Paula Radcliffe: Mental Strength Training (Preview)

Increasing your mental strength will pay dividends – not only in your running, but in life in general as well, says Paula Radcliffe


Posted: 5 May 2011

When you first take up running, what gets you out the door is sheer enjoyment. It's this that motivates you to complete your first race (and fans the desire to target your second and third...) and gives you the immense satisfaction of putting a hard-earned tick next to 'goal' in your training diary.

Brain training

As you become more experienced and begin to get an idea of your potential, you may start wondering if it might be worth complementing your physical training with exercises to strengthen your mind.

In long distance events, the importance of your state of mind in determining the outcome of a race can't   be overestimated. Exploring ways of lifting yourself to the next level by increasing your mental strength and, in the process, greatly building your confidence will pay dividends - not only in terms of your running performance, but in life in general, as well.

Optimise your performance


You'll read a lot about cognitive strategies in sport, but far from focusing on the race at hand, less experienced distance runners try to distract themselves with thoughts that take their minds off their tiredness. This can mean, however, that they are less aware of how their bodies are performing.

On the other hand, more experienced runners do the opposite: they try to stay in the moment, focusing on performing as effortlessly as possible. They do everything they can to conserve energy and maintain efficiency, running lightly on their feet rather than pounding the ground hard, and constantly riffling through a checklist of how their body is coping.

Examples might be: unclenching hands and fingers; monitoring footstrike and stride pattern; firing up the glutes properly; ensuring that the arms are swinging forwards and backwards, rather than from side to side; maintaining awareness of hydration levels; observing breathing patterns; working out split times; watching competitors and - in my case - counting in my head to determine where I am within each mile.

This is something that I started doing a long time ago as a means of focusing on where I was within each grass/road rep that was run to time rather than marked distance. I found it helped me to judge and pace myself. As I moved to road races, I learned that breaking each mile down worked well for me.

For a half to full marathon pace, counting three times to 100 roughly equates to a mile: this technique helps me focus on where I am within each mile of the race and has become my technique for anchoring my concentration. I use it to truly stay in the moment.

Find your 'flow' in four easy steps or discover Paula's top motivational tips.

Subscribers can view the rest of the tips in the full article. Not a magazine subscriber? Subscribe online now to make a significant saving on the newsstand price.

Extracted from How to Run by Paula Radcliffe (£14.99, Simon & Schuster)


Previous article
Paula Radcliffe: Mental Strength Training
Next article
Runner's World Playlist No.1: Running Classics (Extended Run)

 
TwitterStumbleUponFacebookDiggRedditGoogle

Discuss this article

Am great fan of Paula's. Were she a writer rather than a runner, though, we'd never have heard of her. (Which is why you've never heard of me ...)
Posted: 17/05/2011 at 22:57

Do you think writers have something to say about mental strength that could be helpful to runners?
Posted: 18/05/2011 at 00:06

I think  Haruki Murakami - What I Talk About When I Talk About Running - does, but it's a while since I read it.
Posted: 18/05/2011 at 07:07

We'd love you to add a comment! Please login or take half a minute to register as a free member

Smart Coach
Free, fully-personalized training plans, designed to suit your racing goals and your lifestyle.