I went back to kickboxing for the first time in two months. As soon as the punching started, I realized I was way off my game. I didn’t think about the obvious – that the toughness I built up in KB practice might have a direct effect on my mental resilience in running. I was definitely a little bit timid and scared through the first couple rounds but by the end of class I was feeling much better about it.
The mental component has popped up in my life a few times this week. At the first meeting of running group, the coach said that running was 25% physical but 75% mental. Then I listened to an episode of Runner Academy that went into depth about the psychology of running your best. The mental aspect of running is a big struggle for me. Eh, everything about exercising and working out is a struggle. But it seems like people don’t talk about the mental part very much. When I was in Crossfit, you’re supposed to go all out, balls to the wall for those 15 minutes and there was always something in me that seemed to be holding back. This must be why Jillian Michaels’ approach is unique and effective – I watch her on TV and she really forces people to bring out those issues. After they get that good cry out, they are able to go 100%.
I recognize that I spent over 15 years feeling crappy about myself, so suddenly having the confidence to be my best isn’t going to come easy. Short of going into therapy though, what else can you do? Hold some pads and let someone keep punching at your face?
Out of curiousity, I tried to look up some resources on this problem. The good news is, even if you are not born with mental toughness, it can be developed and nurtured. From those resources, I pulled out some things I (and you!) can start doing RIGHT NOW to flip my brain around:
Create rituals – Not like Jesus candles and treasure trolls. They say to have a routine, the same routine every time. This creates a habit, which preps your body to receive rewards in the form of endorphins. Think “Pavlov’s dogs” for your hormones. I realized I’m already doing this on race mornings, and it helps with my anxiety.
Picture yourself looking awesome – Visualize the race or workout from start to finish. Picture yourself looking strong. Picture yourself winning.
Talk to yourself – Keep saying positive things to yourself. Every time you find yourself thinking “this hurts” or “I can’t,” replace it with something good – even if it’s not true. “This feels great. Every step I take is another calorie burned.”
Check in – If you find yourself zoning out, snap out of it. Ask yourself, “How does every muscle feel right now? Could I be working harder/faster?”
Be uncomfortable – If you go beyond your comfort zone, you will find out “Hey, I did it and I survived.” Eventually your old “comfort zone” expands and you can continually go further.
These are some very do-able changes that I can make right now, so I promise myself I will start implementing them.
- From Penn State: What is Mental Toughness and How to Develop it.
- From the National Soccer Coaches Association: How Coaches Can Develop Toughness in Players. Interesting to hear from a coach’s perspective.
- From HuffPo: Sports Psychology Mental Training Tips
- From the Association for Applied Sport Psychology: Resources and Tips for Athletes
- From Runner’s World: Train your Brain to Run Your Best