Mental preparation and other things I’m reading this week:
1. Are you a Plugger or a Natural? I am definitely a plugger, so it’s nice to see it phrased as a good thing in this article:
I’m of the opinion that nothing succeeds like trying a little, over and over again.
Consistency, perseverance, discipline.
I know, those words are not anywhere near as exciting as genius, prodigy or innate talent.
But it took me far too long to realise that having a talent at something gets you precisely nowhere if you’re not willing to work hard.
I think even if you are a natural you need to be a plugger too, to get anywhere worth getting:
2. Is the difference between an elite athlete winning or losing merely their strength of will? And if so, what does that mean for us mere mortals?
From the article:
“One thing that exercise physiologists are baffled by is that when very high-level endurance athletes do a physiological test, they aren’t very different from each other.”
In other words, usually the only thing separating the people on the podium at the end of a race is that the winner was able to push himself harder mentally.
“Beliefs about personal limits tend to be self-fulfilling. People who wish they can push harder and do more usually can.” Finally, scientific proof that whether you think you can, or you can’t, you’re right!
“You see, it doesn’t matter why perception of effort is increased or decreased. Everything that has an effect on perception of effort will have an effect on performance.” Hello caffeine my old friend…
I don’t know about you but I am much more fascinated by the way endurance sports challenge my mind than with the way they challenge my body. Figuring out you can go so much harder than you thought you were capable of is incredibly powerful knowledge to have in so many areas of your life.
There are plenty of ways to strengthen our mental muscle and it is well worth seeking them out. Everything from positive visualisation to personal mantras will boost that all-important belief in yourself. Pushups for the mind, if you will.
Obviously some people’s bodies can be pushed further than others, and me believing I can run a 2:30 marathon – even really, truly, swear on my mother’s grave believing it – will not get me to that point, but it will get me a lot further than thinking I can only manage a 5:00 marathon.
It’s all (and always) baby steps, so as I get used to pushing myself further and further I am sure I will topple more of those milestones like speed and distance.
3. Now bear with me here while I get a little hippy-dippy on you.
I know it’s hard to remember all these positive mental whatsits when you’re at the 40k point of a marathon and that last 2k is looming like your weekly long run. So what do you do?
The answer is a mantra.
I’ve long had my own mantra, but this interesting article gives you some ideas on why you might need one and how to find one that suits you:
My mantra is this:
And when things get really hard and I can’t remember all 5 words, then my mantra morphs into something else: “PERSEVERE”.
Winston Churchill had a bit of a knack for quotes, all three of these are his…
So find your own mantra, something that will keep you going when everything else is telling you to stop.
4. A really down to earth training plan for true beginners as well as not-quite-beginners (that’s me!)
Some salient points:
“In fact, you’ll know you’re training correctly when, as you progress, your runs leave you feeling invigorated rather than run down.”
“Avoid emulating race-day demands like digging too deep too often in training”
So you’re suggesting I take walk breaks eh? Can do Captain!
“Setting the goal to finish an ultra is as inspiring as it is reasonable. This is a sport in which everyone can participate.”
Now this is NOT something we are normally told about covering long distances. When you’ve a difficult goal in mind I always think it is a good idea to seek out positive influences and advice instead of hate-clicking on every “Marathon running will kill you” link that pops up in your online newspaper. (I was going to put a link to one of these articles in here but I just can’t bring myself to do it. If you want to read unscientific baseless crap do your own Google search!)
Finally, I’m also reading a new favourite blog Shut up and Run: a 46 year old ultra runner chick who talks about drinking, farting, pooing and how to best use baby wipes to avoid showering after her runs. She is also very funny. It’s not so much that I love reading about farting as the fact that anyone who is happy to talk about such things openly is also very likely to be open about everything else.
Another reason I enjoy her tales is because in comparison she makes me feel like less of a slob and so in my head I can pretend I am a princess because hey, at least I’ve showered today! This conveniently ignores the fact that I have not actually shaved my legs and/or underarms at any point in the recent past, am wearing chipped red nailpolish (so chic!) and usually refuse to wear high heels because they ruin my running form.
Also, I think we are twins because she loses her brain when doing speed and hill reps and keeps count with rocks just like me: Damn hills DO make you stronger
That’s it for the moment, stay tuned for my next exciting instalment – can I tempt you with a post about how I almost ruined 2 months of marathon training by shopping with my mother?