If you are going to run the famous San Silvestre race, apart from training physically do not forget to take care of your mental preparation. Here are five tips from sports psychology for you to enjoy more:
- Maintain a dignified posture: especially if you have the need to walk. Remember that is absolutely fine to walk, and if you need to do it display confidence in yourself and keep your head up. Try not to look down because looking at the ground can distract you with negative self-talk and may make you notice the discomfort more. If you find yourself in this situation, you can change to a more optimistic and more confident way by correcting your posture. Keep your head up, make use of the peripheral vision and smile. Even if you don’t feel very confident at that moment, if you display confidence, you will start feeling more confident. In addition, the act of smiling is relaxing and it will help you stay more positive during the performance.
- Take care of your self-talk: Our internal dialogue is key to predispose us to perform better. That is why it is important that we have constructive language, for example, encouraging us and motivating us. In long-distance races, some runners find it useful to prepare phrases for the different stages: beginning, middle and end. At the beginning they use words to go slowly and to not waste energy. During the middle they use words to keep going. In the last kilometers they use phrases not to give up. Reflect on the phrases or words that can help you in the sections of the race (e.g., ‘slowly’, ‘you’re doing great’, ‘you can’). Also pay attention to the way you build sentences, so they are positive. For example, instead of saying: ‘I still have 10 kilometres left’, it’s more constructive to say: ‘I only have 10 kilometres left.’
- Flow: Many runners experience that pleasant sensation when they run in which they feel completely in control, can continue running without much effort and are focused on the here and now. When we are in flow, our performance is usually optimal because we are focused on the process of the activity and do not waste effort worrying about the result or ruminate in errors. In order to get into flow the activity has to be challenging but also possible to achieve. The activity also has to have a structure and feedback to inform if the goal is being met. Before going out to train, make a plan with the expectations of the session (e.g., the distance you will cover, the route and the approximate time you will employ). Having this information will give structure to your running and provide you with something to compare the feedback you will get with your running objetives.
- Set a realistic goal: If you have not written your goal in your diary yet, then do it! Writing the goal you want to achieve will help you commit to it. Do not forget to write down the objectives, that is, the steps that you have to accomplish to reach the goal, and the daily and weekly actions that you have to take to achieve those objectives. Another important aspect when setting your goal is to monitor if you are meeting your objectives or if you need to adjust them. To do this, try to write down what you have achieved after each session, including the date to see the progress over time.
- Celebrate what you have achieved so far. Whether or not you have completed the race, having dedicated your time and effort to participate is an achievement in itself. Reflect on everything you have accomplished and learned during the training and the day of the event (e.g., setting a challenging goal, having trust to achieve it, persevering in training). You can also reflect about what to do differently next time.
Finally, why not think about the next challenge? After all, the beauty of the San Silvestre’s run is to finish the year running and motivate us to challenge ourselves through sport.
Photograph by Martins Zemlickis on Unsplash