it towards your current goal. Check your playlist if you are listening to music. Make sure your running playlist consists of music that’ll pump you up and energize you. If more relaxed music or a podcast helps, listen to that to calm your nerves. 

Perform

Practice daily. This does not mean you have to run every day, but you can put yourself in situations where you have to practice mental toughness. Increase the weights during your workout or add more reps. If you ride your bike, add more miles to your ride. 

Introduce yourself to situations that may happen on race day during your training. Get out of bed and start that workout in the cold weather. Next time it is raining, instead of skipping, go out and run in the rain. These 7 tips will make running in the rain more fun. Didn’t sleep well? Attempt your planned run. You can see how the lack of sleep affects your ability to keep positive thoughts and emotions. Pro tip: get a good night’s sleep and save some money during Austin Marathon weekend when you book these hotels!

Overcome the common struggle

Having positive thoughts and feelings right from the start will give you a chance to succeed. This may not result in PR, but you are in a much better position to have a pleasant experience with the right mindset. Your thoughts can affect your emotions, and your emotions can affect how you perform. Once you get into the race, a strong mile will lead to more positive thoughts, more confident emotions. Conversely, negative thoughts usually lead to negative feelings. 

If you find yourself struggling with a few runs, understand your thought process during the runs. Chances are it’s a negative, self-defeating thought that makes you question your abilities. Turn your thoughts into something positive, optimistic, and confidence-building. When you go out on the streets, it will help you feel good about yourself and crush your runs.

Don’t Make these Foam Rolling Mistakes

Recover faster when you avoid these foam rolling mistakes

Sore muscles are both an unavoidable evil and a pet peeve of most runners. Muscles break down due to the exertion from a run or workout. They need rest and soothing care to repair themselves. Muscle recovery is essential for any exhaustive exercise. But, it is especially true for cardio-muscular exercises, like running, swimming, and cycling. The older one gets, the more time that it takes for muscles to recover and the amount of care and attention that muscle recovery takes tends to increase. Speed up the recovery process when you avoid the 4 foam rolling mistakes below.

Foam rolling with its simple techniques is one of the most popular and trusted methods of muscle recovery for runners. However, one must be careful to do it right. The techniques of foam rolling if executed wrong can cause irreparable damage instead of boosting run recovery and muscle release. When foam rolling is done correctly, the benefits are enormous. Avoid the 4 foam rolling mistakes below to speed up the recovery process. Pro tip: learn how booty bands can strengthen your muscles and help prevent injury.

Don’t ignore the knots 

Foam rolling won’t be effective if you don’t take care of your knots (muscle adhesions) first. You can use a foam roller to loosen the knots. If they are localized in a small area, use a tennis or massage ball to ease the tension. Exert pressure on the area with your weight until you feel the muscles loosen. Then, lengthen the muscle out with a foam roller for 90 seconds.

Don’t skip the warm-up

Foam rolling is an effective warm-up and you shouldn’t skip it. It is advisable to set aside at least 10 minutes pre-workout or pre-run to foam roll. If your muscles aren’t properly attuned for the exertion, there is a high risk that you will pull on your adhesions which will increase pain and damage. Pro tip: add these 4 stretches to your foam rolling for the ultimate warm-up.

Don’t foam roll forever 

If you need more than 20-25 minutes of foam rolling (pre- and post-workout) it might be due to an underlying condition. You shouldn’t foam roll any muscle group of your body for more than 90 seconds. Excessive foam rolling of an injured muscle might increase pain. As a rule of thumb, it is advisable to underwork your muscle tissues than to overwork it. If you suspect an injury, visit Dr. Allen and the experts at Ascension Seton Sports Performance. They can identify the issue and help you become a better runner.

Don’t start with a textured roller

If you are an occasional runner, above 35 years of age, or new to foam rolling, do not start with a textured or hard roller. It will compress your muscles, make them stiff, cause needless pain. Start with an even and soft roller. Once your muscles become accustomed to the pressure, then incrementally move on to firmer and textured rollers.

Complete these 4 Stretches Before You Run

Help prevent injury and add these 4 stretches before you run

Aside from losing weight and lowering your blood pressure, running is an activity that comes with numerous benefits. It can help improve both your mental and physical health. Just like other exercises, you need to warm up your body before you begin. A great way to do that before running is to stretch. We breakdown why injuries happen and advise that you complete these 4 stretches before you run.

Regardless of how beneficial running can be, more than 65% of runners get injured every year. This stat might seem discouraging, but the good news is that you can avoid these running injuries. One of the primary reasons why people get injured after running is because their muscles were overworked or overstretched. When the muscles in the legs are stiff and tight, running might be a bad idea as it can lead to injuries. In order to avoid getting injured, the muscles should be first stretched properly. The best way to avoid this is by completing these 4 stretches before you run. If you do become injured, see Dr. Allen and the experts at Ascension Seton Sports Performance.

Pro tip: don’t begin marathon training without these 7 essential items!

  • Single-Leg Deadlift 

This exercise is an effective means of stretching every muscle within the hips and hamstrings. To do this, get into a standing position with your feet hip-width apart. Place your weight on your right leg and gradually raise your left leg out behind you and make sure it’s straight. As you raise your left leg, simultaneously hinge at your waist. Doing this correctly gets you into a T shape.

  • Hip Flexor Stretch 

A tight hip flexor can cause injuries while running. This exercise can help avoid that injury. Get into a lunge position with your front knee at 90 degrees. Then gradually straighten your back leg and then raise your arms. Hold in this position for 10 seconds and change legs.

  • Walking Lunge 

This exercise helps avoid injuries in the knee and thigh region. Get into a standing position, then move your right leg forward. Bend the right leg until the knee is at 90 degrees and the back knee is almost touching the ground. Stay in this position for 5 seconds and then move forward with the left leg. While doing this, place your hands on your waist.

  • Calf Raise 

This is another helpful stretching exercise that can help avoid injuries while running. This exercise targets muscles in the calf region. To do this, stand straight and gently push through the balls of your feet till your heels are high, and you are standing fully on your toes. After standing on your toes for 5 seconds, slowly return to your initial standing position.

Avoiding injuries that are caused by running is possible, but only with the right stretching. Completing these 4 stretches before you run is very important. Especially for people that haven’t engaged in running for a long time or engage in activities that require less movement. If you have an injury or what to become a better runner, email Ascension Seton Sports Performance today – sportssci@ascension.org.