Psychology of Training

*Contributed by Jeff Henderson - MIT Head Coach

Throughout your training you will begin to notice that your body and mind have a habit of playing a few tricks on you. Rest assured you are not alone! You’re not crazy…at least not by our standards!

There may be days where you just don't feel like heading out the door yet you need to knock off those 4 miles on your schedule. On others, you may feel incredible and wish to push longer than you scheduled drop back mileage. 

Learning when and how to react to these thoughts can greatly impact you on race day!

Train smarter not harder! You’ve probably heard this before. Having been around you folks for quite a while my guess is that, while most of you have heard this, you have ignored it! It’s become our way of life. More, more, more. More miles, go faster, less rest and recovery…

Hopefully you are adapting well to the mileage as we have built you up slowly in preparation for your half or full marathon. Are you enjoying your drop back weekends, or are you constantly saying, “Hey I feel great so I’ll just keep going!” You all know who I’m talking about… that’s right… YOU! Everyone does it. Everyone’s strongest urge when you’re feeling great is to do more.

Trouble is, we rarely think about tomorrow, or next week, next month, 6 months from now. Slowly you may find yourself in a repetitive pattern of doing too much. Then a month, or 2 or 6 down the road you wonder why you body suddenly doesn’t feel so good. You’re run down. You’re irritable. You’re injured.

Believe us when we say that there is a science behind the schedules. Build. Recover. Adapt. As Dr. Devor says, “If the professionals are doing it, why aren’t you?!” The pro’s who don’t follow these principles well are the ones everyone expects to make to Olympic team but never does. The next time you’re scheduled for 4, but want to do 8 because it feels good…DON’T. Go enjoy a cup of coffee with your pace group. Let your body recover from the stresses you’ve been placing upon it for the last few months. Then, enjoy as your body adapts, becomes stronger and pushes you on to your goal!

Struggling to find motivation? No matter how long you have been training, you are likely to encounter periods when you simply don’t have the desire to get yourself out the door! The first thing you need to determine is whether these thoughts are coming from a fatigue and overtraining, meaning that body is trying to tell you to rest, or if it is simply a period of low motivation. As mentioned above, if you are feeling run down, irritable, sore, etc., you’re dealing with more than lack of motivation. If you took our advice and know your resting heart rate, now is the time to check in and see if it is elevated. If so, you need a break.

However, if all else seems right with the world yet you just aren’t feeling overly compelled to get out the door, don’t worry. Everyone will encounter periods of low motivation at some point.  Training for a half or full marathon is a very long journey. No task of this kind comes without its high and low periods. The trick to enjoy the highs while riding out the lows. The moment negative thoughts enter your head GET DRESSED AND GET OUT THE DOOR! Fight the urge to push off the workout until the next day.

Come up with a disassociation strategy to keep your mind off the mileage. Make it fun! Make a game out of it. Seriously! I once ran with a group of guys who would play “I Spy” during our long runs. It was the most ridiculous thing to see and hear a group of guys running around yelling, “I spy…!” But each run went by quickly and we found ourselves looking forward to our long runs.

Visualize yourself running or walking somewhere a little more picturesque than Columbus Ohio. Or, visualize yourself running at mile 12 of your half marathon. Be careful with the latter as this can sometimes lead to you running or walking faster than you should. At any rate, visualize yourself enjoying your passion. Remember the days before you started this journey. Visualize what you will be like another year from now as you continue living your healthy lifestyle.

Stay Positive! You’d be amazed at how powerful positive thinking can be. We all know that event the most dreaded workout feels much better after it is over. Think of the elation that comes from giving your all in pursuit of your goal! Know that each active day is much better than your life lived without actively pursuing your goals.



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