Category Archives: Mental Training

The Depressive Edge? Going Downhill After the Race

Aren’t You Supposed to Feel Happy, Not Depressed, After Running a Race?!

(Published on September 8, 2014 by Kate F. Hays, Ph.D. in The Edge: Peak Performance Psychology. Republished with permission)

A few days ago, Susan completed a marathon. Her hard training paid off: she did well. Now, along with the expected body stiffness, why, she wonders, is she feeling so out of sorts? She’s cranky, snapping at people, has no appetite, can’t find a comfortable position for sleeping, can’t focus at work. If she didn’t know better, she’d say she was depressed.

Then there’s her good friend, Sharon, who also ran this same race. Coming back from injury, Sharon wasn’t even sure she could complete the race. She did, but had been miserable—and achieved a miserable time. She too is moody, unfocused, and irritable. She keeps re-playing the race in her head, thinking “If only…” and “I should have….”

Workouts to Train Your Brain to Let You Run Faster

Last week’s article Is Fatigue A Head Game? examined the influence your brain and thoughts have on your running performance; in paticular, how your brain can limit your running performance.

How can you implement this knowledge to run faster or further? Are there specific workouts you can perform to relax your brain’s protective grip on your perceived exertion level? What training will push back your perception of effort so you can race closer to your true potential?

What the brain determines as “overreaching yourself” is based upon your previous experience.   Completing a variety of difficult workouts during training imprints new experiences on your brain, teaching your brain that your body can safely handle high intensity running.

Is Fatigue a Head Game?

Conventional wisdom holds that during running and racing, muscular fatigue is caused by mechanical breakdown.  Your cardiovascular system cannot increase the amount of oxygen it supplies, causing the acidity of your blood to increase, which interferes with neuromuscular signalling between your brain and your muscles.

Often compounded by muscles becoming depleted of glycogen (running out of fuel), it becomes impossible for muscles to exert the force necessary to sustain the desired speed. You’ve hit your limit. Therefore, you must slow down or even cease running.

A problem with this theory is that research studies conclusively show that even though we feel like we cannot run one more step, our leg muscles are nowhere near being maxed out.

The Depressive Edge? Going Downhill After the Race

Sad middle aged woman suffering from headacheAren’t You Supposed to Feel Happy, Not Depressed, After Running a Race?!

(Published on September 8, 2014 by Kate F. Hays, Ph.D. in The Edge: Peak Performance Psychology. Republished with permission)

A few days ago, Susan completed a marathon. Her hard training paid off: she did well. Now, along with the expected body stiffness, why, she wonders, is she feeling so out of sorts? She’s cranky, snapping at people, has no appetite, can’t find a comfortable position for sleeping, can’t focus at work. If she didn’t know better, she’d say she was depressed.

Then there’s her good friend, Sharon, who also ran this same race. Coming back from injury, Sharon wasn’t even sure she could complete the race. She did, but had been miserable—and achieved a miserable time. She too is moody, unfocused, and irritable. She keeps re-playing the race in her head, thinking “If only…” and “I should have….”

The Cure for Perfectioinism

Kate F. Hays, Ph.D., C.Psych., CC-AASP

Maggie is a passionate runner. Energetic, competitive, single-minded, and skilled. At 16, she’s already made a name for herself, received funding, and is being scouted by prospective schools. It doesn’t hurt that she brings this same drive to her academics, is popular, and has a supportive family.

Everything’s perfect, right?

Well, not so fast.

The most obvious problem is that she’s recovering from Iliotibial Band Syndrome (more easily remembered as ITBS). It’s a common and nasty injury among runners, one that requires rest and patience—two skills that Maggie has a difficult time mastering.

And now, a few months later, as she shifts back into her regular running schedule, like peeling the layers of an onion, a new “injury” has emerged: fear.

The #1 Best Workout for Distance Runners?

RunningonTrackSmallAre intervals more beneficial to distance runners than other workouts, such as steady state runs or tempos?

(Intervals consist of short bursts of high intensity runs separated by a recovery period of slow jogs.  Tempos are run at a “comfortably hard” pace, about 85% of max heart rate or an 8 out of 10 on the perceived exertion scale. Steady state runs are run slightly slower than tempo runs).

An article written by Alex Hutchinson in the March/April 2011 issue of Canadian Running reported on a Danish study that attempted to answer this question.

The study consisted of two groups that ran three times weekly.  The interval group ran 5 x 2 minute sprints (5 repeats of 2 minute sprints) at 95% max heart rate. The second group completed hour long steady state runs at 80% max. After 12 weeks, the group running intervals had increased aerobic fitness by 14%, whereas the steady state group increased theirs by 7%.

Mental Training To Run and Race Your Best

WalkingAwayMany runners underestimate the importance of mental training.  They experience negative self-talk when faced with a demanding workout.  When feeling fatigue, they tell themselves that the workout is too difficult. They compare themselves to other runners who look fitter or faster.  They doubt their own ability to complete the training.

Prior to becoming our coaching client, Kim McClure (Toronto) had done neither speed work nor had run workouts with goal paces. During some workouts, she doubted her own ability to maintain her goal pace for the duration of the run. She questioned if she could carry out her training.

How To Defeat Negative Self-Talk

WalkingAwayRunning and racing long distances can be as much a mental challenge as a physical one.  At critical junctures of a tough workout or race, many runners experience negative self-defeating thoughts.  They begin to doubt themselves, telling themselves that the endeavour is too difficult. They compare themselves to other runners who look fitter or are running faster.  They begin to question if they will achieve their goal.  Their self-confidence becomes eroded.  Effectively managing these counterproductive thoughts is as critical to your success in running as is proper physical preparation.

In our coaching experience, we’ve witnessed runners that consistently race well are those whose mental game is in order.  Conversely, runners that continually fall short of reaching their racing goals usually haven’t yet developed an effective strategy to defeat negative self-talk.

Want to Run Faster? Train Your Brain

(Central Governor Theory)

Conventional wisdom holds that during running and racing, muscular fatigue is caused by the buildup of toxic bi-products and/or muscles becoming depleted of glycogen (running out of fuel). It becomes impossible for muscles to exert the force necessary to sustain the desired speed. Therefore, the runner must slow down or even cease running.

The problem with this theory is that it doesn’t explain what many of us commonly experience:

  • An ability to sprint to the finish at the end of a distance race
  • Running the last repeat of a tough track workout faster than the two preceding ones.

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