I stumbled upon an old 2011 article in Runner’s World Magazine on motivation and thought it had some great points for everyone to read about. (Below)
By Amy Reinink, 2011 – Runner’s World
It’s a phenomenon every runner has experienced: Some training sessions, you feel motivated, energetic and capable of pushing your body to its limits. Other days, you barely feel inspired enough to plod through a recovery run.
Sports psychologists say low-motivation days are no accident, and say negative thoughts can stymie motivation and jeopardize performance, for pros and weekend warriors alike.
“I think every athlete has those moments of doubt,” says 10,000m American record-holder Shalane Flanagan, who worked with sports psychologist Greg Dale while running cross country and track at University of North Carolina. “My doubts are usually along the lines of, ‘Maybe I’m not fit enough or strong enough to do this.’”
Flanagan combats those motivation-zappers with visualization exercises, including one she calls upon often frequently during tough workouts.
“I’ll pretend I’m grinding out the last 600 against the top Ethiopian runners,” Flanagan says. “I just visualize running against them, and getting that fast time, or winning the race, during a workout, and it gives me that little boost of motivation.”
Sports psychologists offer the following tips for other runners looking to harness their motivation:
Identify negative thoughts. Sports psychologist Alison Arnold, founder of Head Games Sports in Westford, Massachusetts, has coached a host of Olympic athletes and warns that negative thoughts can be sneaky. We know better than to tell ourselves we’re about to have a bad workout. We’re more likely to make definitive statements like, “I always get tired around this point,” or, “I never run well in the morning,” Arnold says. And Greg Dale, now a professor of Sport Psychology and Sport Ethics and the director of sports psychology and leadership programs for Duke University athletic teams, says something as simple as the weather can spur a chain of performance-hampering thoughts. “If you say, ‘Man, it’s going to be hot out today,’ you plant a seed before you ever get started that it’s going to be a crappy run,” Dale says. Dale tells athletes to keep a journal tracking their thoughts before, during and after workouts to learn how their thought patterns affect their performance.
Substitute positive thoughts – or at least neutral ones. Dale says it’s important to acknowledge negative thoughts, then to rationalize them with thoughts that are “positive, truthful, and relevant to you.” “You don’t need to tell yourself, ‘I’m the fastest runner in world and I feel wonderful today,’” Dale says. Arnold says it’s OK to take “one step up on the feel-good scale.” Rather than telling yourself you feel fabulous when you’re slogging through a long run, simply tell yourself you can make it to the next curve in the road, Arnold says.
Find out what works, then feed it. Once you figure out which positive thoughts fuel your best performance, feed them with breathing, music and continued positive self-talk, Arnold says. Dale suggests having a specific plan to direct your brain toward performance-boosting thoughts during difficult parts of races or workouts. Arnold says a pre-run ritual of stretches, music or breathing exercises can “anchor the mind, and prepare the mind for what it’s about to do.”
Infuse long-term goals with passion. Every runner should have a long-term goal they’re passionate about, and should remind themselves frequently why that goal is important with visual representations and key phrases, Arnold says. This can mean a course map on the refrigerator, a motivational quote on the bathroom mirror or a billboard with inspirational magazine cutouts and photos. Arnold recommends dedicating races, either formally or informally. “When you’re doing something for a cause, there’s emotion involved,” Arnold says. “That’s what will carry you through the hard days.”
Let yourself feel disappointment. Then, move past it. Arnold says it’s important to “honor yourself” by not squelching feelings of anger or sadness after a disappointing workout or race. But she says it’s also important to consciously move past the disappointment. Dale suggests using visualization, saying one athlete he worked with imagined pouring a bucket of water over her head to wash away negative feelings. Arnold says it helps to diffuse a difficult runs with humor and “a lightness of being.” “It is so important to not take ourselves too seriously,” Arnold says. “There is such a difference between saying, ‘I can’t finish this run today’ and saying, ‘I guess today’s my day to just walk and smell the roses.’”
Channel past successes. Dreading your speed workout? Spend a few minutes visualizing your best race before heading out the door, says Eugene sports psychology consultant and marathoner Kay Porter. In the last few laps of the 10K in the 2008 Olympics, Flanagan imagined she was finishing a tough workout on the American Tobacco Trail in North Carolina. “It made me feel like it was just another hard workout,” Flanagan says. “It calmed my nerves, so I could execute the way I’d execute in practice.” The proof it worked: Flanagan netted a bronze medal.