Are You Training Your Mind?

There are a number of different “kinds” of runners.  The “I do it because I have to” runner who hops on a treadmill or gets out for a quick 2-3mile run to get their cardio in.  The “recreational” runner who enjoys getting out for a decent run to start or finish their day.  The “fair-weather” runner, who is content on running when the weather is good, but has no problem choosing another activity when the weather turns fowl.   The “goal-oriented” runner who likes to set some goals, train hard, accomplish the goal and then set a new one.  I’m sure there are a lot of other runners that could be mentioned, like “sprinter”, “distance runner”, etc.  What kind of runner are you?

I’m a “goal-oriented” runner, I use distances to accomplish my goals.  When I first started out running, I just ran.  I would sign up for a 5K or 10K race, train for it and really enjoy the experience of that race.  I didn’t really focus on time the first few races as I had little experience or knowledge of running.  I was new and happy with the outcomes of my races.  I still am, but often for different reasons.

As the distances grew further and the training required more of my time and money, I realized that running had become so much more than just lacing up.   I went from following a simple training plan to hiring a running coach.  My focus on nutrition is more about fuelling my body and less about cutting calories or eliminating fats.  Learning about food and the science of what and when to eat has become necessary for me.

Now when I register for a race I sign up with three time goals in mind.  My “I will cry crossing the finish line” time, my “within reach, if everything goes well” time and my “if I can finish strong and upright” time.  If you’ve been running for a while, you understand that every race is different, and there are factors that you cannot control.  Some races are beyond perfect and others can be a challenge from the start line.  By having three time goals in mind, it helps me to gage where I am on the course and if necessary I push a little harder when my 2nd or 1st goal is possible.

Learning to train the mind is equally as important as training the body.  Our minds are extremely powerful and can impact our performances greatly.  Training runs can be very effective in training our minds.  Self-talk can be positive or negative, so learning to speak positively to ourselves needs to be a priority for us.  Pushing past “hard” on a run shows us that we can get past it.

If we stress about the weather on race day, we are allowing negative thoughts to impact us.  Perhaps adjusting your time goals is necessary if you are dealing with extreme heat or winds.  Or maybe you are recovering from an illness and have to run just to complete the race and forget about any specific time.  It’s difficult to not get disappointed when months of training was required to get to the start line, but we cannot change what happens prior to getting to the start line. All we can do is work hard on our mindset to run our best race that day.

When I forgot my marathon bag for my first marathon I could have handled it in a number of ways.  I chose in the end to run my best race for that day, under the circumstances.  You can read more about that experience here:  Forgotten Marathon Bag

As I continue to set goals and run a variety of out of town races, there are so many factors that come in to play when preparing for those races.  Injuries, for one.  Even when doing the best we can, with proper technique, footwear, increasing mileage appropriately, and so on, stuff happens.  It’s a journey and our bodies continue to adapt under stress.  Putting aside time every week to stretch, do yoga and cross-train is now necessary.  Nutrition is another.  Understanding what foods I need to be adding to or eliminating from my diet is now very important to me as I see how it can hinder or enhance my performance and overall health.

For myself, running is a long term commitment and continuing to adapt and learn is part of the process.  Learning how to stay healthy and what I can do to improve are now included in my goals.

Have you seen yourself evolve as a runner?  What type of runner are you?



Recovery/Flexibility Tools For Training

My Week In Review:

Monday – Yoga/Stretch
Tuesday –  Over/Under Tempo 6K Run.  Road conditions were awful with tons of ice but I managed to get it done.
Wednesday – 10K easy run
Thursday – temperature was a “feels like” -35ºC so I chose the treadmill, did speed intervals and played with the incline, felt good.
FridayPiYo (Strength and Flexibility Training at home)
Saturday – 1hr. run was scheduled BUT I did not get it in.  I was on my feet working the Health Expo most of Friday and then 14hrs. on Saturday.  I was just too exhausted.  My quads were done from the unbelievable amount of stairs that I repeatedly went up and down!
Sunday – 1hr. 10min. snowy run.  Footing was challenging at times but I enjoyed the run.

November and most of December was spent trying to figure out why I had this lingering pain in my foot.  I’ve been taking it easy and getting treated and I’m almost pain-free now.  Turns out I experienced a small tear of my peroneus longus tendon at some point leading up to or during my marathon in October.   Thankfully, I am on the mend and January is all about building my base again.  I’ll be adding to my Sunday long run and mixing up some strength training but the bulk of my weeks will look pretty much the same.

Monday and Fridays are my days off from running.  Monday will be for active recovery only and Fridays I’ll play around with some at home DVDs that will focus mostly on flexibility and mobility moves.  I might even get out on the canal for some skating.

Favourite Tools

Here are some of my favourite tools that I’m trying to use consistently.


Thera-Band Foot Roller

TheraBand Foot Roller is great for rolling the underside of my foot. It can help with plantar fasciitis, heel spurs and tired feet.  It helps to stretch the plantar fascia and it will help with flexibility.  The massage just feels good.  It’s also great because it can be frozen and then used to help reduce inflammation.

Foam Rolling

Foam Roller

Foam Roller is a must for anyone who is running consistently.  It will help with flexibility and recovery.  Runners World has a great article on it here: Foam Rolling Tips

The Stick

The Stick

The Stick is a great tool to help self-massage enabling you to break down knots or trigger points in your muscles.  It can help relieve pain, increase your range of motion, help with flexibility and speed up your recovery time.

Lacrosse Ball

Lacrosse Ball

This little lacrosse ball was recommended to me by my massage guy who is truly brilliant when it comes to helping athletes get back in the game.  This gets in areas that are hard to get at, like your groin or rotator cuff.  It helps get in deeper than a regular foam roller.  I’ve heard that massage therapy balls are a better choice but this works for me.

Yoga Mat

Yoga Mat

A Yoga Mat is also essential as you should be doing Yoga a minimum of once a week.  I am trying to do a little more than that but Monday is a must for Yoga.  It helps after the Sunday long runs for me and helps set me up for the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday runs.  I have a few favourite home DVDs that I choose from that help give me some variety but also I can work it into my schedule better than trying to get out to a class.

I will break up when I use these tools throughout the day or evening.  I’ll do more on a Monday and Friday as I’m not running.  I keep the lacrosse ball in my family room and will randomly pull it out and spend a few minutes hitting some sore spots.  The Stick is a great tool to ask a family member to get at your hamstrings or calves and it helps to not tire them out easily.  My kids actually take pleasure in causing me pain. 😉 So this is not a difficult task for them.

There are numerous foam roller options to choose from, so do some research. I would, however, recommend that you invest some money in a good one as the cheaper ones will not last very long and this should be a long-term investment into your running.

What kind of tools am I missing out on?  Do you have a must have favourite that you are using? I’d love to hear about your suggestions.