1 November 2015

Motivational Guidance from the Mental Trainer

Get Prepared for the Event

Daniel Stamp is a sport and exercise psychology lecturer at Unitec Institute of Technology. He is also a member of Sport and Exercise Science New Zealand. Dan consults with a variety of clients, including both elite and recreational athletes. Contact Dan if you want any advice on mental skills training including:

  • Motivation and adherence
  • Coping with anxiety and stress
  • Concentration and focus
  • Building self-confidence
  • Enhancing psychological well-being

Daniel Stamp: dstamp@unitec.ac.nz or 09 815 4321 x8217

Feeling motivated to train through the winter months? On target to perform on the big day? Whatever your event, you need to be prepared mentally if you want to perform on race day. Don't leave it to the last minute though, your preparation and training are just as important as the event itself. Read on to learn how to motivate and mentally prepare yourself for training and the event itself.

Click here for advice on Beating Pre-performance Nerves
Click here to view the Psychological Benefits of Exercise

The facts

"Winners never quit!" "Give 110%!" "Go hard or go home!" All phrases we've heard or used for ourselves, but how many of us actually do give it all we've got? The simple fact is that some individuals are highly motivated to achieve their goals and constantly strive for success, whereas others seem to lack motivation and don't put the effort in, quit early or drop out altogether. If you want to succeed, then you've got to be motivated, it's critical. In fact, sport and particularly running, epitomizes motivation - people being moved to act - it requires exertion, energy, focus, and sometimes a great deal of discipline. Act now and reap the benefits on race day.

Motivation is believed to be the foundation of sports performance and achievement. Without motivation, performers are unlikely to reach their athletic potential.

Motivation is all about effort - the direction and intensity of effort. So far, you are heading in the right direction. You've approached a challenge and signed up for the Auckland Marathon event. Now you've got to have the intensity to train so you can perform on the day.

Top motivation tips for training for the Auckland Marathon

To understand your motivation and therefore your training behaviours, here are some top tips to getting and staying motivated.

1. Set goals

A great motivation technique is to set goals, both in training and for the event itself. This will help you monitor your progress on a regular basis. As you are able to see your progress, your enthusiasm for running will increase. To help your goal setting, keep a training log of each run. Record times, distances, time of day, weather, your pulse rate, and any other statistic or aspect of your running you might find valuable. This will allow you to monitor your progress and learn from your mistakes. Many runners regularly review their training logs to look at the work they've done in the past to provide motivation for the future.

Some fundamental rules should be used when setting goals:

  • Be specific - don't just say you're going to improve on your last time or distance. Set an actual time or distance that you want to achieve.
  • Be realistic - set challenging goals, but don't make them too hard. Constantly failing your goals will lead to de-motivation. Gradually increase your expectations using short-term goals to achieve that major long-term goal.
  • Write them down (in your training log) – if you simply think through your goals and nothing else, you're likely to forget them and not achieve them. "Ink it, don't think it!" Recording your precise goals gives you a point of reference, something to look at and allows you to re-visit them to update and evaluate.
  • Be flexible – just remember, our lives are busy and sometimes running cannot be the priority. If something gets in the way of a training run, don't beat yourself up about it. Have a contingency plan. Can you run at a different time of the day? Can you skip that day using it as a rest day and then run on your planned rest day? Occasionally you may pick up an injury. Again, it's not the end of the world. Do what you've got to do to get better. Rest, rehab and restructure your goals.
  • Always evaluate your goals – to ensure you are doing all the above and most importantly, checking your progress and achievements, you have to look back at your goals. Does it seem too easy – then push yourself a little harder. Are you failing too many goals – then perhaps you need to be more realistic.
2. Find a 'buddy' to run with

Get a training partner or join a running group. Runners equal in ability or slightly advanced than you are the best option. Running with others makes the run more enjoyable. Building that friendship and working with others promotes accountability for each other and it will provide mutual motivation on those days when you or your partner(s) just can't be bothered.

3. Use visual cues and reminders

Being motivated is the key to achieving your potential. One way to keep your motivation high is to find out what inspires you to run. What got you in to running? Why are you entering an event at the Auckland Marathon? When you know your motives then surround yourself with inspirational reminders. Quotes, photos, posters, inspiring literature, biographies of successful runners, running books, running magazines, and videos are all great examples.

4. Mix it up

Doing the same workout or running the same route day after day leads to boredom. Be creative and alter your routine. Have a number of different running routes, run different distances or run at different times of the day. In fact, why not have a day off from running and choose another activity: cycling, swimming, gym workout. All of these can still increase your endurance, speed, strength, flexibility and conditioning.

5. Reward yourself

Rewards can be a powerful motivator. When you do succeed, make sure to do something nice for yourself. When you've succeeded and achieved an important goal, treat yourself to something nice: new running gear or perhaps a day off training. Remember, quality rest is as essential as active training.

6. Do it because you want to

The most important motivation is that which comes from within you. It's called intrinsic (internal) motivation, and if you have it then you'll just keep training. Go for a run because you enjoy it, even love it. Take pride in your running achievements. Challenge yourself and feel positive about your running. Give yourself a pat on the back for what you're doing, knowing that when it comes to race day you'll just be able to go out there and do it.

Event Day

If your training has gone to plan, then the run on the day will be a breeze. Everything you've learned and done through your training: your training schedule, your pacing techniques, your motivation, your stretching and injury prevention, your nutrition will all take effect and allow you to perform on the day.

The actual day is a huge occasion with thousands of participants, big crowds, and a new running route, so it's vital to take it all in, breathe and just do your thing. Here are some very simple tips to help you through your event to cross the finish line in the time that you want.

  1. Just remember, you've done it all in training. This is just another day. You know how to run, you know the pace to run at, you feel great, so just do it!!
  2. When you're standing at the start, take time to check through your race goals. Know your pace, know when to take fluid on, check your watch, but most of all – relax.
  3. Once you've started, don't worry about other runners. They have no impact on your race. Keep focussed on your run, your split times, your pace, your water stops. Don't be tempted to alter your race at the last minute because of other people. Keep to your plan.
  4. Everyone gets tired when running. Our breathing rate increases, we sweat, sometimes our legs feel heavy, but don't worry about this. Try not to think about these things. Look at the scenery around you. Admire the beautiful city you're running around. If you focus on things around you, the time will fly by. Some of you will listen to music whilst you run. This is another great technique for keeping you motivated and focussed on the task.
  5. Keep thinking about what it is going to mean to finish your event. Think about the achievement, the pure satisfaction of completing your goal. This will get you to the end. Your family will be proud and you will personally feel fantastic.
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