Posted in Fitness, Running

Mental Magic

Ever have one of those weeks when you’re happy to get to the end but wish that you were still at the beginning or the middle of the week because there’s so much that needs to be done still? It’s been one of those weeks for me.

I think I made it even worse by not running at all this week and by only going to one swimming lesson. I did do strength training this week, though. And I made an interesting discovery.

These past few months I’ve been focusing on using 15-pound dumbbells because it seemed like a natural progression. I’ve managed to work up to 10 reps with good form but after going through a cycle of exercises, would be too exhausted to do another set. It got to the point where I was dreading my strength routine. And then it got to the point where I was skipping my strength routine.

I read an article last weekend that said using lighter weights could help build strength – just do more reps. So I tried that this week. I used my 10-pound dumbbells and did 15 reps with good form. When I finished all of my exercises, I wanted to go back and do another set. I’m glad that I didn’t, though. The next day, I felt an ache in my muscles that I haven’t felt in months! So I put my 15-pound weights away and will stick to the 10-pound weights but higher repetitions.

It’s amazing to me that little tricks can fool your mind and then suddenly anything is possible. We do that to ourselves every day. One of the running motivation tips you’ll often encounter is to get dressed and tell yourself that you’ll go out and run for 10 minutes and if you’re still not feeling like running, you’ll just return home. The idea behind this tip is that once you’re out, once you’re running, your body will take over and push aside all of the excuses and negativity that your mind is creating.

Another running tip that has gained a lot of cachet recently is having a mantra. The idea behind this tip is that you can use a phrase or a word to help motivate you and push you beyond what you think you’re capable of. I’ve tried mantras before and they haven’t really worked for me. But during the last San Jose Rock-n-Roll Half-Marathon, I came upon a mantra accidentally and it carried me all the way to the finish line. I tried using the same mantra at the Big Sur International Half-Marathon the next month and it didn’t seem to work quite as well. Then again, I tried the mantra again at the first race of 2011 and ended up taking second place in my age group. Interesting, isn’t it?

The power of the mind is mysterious to me. Find the mental trick that works for you – both in running and in life – and use it until it doesn’t work anymore. You may have a different mental trick for different aspects of your training and different life situations. A mantra of “I’m a lean, mean, speeding machine” wouldn’t be exactly appropriate if you’re sitting stuck in traffic! These mental tricks will help you achieve more than you thought you were capable of achieving.

Happy running!


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