A few weeks ago I discussed some important variables on performance in the fall season of Cross Country. Variables such as shoes, water, sleep, and nutrition are all important to achieve optimal results, but if you are running without mindful intention, then perhaps you are training yourself to become slower.
So what is intentional running?
Quite possibly, it might just be what you need to reach your potential.
If you were to look at your summer running plan it will likely have four to six days of running each week, consist of both long runs and short runs, include intervals, tempos, hills, and Fartleks, and likely group runs. Those are the physical aspects of training. The mental part of training includes the psychological strategies which help assist physical performance. Two popular and effective psychological strategies include goal setting and visualization.
The first strategy to help with physical training and performance is the creation of goals that you set, followed by the action plans to achieve those goals. Goals that go beyond accumulated miles in a week include appropriately timed intervals, appropriately timed rest intervals, and monitored tempos by means of a running watch and journaling progress. Monitoring your runs and tracking your progress are simple and effective strategies to begin awakening the mind while running. Tending to timed intervals, whether the interval is a running interval or a rest interval, provides an intentional focus away from the potential misery and pain of running.
Visualization can also help with intentional running. With visualization, or seeing with the mind's eye, you can imagine running in a certain place or location, like a district or state meet, or you can imagine running like your favorite runner, like Alexa Efraimson or Mo Farah. Pretending to look as they look, feel as they may feel, and effortlessly tap along the ground just as they do, may help you feel and act more confident and efficient with every stride.
Intentionally practicing these psychological skills, goal setting and visualization, can truly be a game-changer in how you approach running. In fact, off-season and pre-season is the ideal time to practice these psychological skills. For the next few weeks, practice setting goals for your work and rest intervals within your workouts, meanwhile use your imagination to push yourself into the uncomfortable unknown.