Training your brain

Hi Everyone!


I’m pretty sure there were no races last weekend. Remember – please let me know if you raced!

Our white singlets – men’s and women’s are in, so I just need to pick them up. I’m away this week so will have them for you for next week. Wohoo!


What I’ve been thinking about recently is the mental side of training and racing. I know we know it’s 90% mental, but wow – is it ever! I’m thinking specifically of longer sessions, as many in this group are ramping up for fall marathons and wrapping our heads around bigger workouts and future workouts. Of course there is a real and necessary physical component to training your body, but so much of what we’re training is our brain’s resistance. Remember: our brains are there to protect us – not make us champions. So they are wired to be overly cautious and sensitive to pressing the “you’re tired, you can’t do this” button. Your brain communicates to you via thoughts and emotions – feelings of overwhelm, lack of motivation, anxiety, even false fatigue. In fact I’ve come to believe – and many of the athletes who I coach know as a fact – that if you feel exhausted and dead-legged in a warm-up, you’re likely to have a great race. Happens to me every time. Your brain knows what’s coming and is doing its last-ditch effort to stop you. Don’t listen.


There are a few tricks that I’m learning which are helping me overcome some of this, so I’ll share them. The first is to really break your task into small chunks and only focus on one at a time. I had a 35K run recently where my brain was fighting me from the first kilometer. So I just allowed myself to focus on 5K at a time. Every new 5K segment was the start of a 5K run. Had I tried to count down to 35 from the first kilometer I would have crumbled. But I could do 5K.


The next thing that helps is radical acceptance. I heard that term recently and it resonated. Just accept the space you’re in, don’t fight it. When I’m in any sort of race or training effort, as soon as I think about the finish or what is to come, it becomes overwhelming because I’m thinking about where I want to get to instead of being present. If I’m at 18K of a 20K run, it starts to feel hard and I want to be done. But at the same pace and effort, that 18K mark of a 30K run is fine because I’ve accepted where I am and am not thinking about the finish – yet. You’ll get there when you get there. Don’t let you mind get ahead of your body – it’s projecting and doesn’t really know how you’ll feel. (this also holds true for runs off the bike if you’re a triathlete)


Finally, under the same principle of acceptance, another approach is to just accept the amount of time you’ll be out there, and stop making crossing off kilometers part of your task. I find this helps my brain tremendously. Instead of saying you’re going out for a certain kilometer effort, which is task oriented, tell yourself you’ll just be out there for an hour or two or three  – whatever it is. And then just settle in for the journey. Tell yourself, “I’m going to move forward in a way that is continually acceptable for this amount of time.”  And accept it. Radically. Your poor brain with the brake-control button will not stand a chance.


Onto tomorrow’s workout! We’re back to Lakeshore – 6:05 for drills (on your own) and 6:15 GO time! I won’t be there, and Tanis either. Hoping someone can get the crew started and possibly mark out 400m. If not, do your best approximation – a few meters here or there will not be noticed by your body.





600-400-200 w 1 min rest – 3 min bw sets


4-5 x (600-400-200)


Treat them as broken 1200’s. Aim for 5K pace for 600’s and 400’s – you can pick it up slightly for 200’s. If you manage 5 of them that would be 6K at 5K pace, so a big wrkt. That’s if you have a solid base and have a number of workouts under your belt. If just starting out or coming back from an illness or something else, aim for 3-4 sets.


If doing them fartlek style:


4-5 x (2:00, 1:30, 30) w 1 min easy jog bw reps and 3 bw sets.


That’s all – I’ll miss you – have fun!!!