After many years of running I now always perform in races to my potential. It may not be fast, but I feel good, because I have beaten my target. I notice that many runners, especially those who do not use a coach, do not feel good after racing – they are so negative and defensive. They normally blame the performance on four (there are more) things:
1. “I picked up a niggling injury in training.”
2. “I didn’t do enough training.”
3. “The course was hilly.”
4. “I don’t know what happened, I just didn’t feel good.”
In fact the most likely cause of their poor performance is a lack of belief, undermined by a negative mindset, which has been developed based on past negative experiences.
How can you break this negative mind-experience-performance loop?
My advice is of course to get a good coach. A good coach will help you with the following:
1. An appropriate training plan, realistic race plan and time.
2. Modelling your performance on a hero – someone who performs well and runs how you want to.
3. Replacing negative mental perception with positive ones.
All this will help, but for me the key points are:
- Firstly, set a realistic race time, not one that is impossible. Beating your time is a powerful and positive experience that can be built on. Aim for small improvements in time and you will be surprised and delighted if you exceed your expectations i.e. build upon little positive experiences.
- Secondly, identify somebody you want to run like. Talk to them if possible, find out what they do, how they think and watch them run. Preferably, go on a training run with them, observe their technique and in particular how they breathe, take notes and apply these lessons to yourself. Ask good questions. For me the best question is, “so how do you run so fast”?
- Thirdly, spend five minutes doing some simple mind techniques, visualising a positive outcome for the event you are planning on taking part in, as often as you can, leading up to your race day. All things in the world are created twice, in your imagination and in the physical world.
The best mind technique I have come across is what I call the negative, positive change technique (sometimes called SWISH). It is FUN so get a coach or even a friend (you can even tape yourself reading the script) to help you.
THE NEGATIVE, POSITIVE PERCEPTION CHANGE
Ask your partner to think of a situation they wish to change i.e. their running performance. Use your skill in the senses to help them really imagine the scene vividly. Make sure you get them to notice what they would see, hear, smell, feel and even taste. Watch for signs that they are really feeling the scene (for example, they may go pale or their facial expression may change, or they may smile). Ask them if they are really feeling the emotion they wish to change.
1. Now ask them to imagine that they are in a cinema sitting in the middle of the front row.
2. Now ask them to put a black and white still picture of themselves on the screen just as the situation (their worst ever running performance – probably the last) is about to develop. Have them run the movie of the situation, from the beginning to the end, while they remain in the middle front row watching themselves on the screen.
3. At the end of the movie freeze the frame into a still picture. Change the picture into colour and then step right into the picture on the screen (associate fully with it). Now run the associated movie backwards at top speed, imagining loud music playing (playing something silly like the tune from Monty Python works well). When you get back to the beginning, freeze the frame into a still picture.
4. Have them now walk out of the still picture and sit back down in the middle of the front row of the cinema.
5. Get them to run through the movie again, this time changing the script to suit the way they want things to go (the best run performance they have ever done). They should also change they way they see themselves (e.g. self assured, confident, beautiful, smiling). Have them watch what happens when the new script plays out with them creating a new outcome and changing all the characters to suit that outcome. When they get to the end, ask them to run it backwards again to the start.
6. Now get them to step into the movie again, making sure they see, hear, feel, smell and taste everything that is going on and run the movie forward with them now acting out the starring role, exactly as they want it to happen.
7.Ask them, when they have finished, to step back out of the screen, to freeze the end frame into a colour photograph and to take that photograph of the successful outcome and put it in their pocket. They should take out this photograph and look at it often.
Repeat these steps as many times as necessary until the new script feels stronger than the old one. Be aware of your partner’s body language to decide whether the change really is taking place (they may be smiling, more relaxed, more confident looking etc). Finally, get them to think of a situation they will face in the near future when this new script would be appropriate. Run through the steps 6 to 8 for the future situation, getting your partner to act out the scene as they now expect it to take place in the future. Note how they feel about it at the end. Repeat the whole exercise as many times as needed until the future event can be really strongly imagined in a positive and satisfactory way.
Note your results. Congratulate yourself and bank the experience.
Enjoy, you are the director of your own movie, so direct a blockbuster!!!