June 17, 2024

Get Your Mind in the Game by Charlene Ragsdale

There is a well-known phrase among athletes, “racing is all mental!” While funny, there is truth to it. Running, or any athletic sport involves a mental component. Doubts, confusion, anxiety and brain exhaustion face all athletes at every  level of performance, even elite athletes and professional athletes. 

When I first started competitive racing , I noticed between the start and mile 2, my mind started playing head games. It was as if a monster in my head was screaming at me, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?  I don’t like this!” Then around Mile 2.5 or 3 the endorphins kicked in and my brain said, “Okay, I like this!” There are times however, no matter how much you physically train that the mental aspect of racing seems to take most of your energy. You arrive at the start line, start your race and you find you’re spending more energy on fighting your brain to focus and controlling self-talk, than actually running your race. The solution is in your training. Not just your physical training however, but in your mental training.

If you’re battling self-doubt, consider adopting a personal mantra. Practice your mantra, with the same intensity and dedication as you practice the physical skills required for your sport, until it becomes second-nature. Here’s how it works:

Train your brain to respond with positivity when it hears a particular word or phrase. Choose a word or phrase that triggers feelings of empowerment, energy, speed, power to keep going. For example, during your next run, and every single run thereafter, practice your mantra or key word or phrase. Consider words such as, Push, Dig, You Got This, Focus, Fighter. Most importantly, your mantra must speak to you and have specific meaning to you. From the moment you step across the start line, repeat your mantra. If you’re struggling to maintain mental focus, stop the negative self-talk cycle immediately and re-set your mental focus by repeating your mantra once again. Running and racing challenges our mental focus. Adopt a mantra as a personal mission statement and experience the difference it makes in your performance.

Charlene Ragsdale is a RRCA Certified Running Coach, IFA Certified Sports Nutritionist and member of the USATF Master’s All-American Team. She can often be seen at on the podium as a frequent Age Division & Overall Winner in several distances. She lives with her Chef husband, two sons and two dogs in Las Vegas, NV. You can follow her at her blog:  www.RunningWithCharlene.com