We have put together a list of tips and ideas to improve your running enjoyment and/or performance. Sometimes all we need is to make a small shift in how we think about something to enhance our experiences.
1 Be outcome focused. Steer your thoughts towards what you want to have happen and how you want to run, rather than what you want to avoid. Look for options and solutions instead of problems, consider your achievements rather than your perceived shortcomings.
2 Set helpful goals. There are always going to be things you cannot control on the day, so having different levels of goals can reduce pressure and fear of failure. For ideal conditions you could have a GOLD target, for less than ideal, a SILVER or BRONZE target.
3 Set your intent for how you wish to run on the day. Your running experience will differ greatly if you tell yourself you simply want to “survive” compared with telling yourself that your intent is to run to the very best of your ability.
4 If you struggle with negative voices in your mind, the ones saying: “you are not a proper runner, you don’t have what it takes or you are just not good enough”, try thinking of them as if they are coming from a very eager health and safety officer determined to ensure you avoid failure, injury or looking foolish. The voices, although not very helpful, have a positive intent – namely to keep you safe from harm.
5 Is your mind looping unhelpful thoughts? Think about ways to break that loop. Counting or repeating a simple mantra like Dory in Finding Nemo: “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming” can be useful to distract yourself as can playing/singing a powerful soundtrack.
6 Focus on being present in this moment. When your thoughts start to drift to how far you still have to go or the hill that’s coming up overwhelms you, bring yourself back to here and now. Break up the challenge ahead into something that feels more manageable – all the way down to “one more step, one more step” if necessary.
7 Pain and fear of (re-) injury can be very distracting. First listen to your body and assess if you think the danger is real and not to be ignored. If you find it is safe to carry on, direct your attention to any part of your body that is completely pain free and at ease – an elbow, wrist or your ears are usually safe places.
8 Consider how you talk to yourself. Are you using supporting/encouraging words and tone of voice or are you harsh, negative and perhaps even aggressive? Support yourself in the same way you would support a good friend.
9 Does your motivation come from a desire to challenge yourself and grow, are you running for someone else or perhaps for your health and well-being? Remind yourself WHY you are running. It can also be very helpful to reflect on the fact that you are very lucky to be able to use your body to run. A sprinkle of gratitude in your mind can give you a real boost.
10 Keep scanning your body and mind for the little things that will make a difference. Is what you are thinking of supporting you? If not, how might you tweak your thoughts? Are you running with a strong confident posture? Can you release any tensions you may be holding on to? Think of them as little incremental improvements that will help keep you running at your best for longer.
Enjoy your running.