May 23, 2019
Do you want to be prepared for anything that might happen in a race? How would it be to have complete control over your thoughts? What new limits could you reach, or what new goals could you set for yourself? If you are looking for ways to prepare for your next race, we have the answers for you!
This week on the Running for Real Podcast we interviewed several professionals that have experience in performance psychology. One of our favorites is Justin Su’a. Justin currently works with some of the best athletes in the NFL, helping them become champions by teaching them to control their thoughts and mentally prepare for anything that could happen on the field. This is not a podcast you want to miss.
To be completely fair and upfront, Justin is a believer in individuals. There is no one-size-fits-all program for athletes, professional or amateur. When putting together a workout plan or developing a mental course consider working with someone who is able to customize something just for you. That being said, there are some universal practices that every individual can do to get ready for race day.
The first thing Justin suggests is to create automated responses for when things go wrong. At the beginning of his career Justin worked with the U.S. Army. He observed that one of the first things military members learn to do is how to carry a body and how to fix a weapon when it jams.
These somewhat simple tasks are crucial to perfect because they carry a lot of emotion in the heat of battle. Without automated responses, soldiers may break down in moments that matter the most.
The same goes for running. Any emotionally heavy circumstance can have a runner panicking. Unplanned accidents even as simple as a shoe falling off or needing to use the bathroom can derail an athlete’s focus.
In order to avoid these emotional setbacks, tack the time to write down any potential triggers. Make sure you include both external and internal situations such as a negative thought you may have, a pain in a new area, or being passed by someone you think you should beat.
Next, create a contingency plan for each of those situations. Write down what you will do if “X” happens, and then play it out in your head. Having this automated response is sure to help you be prepared for whatever comes your way on race day.
“You can’t change what you aren’t aware of,” says Justin. A great way to become more aware is to journal. The process of reflecting on the day and then writing down thoughts, helps to bring to mind things that you experienced, thought, or felt that may have gone unnoticed. Justin recommends answering the following three questions:
(1) What was the best part of the day?
(2) What is something I learned today?
(3) What am I going to do better tomorrow?
Answering these questions will help you make the most out of each day. Be sure to make this a daily habit to get the full effect. Take time before bed or as you wake up so that the memories are still fresh and you can take action before the hectic day hits.
As you make this a daily habit, your mindset throughout the day will also change. If there are other things you wish you were thinking of during the day, add them to your daily questions. Another popular and effective question is, “What was I grateful for today?”
Justin’s third suggestion is to begin a mindful meditation practice. Although seemingly simple, mindful meditation takes time to master and will reap great rewards. Simply choose to focus on one thing, such as your breathing or brushing your teeth, and bring your mind back to that thing whenever it strays. Try not to judge your thoughts, but let them pass by and bring them back to your focus point.
This practice helps you notice your thoughts without being emotionally connected to them. Mindful meditation doesn’t need to take long. Ten minutes or even three minutes is a good place to start. The key to improvement is consistency, so look to add this to a daily routine as well.
What will you add to your race day preparation? I highly recommend doing all three. Preparing your mind is just as important as preparing your body. You will find yourself achieving more, setting higher goals, and overcoming any failures along the way as you do so.
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Thank you to Justin, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show.