Friday, May 20, 2011

Motivating Factors and Mind Games

I was skimming through the May/June issue of Women's Running magazine and found a great article called "A Mental Workout"   So I though I would share some of my favorite points of the article with you guys for those of you who don't read the magazine.  I don't normally, but I happened to see it in a store somewhere and pick it up.
I think we all know how racing and running in general can be mental as well as physical. If you go in believing you can do something it will probably go better than if you doubt yourself and your abilities.

The article is by JoAnn Dahlkoetter, Ph.D. she has a website at and Here are my highlights.

She lists three techniques to try when you need a little motivation. The first is my favorite
  1. Pretend the runner in front of you has a large magnet on them and you are being pulled effortlessly toward the magnet by the magnet's own force.  As soon as you are up to that runner reattach the magnet to another one. I figure this can also work by attaching the magnet to landmark's instead if there are no other runners around.  She states the reason this works is it helps distract your mind from your pain and you can have some fun with it.
  2. Chunking technique, this involves breaking the race or run into smaller segments, which then become mentally more manageable.  For example you could break a 10 mile run into a 5 mile, a 5k, and a 2mile.  These smaller distances feel less intimidating and you know you can do them.
  3. Pretend you have big springs on your feet.  If your feet feel like lead and they just can't get off the ground, just imagining they are bounding up with every step may help change the perception on how they are moving in your head and help you feel like you are running lighter
She also talks about the importance of letting go of old race mistakes.  Use positive picturing to mentally recreate a new ending to the mistake, like how you would have preferred the bad incident occurred.   Practicing visualization techniques can help improve your confidence and your energy. 

What kind of mental games do you play to help get you through a tough race or run?
I usually just pick out a runner I think I can catch and try to whittle away the distance with the mantra "a step at a time, and breath" I will mentally say one word with each step. Though I think I will try the magnet thing next time and see how it works.
Have you had a race moment where you realized you were more mentally fatigued than physically fatigued and talked yourself out of it?
My first half marathon didn't go like I wanted it to, so when I ran my second I was halfway through before I was able to really shake that off and realize I was going to do awesome. I kept passing people, they were getting tired and I was still firing up.  I just had to trust in my training and how great my body was feeling.  That half marathon hooked me for life.


  1. I mentally say the words "light and springy" when my feet start to feel heavy... It helps a lot!

  2. I definitely find myself tending towards mental fatigue more than physical fatigue. I find when I let my mind wander and drift, even if it's just getting lost in song lyrics I run so much further and stronger. I really think it's true that our mind is our biggest enemy in lots of things, and running can definitely be one of those areas.

  3. I repeat lines from the 30 Day Shred when I need encouragement. My favorite is: "You're strong, this is EASY for you."

  4. I will definitely be using one or all of these in my race next weekend! Thank you so much for sharing these!

  5. Letting go of old defeats is something I really must work on!

  6. Great post!

    I use the chunking method. It usually starts after the halfway of a half marathon for me. "only 4 miles- that's nothing, only 5k left etc) then I try to start picking people off.

  7. I always chunk my runs, and I also remind myself that I'll feel awesome when I finish.

  8. I love the idea of the giant springs on my feet!!! This kinda goes along with my new super hero identity! Thanks for checking out my blog. I can't wait to see what super hero you would be! I am going to follow your suggestion of posting my super hero on my sidebar. Thanks for the idea! I am planning on doing the 100 pushup challenge, but since I am getting the book now, I will wait until I receive it. Good luck with your challenge!

  9. ooohh...I am gonna try the magnet one!!

  10. Christy I love this post and it could not have come at a better time as tomorrow I will attempt my first marathon.

    Thank you so much for sharing!! And yes running is 95% mental for the most part.

  11. This is so great. I need these kind of mental games to keep me going. I recently started eating jelly beans on long runs as fuel. Works perfectly because I only think about running half a mile at a time. Then I get a jellybean and go for the next half mile!
    I will be using the magnet idea as well tomorrow for my trail half!

  12. Those are good tips, sometimes late in races I'm just trying to stay sane and keep moving forward as fast as I can. I like to look at my watch, and just concentrate on everything I'm doing - my legs, my breatheing, etc. I sort of like to block out everything else, because then I kind of get overwhelmed with stimuli if I take in everything around me.

    If I'm completely dying, I generally start to get tunnel vision, where all I can see if what is in front of me (felt this the last mile of the marathon I did). Other times I am still hearing what is around me, but all I can think about is the pain I'm in. If possible I try to find someone who is running the same speed around me and try to pace them in, or have them pull me to finish line.

  13. I chunk my runs too.... but I am also gonna try the magnet one... VERY cool!! Awesome blog! I am glad you found mine.. I will for sure follow you!

  14. I divide my runs into smaller segments and when I'm slowing down, I think encouraging thoughts like, "Fast!".

  15. Thanks for thise post because it offers some great ideas. I usually pick people off as I run. I try to keep someone in my sights at all times and try to steadily close in the gap. Once I pass them, I pick a new victim. ;)


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