I am not a big time distance runner, but started doing 5K’s as a part of my rehab after having my hip replaced last year. I have completed five 5K’s in the last year, but yesterday I did my first 4 Mile run. A 5K is 3.2 miles, so yesterdays race was a mere .8 miles more. But what a difference mentally!
I have written extensively about having a positive attitude and believing You Can Do More, and still yesterday I found my own brain trying to play tricks, play games with me. At the 1.5-mile mark, when running a 5K, I am always thinking the positive thought, “OK, already half way finished.” Yesterday, at the same 1.5 mile mark, in a race only slightly longer, I caught myself thinking the negative, “Oh man, not EVEN half way finished.”
I am not completely sure why the human brain does this, all I know is that it does. In unsure, unfamiliar situation, the brain always seems to revert to the negative. I am pretty sure it has to do with the “Lizard Brain”, the “fight or flight reflex“, fear of failure, etc. The important thing, I think, is that as coaches and athletes we are aware that it is there… always lurking.
So how to handle it? I have had great success using mental visualization with my athletes, and that is a topic for a future post. I think the more we can prepare our athletes and ourselves, when entering new, uncharted territory, the better we will handle it. Scripting situations during practice so that when those same situations arise in contests, they are not unfamiliar and not so “scary”, is one way. Even just having a conversation with your athletes about possible contingencies that could arise during a training session or contest can help as well.
Bottom line – as best you can prepare physically AND mentally for when you enter uncharted territory. You Can Do More … your brain WILL lie to you as it did to me yesterday. Be ready for it – Don’t Believe It!
Any questions or comments? They are always welcome – I WILL respond!
Jeff Floyd – firstname.lastname@example.org