Mental Mistakes Runners Make and How To Correct Them

A sport psychologist contacted me yesterday about contributing to my blog. Initially, I was reluctant. I thought, “Who is this guy? Is this just someone trying to ride my coattails and use my blog for his exposure?” Well, of course he is! But there’s nothing wrong with that. We all do it. I do it, too. I’ve contacted plenty of bloggers and magazine editors to ask them to review my books or publish an excerpt of my books. It’s called marketing.

Once I got past that, I asked myself, “Do I really want to include someone else’s words in my blog? That’s like having someone else write in my diary! My blog is supposed to me MY thoughts, MY advice, MY musings on running and life.”

Once I got past that, I thought about my audience and asked myself, “What will people think? Will they want me to include someone else in my blog, or do they really just want to hear me speak?”

After I asked myself all these questions, I became exhausted and thought, “You know, it might be a good idea, from time to time, to include someone’s else words.” So I reconsidered. Today we have a guest blogger: Please welcome sport psychologist Jim Afremow, Ph.D. and his advice on mental mistakes runners make and how to correct them:

(1) Thinking about Personal Concerns
Free yourself to perform. On race day, do not process any personal concerns, such as work problems or family issues. Leave these burdens behind when you put on your running shoes. Switch ON (race mode) so that you funnel all of your passion to the challenge at hand. If what’s troubling you is legitimate, you’ll be able to manage it more effectively after the event.

(2) Being Anxious about Being Anxious
Understand that nerves are normal. Do not attempt to rid yourself of the anxiety; instead, channel it into running well. No matter how relaxed others appear, they are likely experiencing the same amount of anxiety and excitement that you are. Take a few slow, deep breaths and tell yourself, “My body is preparing itself to perform.”

(3) Doubting Your Abilities
Know you can do it. Focus on your strengths and what you need to do to run your best. Remind yourself of all the preparation that has already been put into the effort. Recall occasions in the past when you raced well or conquered a difficult challenge. Tell yourself, “I’m well-prepared and ready to race my best.”

(4) Over-Reacting to Anything Negative That Happens
Stay on a positive track. Always make a commitment prior to running that you will do your best to take whatever happens out there in stride. Accept any delays or unexpected changes in weather that will happen in the course of events on the day of the race. This winning attitude will help you stay cool and confident for the whole race and allow your talent to carry your forward.

(5) Overemphasizing the Outcome
Love the race as much as the results. Execute your race plan step-by-step, thinking only of the next step to take or mile to complete. As soon as you notice you have wandered off to thoughts of how much longer you have to run or worrying about the final time, redirect your focus back on your mission and sticking to your race plan. If you focus on (and enjoy!) the process, the outcome will take care of itself.

Dr. Jim Afremow is a sports psychology specialist and a licensed professional counselor. Jim provides winning individual and group mental conditioning services to athletes across all sports, as well as to parents, business professionals, and all others engaged in highly-demanding endeavors. He is the author of the forthcoming book, The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train and Thrive (Rodale, 2014). For sports psychology services or more information about Jim, visit http://www.goldmedalmind.net.

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