Mental Lesson for All Runners From The Maymont X-Country Festival 2012
10/04/2012 10:28:27 AM
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Joined: Sep 2010
Posts: 3
Here is an article from a sports psychology counselor about an important mental lesson from the Maymont X-Country Festival for all runners. It explains the difference between being a "racer" versus a "runner." Read more: bit.ly/V6Fq06 Best, Michael Cerreto
Here is an article from a sports psychology counselor about an important mental lesson from the Maymont X-Country Festival for all runners. It explains the difference between being a "racer" versus a "runner."

Read more: bit.ly/V6Fq06

Best,

Michael Cerreto
10/04/2012 12:51:54 PM
Coach
Joined: Sep 2008
Posts: 27
misguided praise in my opiion
misguided praise in my opiion
10/04/2012 3:16:38 PM
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Joined: Sep 2010
Posts: 3
As runners, how do you prepare mentally for races? As coaches and parents, what techniques do you use to help runners mentally before and after races? Please share your ideas and techniques so others can learn from your experiences. Use this forum post to share what works for you on the mental side of X-country.
As runners, how do you prepare mentally for races? As coaches and parents, what techniques do you use to help runners mentally before and after races? Please share your ideas and techniques so others can learn from your experiences. Use this forum post to share what works for you on the mental side of X-country.
10/06/2012 9:58:52 PM
Coach
Joined: Aug 2008
Posts: 68
@CoachCuthbert I agree with Coach Cuthbert... often times evaluating a race based on a single event like that can be misleading. True, it takes 'guts' to break from the zombie racing mindset and make a move at any point in the race... but one could also question why the LBHS girl wasn't in front of her to begin with? Could have been her strategy to sit back and push the end (or hills) because that is just what works for her. Everyone has a different racing strategy... on top of that everyone deviates from it at times to experiment with new tactics on different courses. Sometimes when you see an athlete run the last 100m of a XC course in 15 seconds, they pulled it out of the bottom of their tank that was already empty (3rd, 4th or 10th wind)... other times you'll see the same thing from an athlete who might have just gone out too slow or is still learning to push his/her limit the entire race. Only the athletes themselves know if they pushed their limits... if they were trained and coached well, they will be the one and only true judge of their performance. Bystanders are guessing... and coaches are simply making educated guesses based on comparison to practices and other races. Like so many other things in life... it is difficult to quantify a great performance. Times is one way we try, but its not always that easy.
@CoachCuthbert

I agree with Coach Cuthbert... often times evaluating a race based on a single event like that can be misleading. True, it takes 'guts' to break from the zombie racing mindset and make a move at any point in the race... but one could also question why the LBHS girl wasn't in front of her to begin with? Could have been her strategy to sit back and push the end (or hills) because that is just what works for her. Everyone has a different racing strategy... on top of that everyone deviates from it at times to experiment with new tactics on different courses.

Sometimes when you see an athlete run the last 100m of a XC course in 15 seconds, they pulled it out of the bottom of their tank that was already empty (3rd, 4th or 10th wind)... other times you'll see the same thing from an athlete who might have just gone out too slow or is still learning to push his/her limit the entire race.

Only the athletes themselves know if they pushed their limits... if they were trained and coached well, they will be the one and only true judge of their performance. Bystanders are guessing... and coaches are simply making educated guesses based on comparison to practices and other races.

Like so many other things in life... it is difficult to quantify a great performance. Times is one way we try, but its not always that easy.
10/07/2012 11:44:55 AM
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Joined: Sep 2010
Posts: 3
CouchCal, I really like your reference to the "break from the zombie racing mindset." What a great way of describing what happens to some runners. One technique that has helped my clients improve their mental performance and be less zombie-like as runners is to have them develop before a race the mental routine they will use in a race. The goal is to make sure that their mind is doing the same thing their body is doing in a race. Often the body is disciplined and the mind is undisciplined for some runners in competition. I learned this method from a coach at the U.S. Olympic training center 8 years ago and it has helped a lot of runners. To develop a mental routine for a race, we sit down with the course map and discuss the runner's race strategy developed with his or her coach. We then identify 2-5 key points in the race at which the runner needs to remind him- or herself of what they need to do physically and feel emotionally. We identify two words or phrases the runner needs to say at each of the 2-5 points in the race that support their race strategy-- one physical reminder (such as "flow" or "run relaxed"), and an emotional/mental reminder (such as "be patient" or "aggressive"). So at one point in a race, the runner may say "run relaxed, be patient." A week before the race, the runner visualizes his or her race each day as if they are running the course and says the words or phrases, and tries to replicate in his or her mind and body the feeling they should have after saying those key words at that exact point in the race. I have them visualize the race while they are in bed to sleep because sleep helps the mind consolidate and code information into memory, especially thoughts right before sleep. When the runner eventually uses the mental routine they developed in a race (says the words at each point in the race and tries to mentally and physically replicate them), it helps them break free from the zombie mindset you mentioned. I also noticed that this technique has helped them come much closer to hitting their target time and position at the finish line because they run their race strategy more consistently. I am wondering if you and other coaches have other methods to keep runners focused mentally during a race? I would really like to hear from your experiences. Mike www.atalentedmind.com
CouchCal, I really like your reference to the "break from the zombie racing mindset." What a great way of describing what happens to some runners.

One technique that has helped my clients improve their mental performance and be less zombie-like as runners is to have them develop before a race the mental routine they will use in a race. The goal is to make sure that their mind is doing the same thing their body is doing in a race. Often the body is disciplined and the mind is undisciplined for some runners in competition. I learned this method from a coach at the U.S. Olympic training center 8 years ago and it has helped a lot of runners.

To develop a mental routine for a race, we sit down with the course map and discuss the runner's race strategy developed with his or her coach. We then identify 2-5 key points in the race at which the runner needs to remind him- or herself of what they need to do physically and feel emotionally. We identify two words or phrases the runner needs to say at each of the 2-5 points in the race that support their race strategy-- one physical reminder (such as "flow" or "run relaxed"), and an emotional/mental reminder (such as "be patient" or "aggressive"). So at one point in a race, the runner may say "run relaxed, be patient."

A week before the race, the runner visualizes his or her race each day as if they are running the course and says the words or phrases, and tries to replicate in his or her mind and body the feeling they should have after saying those key words at that exact point in the race. I have them visualize the race while they are in bed to sleep because sleep helps the mind consolidate and code information into memory, especially thoughts right before sleep.

When the runner eventually uses the mental routine they developed in a race (says the words at each point in the race and tries to mentally and physically replicate them), it helps them break free from the zombie mindset you mentioned. I also noticed that this technique has helped them come much closer to hitting their target time and position at the finish line because they run their race strategy more consistently.

I am wondering if you and other coaches have other methods to keep runners focused mentally during a race? I would really like to hear from your experiences.

Mike
www.atalentedmind.com
10/09/2012 8:55:03 AM
Coach
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 609
I tell my runners not be distracted by the runners of the other gender cheering for them. Does that count? Seriously, their personalities are all over the place. I find that what works with one kid doesn't with another. I Haven't found a magic bullet. I do agree, however, that going over the course ahead of time and helping them decide (or sometimes just telling them) when to attack and when to hold back is a good idea. Just different for every runner. I like to look at splits relative to others in the race and figure out if kids are getting passed a lot or passing a lot as the race goes and try and come up with a plan based on what I'm seeing. In my opinion neither case is usually ideal. We had a girl PR nicely in our last race, but over the last mile and a half she passed 32 runners. I also saw another girl I know pretty well go out in the lead and gradually drop back a few places throughout the race, but still PR. Did they go out too fast or slow? Were there adjustments in pace at different points during the race they could have made to do even better? All you can do is talk to them and make conjectures about what might work. I tell the runners to keep experimenting. They're all still babies, basically in their (hopefully) lifetime of running. They'll find what works for them, eventually, and then they can just nod their head at me when I tell them something to do, ignore it, and go out and run their race. I definitely have kids I want to attack hills, but I've got others for whom I think maybe that's not the way to go. In my case, I'm just an assistant coach of an average team who never raced himself, but I always wonder how much a team's strategy ends up being influenced by what worked for the coach when he or she used to race. If you find something that worked for you it's hard not to pass that along as gospel to your runners, I'd imagine.
I tell my runners not be distracted by the runners of the other gender cheering for them. Does that count?

Seriously, their personalities are all over the place. I find that what works with one kid doesn't with another. I Haven't found a magic bullet. I do agree, however, that going over the course ahead of time and helping them decide (or sometimes just telling them) when to attack and when to hold back is a good idea. Just different for every runner.

I like to look at splits relative to others in the race and figure out if kids are getting passed a lot or passing a lot as the race goes and try and come up with a plan based on what I'm seeing. In my opinion neither case is usually ideal.

We had a girl PR nicely in our last race, but over the last mile and a half she passed 32 runners. I also saw another girl I know pretty well go out in the lead and gradually drop back a few places throughout the race, but still PR.

Did they go out too fast or slow? Were there adjustments in pace at different points during the race they could have made to do even better? All you can do is talk to them and make conjectures about what might work. I tell the runners to keep experimenting. They're all still babies, basically in their (hopefully) lifetime of running. They'll find what works for them, eventually, and then they can just nod their head at me when I tell them something to do, ignore it, and go out and run their race.

I definitely have kids I want to attack hills, but I've got others for whom I think maybe that's not the way to go. In my case, I'm just an assistant coach of an average team who never raced himself, but I always wonder how much a team's strategy ends up being influenced by what worked for the coach when he or she used to race. If you find something that worked for you it's hard not to pass that along as gospel to your runners, I'd imagine.
10/09/2012 2:21:38 PM
Coach
Joined: Aug 2008
Posts: 68
Very good point... it took me a couple years of coaching to realize that my workouts completely revolved around my own style of training and what I picked up running in HS and college - which was not ideal for the average XC runner. What worked for me might work for some but forcing that style of training on an entire team left some very talented runners never reaching their potential. Racing is much the same... some athletes thrive on a fast start and hanging on for dear life. Others get their best times by methodically planning out their splits or even going negative. Different for everyone. Hard to stick everyone on the same strategy.
Very good point... it took me a couple years of coaching to realize that my workouts completely revolved around my own style of training and what I picked up running in HS and college - which was not ideal for the average XC runner. What worked for me might work for some but forcing that style of training on an entire team left some very talented runners never reaching their potential.

Racing is much the same... some athletes thrive on a fast start and hanging on for dear life. Others get their best times by methodically planning out their splits or even going negative. Different for everyone. Hard to stick everyone on the same strategy.

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