One hot, humid Sunday morning last August, in the middle of marathon training, I set out for a 14-mile run down the long stretch of road from Atlantic Beach to Pine Knoll Shores to Indian Beach and back. No, you can’t see the water. About a mile into my run, I noticed I was running significantly faster than my usual pace. Can I keep this up the whole time? And then, this thought popped in my head—IF I CAN, I WILL.
You have to train your mind the same way you train your body. You’ve probably heard that running is 90% mental, the rest is physical. It’s true. And most of us don’t do nearly enough mental training.
By the way, you don’t have to be a runner for this advice to apply. Mental training is the key to shattering many life goals.
If I can, I will. If I can run 30 seconds faster each mile of this run, I will. If I can keep this pace without slowing down, I will. If I can qualify for Boston, I will. I will. I will. I will!
I just kept saying it over and over again that early August morning. Running without music, it was just me… and my mind.
Guess what? It worked! I ran a much faster pace that day. And the next run. And the run after that. “If I can, I will,” turned into my training mantra. I started saying it to myself every single day. My pace improved, but more importantly, my mental game improved.
Don’t get me wrong, there were some trying times. The days when I didn’t drink enough water or wasn’t properly fueled, when my hip flexors were screaming or my shoes felt like 50 pound weights. Those runs were easy compared to the mornings I didn’t want to get up and run at all. But I had a routine. I had a goal. And now, a mantra!
The morning of the City of Oaks Marathon in early November, my cousin Allen, who was also running the race, picked me up. When he handed me my race bag, I pulled out the t-shirt…
YOU CAN. YOU WILL.
It was the marathon mantra too!! You see, with the mantra, came the mental training. The will to keep going, keep giving, when you don’t think there’s anything left to give. It’s those tough runs. The heat, the heavy feet, the lack of water or nutrition, the runs when you just don’t think you can, that’s when mental training comes into play the most. Push yourself through those runs. Dig deep. Summon your mental game.
During those 26.2 miles, I kept thinking about my tough training runs. The times I had to convince myself that if I can, I will.
My physical training prepared me for the run that day. But my mental training prepared me for the race.
LISTEN. SERIOUSLY. YOU ARE A CHAMP!!!! Just go at a comfortable pace, enjoy the run, be grateful for your legs, your lungs, your heart. You GET to run 11 miles this morning!!!! Do you know how many people would kill to do that?! And you have the ABILITY to do it. So just DO IT!!! No excuses. No place for negative thoughts. You’re an athlete. Always have been. Just get it done. And enjoy the miles! So proud of you!!!
That was a text message I sent to my friend, Leigh, on Friday, April 28 at 7:08 a.m. in response to a text she sent me, that she had to run 11 miles that morning and was freaking out. Leigh’s been training for a half marathon for the past several months, and occasionally sends me a picture of her Garmin GPS watch after a long run to report that she finished. But the morning of April 28, Leigh’s text arrived pre-run instead of post-run. She needed her mind way more than her body.
Let me put this in perspective folks, this is Leigh:
She’s tall, and fit and truly a lifelong athlete. But it’s 90% mental, remember? Leigh finished the 11-miler. It wasn’t easy. She may have texted me at mile 6.5 to say her feet hurt and she wanted to quit. But you know what? She kept going. Leigh will race the half marathon this coming weekend and I know she’ll crush her goal, because she’s been training her mental game as well as her physical game.
I’m convinced Leigh can do anything, when she invests her mind and her heart. I’m convinced ALL OF YOU can do ANYTHING. You just have to believe that you can. Now get out there and train your mind!
YOU CAN. YOU WILL.
PS. If you missed the last workout video, it’s because Vimeo took it down for a hot second. Here is the new link: Push up//lunge workout. Give it a shot this week!
**Photo of Leigh and cover photo were taken by Kyle Aiton Photography