Envision Yourself to Success

Over half way into my marathon training now and things are getting serious! After unwillingly taking a break from running for a week and just sticking to strengthening workouts, my knees have felt a lot more comfortable and I do not find long runs as daunting. I also invested in some knee supports which I know to be careful with and not rely on them but as the marathon is getting closer I am trying anything to ensure I do not get a serious injury at such an important time.    

So the running overall is back on track and I am feeling my confidence for the marathon is much higher than it was before. After a few weeks of slow runs, I finally had a week of runs which felt great, my legs were on form and the knees did not moan. I have been enjoying a few event runs while training because it is a nice change to the normal runs and of course the medals and t-shirts are always a bonus! My most recent one was the Penmaenmawr Big Rock run where I took part in the 10k and the 5k colour fun run. The 5k was the perfect warm down and so much fun! The day overall left a really nice memory and made me appreciate all the people I have around me also taking part in this marathon journey. Here are some photos from these past couple of weeks, been some amazing runs!

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After the colour run! Photo by Isobel Trimble
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Beautiful run! Photo by Nicole Brizell
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Medals! Photo by Nicole Brizell
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Run to the hills! Photo by Isobel Trimble
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They keep me going! Photo by Isobel Trimble
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Run to the hills! Photo by Nicole Brizell

So as the marathon date looms closer, here are some mental preparation strategies I have been focusing on to pick myself up and keep my running head on.

Mental Imagery

Mental imagery is a great way to mentally prepare yourself either for a race or even just a training run. It can even be used while on a run, for example I find that when I am struggling, I will visualise a time when I had a really good run and I had other people there to motivate me and I find it not only distracts me from the current pain but pushes me to carry on. So, for example Wayne Rooney was known for asking the clubs kit man what the teams kit was going to look like the next day and the purpose of this was to enhance the accuracy of his psychological preparation. He stated that he would visualise himself doing well in a game and to put himself in the moment properly he needed to know what he was wearing so the vision was more detailed and authentic. I have started doing this myself, more so for races, planning my outfit for a run and then before going to sleep imagine a run going well and there is something about the accuracy of the outfit and place that helps with a positive mindset on the race day. It’s a good way of getting your body used to performing under pressure. Sports psychologist Dr Steve Bull explains that everything down to the sound, sight and smell is important when using imagery. Preparing mentally is just as important as physically preparing yourself, it can improve confidence, focus, clarity and speed of thought. The more vivid the mental image is the more effectively the brain will prime the muscles ready to complete the image that has been produced. Sounds all too good to be true I know but not only have I experienced it myself but science even suggests this works. It was found that visual rehearsal triggers neural firings in the muscles and creates a mental blueprint that can help with future performances.

Self-talk

Another one of my favourite strategies that I have found to work for me in positive self-talk. This can be related to anything in life not just exercise, I use it often when in work and doing university work. When it comes to my running, it usually involves me shouting in my mind that I can do this or not long to go! Things as simple as this can work for positive self-talk. People use self-talk in everyday life without even realising it however this is where I find I can give myself negative self-talk without even realising it. More so when I am having a bad training run I will tell myself I cannot do anymore or I may as well give up. Telling myself this makes the run a lot worse and often when I get to that stage I just want to stop running. There is a way to develop a positive self-talk dialogue that will naturally occur when you run into a problem and it just takes practice. It starts with having a good mantra, mine is as simple as “you can do this” which I usually repeat over and over. Once this becomes the automatic phrase to go to when the going gets hard, you can then start expanding positive phrases for yourself. Again, for me, hills are the devil and unfortunately with where I live they are everywhere. Which also means I have pretty much ran up and down most them so when I’m having a bad day and come across one, instead of giving myself a break and walking, I tell myself “you know it’s doable, you’ve done it before”. Going back to visual image, using these positive phrases with an image of yourself doing that certain hill well, it creates a positive message of belief to yourself which is honestly the most powerful combination you can have. 

I recently read in Runners World about a study done by Samuel Marcora which looks at the effects of self-talk on endurance performances. In short, volunteers did a cycling test to exhaustion, half of the group then got a two-week self-talk intervention before doing the test again. The group that got the self-talk intervention improved and managed to last 18% longer than the first time. They found that they could convince themselves that they could last long and that it felt easier as it went on. The self-talk they used was like what I mentioned that I use before, statements such as “push through this” and “feeling good”. They found however planning what your motivational statements will be beforehand benefit while exercise otherwise you are more likely to slip into negative self-talk. 

Overall these few weeks have been more about training myself mentally and telling myself I can do this! Lets see what the next few weeks before the marathon brings.