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Brain Training-Running Psychology

What are the first 5 things that come to mind when you think of race training? Long runs, tempo runs, speed and hill intervals, strength training, and proper nutrition…Preparing our bodies to run a race is a no brainer. Most runners would also agree that the mind can determine how successful you are on race day, but they do not know how to train it. The brain is a very complicated and powerful part of our body that can negatively or positively affect our performance.

The Pixar movie “Inside Out” provided a fun picture of what goes on inside our brains. Like Joy trying to keep Sadness away on the first day of school, there are thoughts and feelings that we should keep in a small circle deep in our minds while running. Allowing anxiety, fear, dwelling on fatigue, and decreased confidence to creep in is a surefire way to slow you down. How do we train our brain to filter thoughts? Many may say that the music they listen to has a huge affect on how fatigued they feel during a run. I personally had to delete “Let The Bodies Hit The Floor” (Drowning Pool), “I Need A Doctor” (Eminem, Dr. Dre), and an oldie but goody “Lean On Me” (Bill Withers) from my running playlists.

What may come as a surprise to runners is that continuously checking your watch and monitoring rate of perceived exertion (RPE) can decrease pace. Recent research published in the Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise showed that runners actually ran 10% slower and felt like they were working harder when they could visually monitor their pace and had increased internal focus. Improving your external focus and concentration on running technique to improve efficiency will make you run faster with a lower perceived effort. Training using the following tips can help you use your brain to run faster!

  • Focus on the skill of running and running most efficiently.
  • Check the watch and “feelings” only at each 1 mile lap.
  • Train with friends & race in a pack.

Altering Pace Control and Pace Regulation: Attentional Focus Effects during Running. Noel E. Brick, Mark J. Campbell, Richard S. Metcalfe, Jacqueline L. Mair, Tadhg E. MacIntyre Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2015 December 15 Published online 2015 December 15. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000843


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