Train your Brain
May 10, 2018
Running expert Nate tells us why physical training is only one piece of the puzzle
A lot of time is spent physically training for our running events. This could be anywhere from four to 20 hours a week, depending on the type and duration of the competition you are training for. But how much time do you dedicate to mental training? Some of you probably answered “a few minutes race week” — and most of you are still probably wondering what I am talking about.
The brain is a powerful, and usually untapped, tool in a person’s training. Now I am not here to say that you can mentally will yourself to a new personal best — but it will help you get there. Keep in mind the brain’s main purpose is to not die. It regulates and monitors systems like energy levels, body temp, hydration, exertion and many more. If any system gets out of line, the brain will regulate the activity until that system is back in line. A classic example is that on a hot day your body just won’t let you run fast because it knows the danger of overheating is present. The brain can also override how the body feels. A classic example of this is when you see the finish line at the end of the race and you pick up your pace. A half-mile before, you were too tired run faster, but that was because your brain was regulating it. Now that you can see the finish, the brain basically says “go for it — nothing bad will happen in the next 30 seconds if you push it.”
Here are some straightforward tips to help you train the brain:
Write down a long-term goal. Then write down the short-term goals that will help you reach the long-term goal. These need to be realistic, achievable and measurable. As you meet the short-term goals, you may change the upcoming short-term goals to match your progress — and you may even change the long-term goal, as well.
Stress Management and Relaxation
Stress is stress, and your body doesn’t care if it is stress from work, home or training. The body can only take so much stress before something has to give — often in the form of an illness, or even an injury. So it’s critical to learn to manage your training with on everything else you’ve got going on. The next time you have a long week at work, you should lighten your training accordingly. You also need to learn how to manage your stress and to relax. A great exercise is to take five to 10 minutes to lay down and decompress. As you are laying down, close your eyes and systematically start to relax every muscle in your body from your head to your toes. As you are doing this, focus only on taking deep breaths and relaxing. Forget about all the things running through your head — turn it off for a bit. I guarantee you will feel better after doing this, and if you do it regularly you will be able to relax more quickly.
This is a great way to prepare for a race — and a good time to do it is after you have just done your relaxation exercise. For this part of training, your brain you want to imagine yourself in the race. How do you feel at the first turn, where are the water stations, when will you start your final kick? Imagine over and over again how you want to feel and how the race is going to turn out. Play through different scenarios. What if it is raining, windy, sunny, hot? Be prepared for all conditions. Imagine it again from a spectator’s perspective. You will be amazed at how well prepared you are and how much the race plays out like you had imagined it.
Practicing these things doesn’t take lot of your time. Ten to 15 minutes three to five times a week will enhance your performance — and there is plenty of research to back that up. So now you can literally improve your performance from just laying around! How great is that?!