Mental Toughness & Mindfulness: a runner’s saving grace
Mindfulness – the key to achieving your goals
Mental toughness and mindfulness is redirecting your mentality and perspective. It’s how you respond when the “going gets tough” and certainly is a frame of mind that is flexed, trained, and built over time. “Mental toughness is what you do when you start to feel uncomfortable. It’s definitely a trainable skill,” according to Justin Ross, Sports Psychologist.
Where does it come from?
Our mind creates all emotional thoughts that drive our experience in life. Our emotional thoughts can be organized with optimism or pessimism: on the pavement or trail, in the heated boardroom discussion or mid-argument in a relationship. Stepping back and noticing our emotions – the practice of mindfulness – allows us to lessen the impact those emotions have on our physical well-being.
Research indicates that mind-body therapies have the ability to lessen our relationship to and the experience of pain. According to Harvard Medical Health, methods such as deep breathing, meditation, guided imagery, yoga, and positive thought are valid training to strengthen the mind-body connection.
Barbara Frederickson, a pioneer of positive psychology, formulated that the more positive thoughts a person has the greater their resilience (like the final 4 miles of a marathon!) Through her research, she found that there is a seemingly perfect ratio of “positive to negative thought.” As humans, negative thought is bound to pop up. “There’s no way I can make it at this pace,” for example. For every negative thought, a healthy and resilient mind has three positive thoughts.
Bouncing back from negativity is a key skill. It helps us surpass the natural discomfort of training and racing.
Some tips on strengthening mental toughness:
Visualize achieving your goals. Research has shown that when neurons fire in the brain as you visualize your body moving powerfully down the final straightaway or surging past a competitor it’s “logged” as actual experience. Therefore, when you are actually on the final straightaway or about to surge, the body and brain “remember” being there.
Switch up your inner dialogue. When you are feeling low energy and hyper-focused on what doesn’t feel good, refocus on something positive. Instead of thinking, “Shoot, I only ran 2 miles!” reframe it to “Oh good, I only have 3 miles to go!”
Be present. Take in the world around you as you run through it: the trees, the other runners, the houses and the cars. Simply noticing the moment as you run through it takes you out of your head and allows your body to do what you want it to do: run.
Train your mind. Take a cold shower and, yes, enjoy it. Justin Ross, Sports Psychologist suggests that practicing mental toughness by stepping into a cold shower with open arms and a positive attitude can then train the mind for the discomfort of a hard run or difficult race.