I was recently talking to a colleague of mine who told me that she uses mantras to protect her mind from its natural responses. For example when someone cuts her off while she is driving, she uses the mantra, “Assume Good Intentions.” I have used mantras for years to help myself through my running. When I am coaching, I always give my students little phrases to use that run through their minds while they are running. Using mantras is a great way to protect your mind from the pain, the monotony, or other distractions that make you wish you were at home with a bowl of ice cream. Using the rhythm of your feet hitting the pavement makes the sayings very sing songy, making them easy to repeat over and over and over…
For example, this morning on my run, there is a long stretch of road, about a half a mile long, that is a false flat (slightly uphill even though it doesn’t look that way). I run this road about three times a week and every time, it is just as hard as the first time I ran it. This is a perfect situation to use a mantra. This should get your head to stop thinking, “I hate this road, it is so hard to get through,” and get your mind to start thinking, “this is fun and doable and I am amazing because I am doing it!” One thing that I like to do is count to ten in the same rhythm that my feet are hitting the ground. This is very mindless and you don’t really have to concentrate on it. That is exactly why it works so well. It does the trick because you can’t really think about two things at once. Another trick that I use is I say, “Light feet, Step down, Run, Run, Fast.” This phrase helps me concentrate on my form as well as get my mind off of the hard part. Typically, when I am near the end of a run and I am getting tired, my body feels very heavy. By reminding myself that my feet can hit the pavement lightly and quickly, I am able to run faster and lighter while improving my form. It usually doesn’t take long to snap out of the heavy feeling and pick up the momentum again.
When you are on a course that you know well, sometimes it is a good idea to break the course into sections. Even a long road, like the one mentioned above, feels much more accomplishable when broken into sections (I have it broken into five of them). bUsing landmarks that you can see easily is one way to approach this. For example, if you have a five mile run around the neighborhood you can split it up into smaller sections that are all approximately the same length. I would start with a warm up section where you go whatever pace you want to go untill you reach the entrance to the ____. Then you have a pick it up section that is complete once you pass the ____. Next, you come to the ____. Almost there with the ____ section that passes by the ____. Finish off the run with the cool down section that starts when you pass the _____. Overall, accomplishing short, mentally appeasing goals can make a run feel shorter and easier.