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Marathon Mindset Tips For Race Day – Get Ready To Cross The Finish Line

Optimum Nutrition Expert: Kim Ingleby, Award Winning Mind Body Coach, Team GB Sports Therapist and Athlete.

The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives. — William James

For some reason you may have signed up for a race… first time, PB, improving, charity event or a personal challenge… And then a few months later you are training and following a physical plan, helping you to feel fitter and stronger and ready for your competition and race, challenge or team event.

But what can you do to train you brain for optimal performance? How can you overcome the ‘Wall’, complete that marathon and enjoy it? How can you believe that you can actually do it!

I work with many International athletes to beginners into sport from rugby to running, triathlon to stage competitions – all with the aim of enhancing their performance, overcoming fears and doubts and getting to the finish line having enjoyed the experience.

Training your brain is like training any muscle in your body – the more you do it, the more effective and powerful it becomes. Races can be won or lost, completed or unfinished, on the mental state of the athlete, often disregarding the amount of physical training they have done.

I am going to share some of the top mental strength training tips with you! Grab a notebook (make it your Mind Ninja Journal), and get involved – these will strengthen your training for any goal and enhance your enjoyment and focus.

The weeks leading up to a big event

1. Become really clear on your Motivation

Write down all the reasons why you are aiming to run the marathon and next to the reason – why this is important to you and how this makes you feel – all stated in the positive. Then highlight the top three motivators and pin them somewhere to remind you when motivation is low.
NB. It is important to write things down as this will clarify things in your mind and make things a reality.

2. Make a plan that works for you & stick to it

Write down the amount of training you are going to do per week to allow you to reach your marathon goals (if you are not sure ask a qualified professional to give you advice and support). Then write down all the other things you would like to do, and things that are expected from you (time with family and friends) and your own time to re charge.
Prioritise the main training sessions in your diary, followed by the key family things and your own time. This will allow you to feel in control on your training, and your family to realise you have valued them which will allow them to support you more.
Make sure you discuss the plan with your close family and friends so they support and encourage you.

3. Make yourself accountable with two people & believe in yourself

Once you have a clear training plan, motivation and positive focus tell two people what you are planning to do, how you would like to feel and how they could support you. By sharing things with people you are much more likely to achieve you goal, and enjoy the process. Choose people who will be positive and encouraging in their support to you.

4. Keep a feel good training diary, and use positive self talk

Everyone is advised to keep a training diary of the physical side of things but I would like you to add the mental side of your training to this – write down how you feel on different runs, with different people and on different days. Then you will notice a limiting pattern and can do something to change this – different route, time of day, more sleep, different people, more food or water – the options are many but only if you keep a record.

5. Be Flexible & Listen to your Body The days leading up to your Race

Linking with previous point to be kind to yourself – so you have your plans and goals but it is important to be flexible with yourself. Listen to your body and if you need to move your rest day then do so, and it you are constantly tired and unmotivated, look at your nutrition – you will need to consume good quality protein and carbohydrates, and have good quality sleep, to give you the energy to do quality training. Without this your mind and body will suffer so be kind to yourself.
The days leading up to your Race

6. Model qualities and training from people who inspire you

A really important one tip is to choose two or three athletes who inspire you and ‘act as if’ you had those qualities. For instance, you may admire determination, strength and enjoyment as qualities in different athletes. Watch how they behave, listen to what they say, and try to imagine what it would feel like to be in their body – then ‘act as if’ you did have these qualities. It can be a famous athlete, a club runner you know, a celebrity or a friend – it doesn’t even have to be a runner – just a quality you would like more, and a person who represents that quality.

7. Anchor positive qualities for your race (with music if you like)

Decide on the four main mental qualities you need to be able to complete your training sessions, and the race. These could be anything from calm, relaxed, motivated and focused to strength, power, enjoyment and energy. For each quality write down all the memories you have of times in your life you have felt, say strength and any people who represent this quality for you, and any music.
Each time you are training focus on these four qualities – breathing in what you want, and out what you no longer need (any limiting thoughts) – allowing your physiology to be relaxed and focused. If you press your thumb and forefinger together as you think about the qualities, it will act as an ‘anchor point’ and enhance the neural response if you press this during the race, it does take practise to really work.

8. Create a clear, positive outcome

Take a big sheet of coloured paper (if you don’t have any, anything will do) and write in the middle “What do I need to make the ‘eg. London marathon’ a really positive experience & do my very best possible on the day” and then write down around it all the things you need from the qualities and training runs, to the clothes you will run in, the sports massages you will have, the money you will raise for charity, the friends who will be there, the food you will eat before and after and the way you will feel when you have completed the race – write down every single positive detail…. Make the outcome really real – a ‘Big ‘Stretch’ Exciting Goal!’ and then work towards it and make it your reality. It is also useful to put some goals down for after the marathon which will keep it in perspective, and help should injury or illness mean you need to postpone the race.

The Race & After

Start: Remain calm, focused and quiet – and follow your exact, focused plan that works for you. Let the other competitors talk about their nerves, game plans, concerns, injuries, training etc. There is nothing you can do at this point and you will waste energy. Focus on your breathing, how you want to feel, your mental outcome/visualisation and anchoring qualities. Take yourself away from the others and just be in your ‘zone’ – strong and conserving energy, relaxed and focused.

During: Focus on what you want and your race, and remember to forget what you don’t want, and what the other athletes are doing. So if someone overtakes you, or looks fitter, faster or has a better piece of equipment, performs a better move let them go. Focus on your race, your competition, your game and your team. The more you focus on what you want, and your outcome the more effective, focused and strong you will be. If you panic and start to lose your pace your adrenalin will waste energy so remember to stay relaxed and focused, this will create power and energy. Use the anchor points to increase your positive state and remain in the zone, modelling on positive athletes, and the positive visualisation you have planned before the race to enhance your performance. And if your internal little voice becomes negative, use the anchor points to bring the focus back, breathing in what you want, and letting go off what you do not want.

After: Be kind to yourself, give yourself a pat on the back and use constructive analysis – know that you will have done the best that you could have done on the day – it may not have been your best, but it will have been the best you could have done in that moment. By focusing on the good points, and making an action plan to develop your limiting areas, you focus on the positive and gain enjoyment. Accept praise, smile and relax – I can guarantee this will make you a stronger, more competitive athlete who is having a good time!

Some may argue easier said than done but I would argue it is harder to stay where you are if you have a dream or goal you really want to make happen. It will take hard work, commitment and consistency, you will have days when you doubt yourself, yet I promise you this, it will be worth the journey a million times over. This blog is all about the Mindset for training and race day, please do plan your travel, taper, nutrition, hydration and physical focus well, as it is all key on race day to you completing. Be smart and adapt if you are not feeling 100% or the weather is different to what you hoped for. Then, get out there and enjoy it! Any questions tweet us - Happy training and racing …

Kim works with Olympic, County and everyday athletes wishing to enhance their performance, and enjoy competition. She has travelled around the World to major competitions with her athletes, and competed at the World Triathlon Championships in her age group, trekked across the Andes on a horse, dug a water pipeline in Nepal and ran 9 marathon’s including one in Sierra Leone. Let her help you push your limits and realise your potential.