Our yoga instructor always begins by reminding us to mentally announce our intention for the class. It could be to use the hour to work on a physical issue, like flexibility or balance, or work through an emotional one, such as a strained relationship. What’s important is that the hour and the poses are purposeful.
If you wish to be competitive, your training should have a similar mental strategy. Before you step onto the track or the trail or the sidewalk or street, you should know exactly what you want your body to do and then work with it to get there by the end of the session.
For instance, if you want to run faster, then you must train faster. You must set aside one or two days, with at least one rest/recovery day in between, and focus exclusively on running as quickly and efficiently as possible. This means you mentally must be in the moment, concentrating on your posture, your breathing, your leg turnover and your arms to perfect that economy of movement. Do not instead try to distract yourself by wondering what you’re having for dinner that night.
For long, slow runs, concentrate on cadence, posture and breathing. When you hit a hill, focus on changing up your stride and keeping your eyes fixed ahead, not “I can’t wait for this to be over.” You will be surprised at how quickly time passes with this level of focus. Pay attention to thirst too. If you hydrate properly, you should never experience it on the run.
Then there are “junk miles.” I hate that term because it suggests these are wasted runs. Au contraire. These are the runs you do when your only agenda is to soak in the scenery or help process a personal issue or accompany a friend. They are what I prefer to call “maintenance miles” and are usually mid-week and moderate in length. As with the others, you need to pay close attention, but you give yourself permission to talk, to your running partner or to yourself. This also gives your mind a break and keeps you from burning out too quickly by having every run feel like “work.”
Mindful running also is excellent preparation for race day. And, it helps on cross-training days since those tend to be dismissed most easily. Do not look at that spin class or weight session as just a way to break up run days or fill in for lost workouts. Dedicate each rev or rep to fulfilling your next running goal.
Stay focused, stay true to you and you will stay on course.
(Yoga image by photographer Jimmy Chin.)