Categorized | Tips

5 tips for your mental game plan

Posted on 13 April 2010

Over the races I have done I have always been very interested how different people choose their tactics for dealing with the race on a mental level. The range is of course wide and you tend to get 14 answers if you ask 12 people. However these are the ways that I use to deal with my mental side of the game, and when it comes to ultra marathons, the mental game are as important as your physical side.

If you have other ways to prepare mentally, please let me know, please use the comment field below.

Now for my top five tips for the mental game:

– Understand why you have signed up for the ultra
To do an ultra marathon is so much more than just a long run. You will have to go deep and ask for your body to endure a lot of pain. To do this you have to know what it is that drives you and what it means to you to complete the ultra marathon. One way to understand this is to write down the 100 reasons for why you do the event. This will make you try hard and really figure out what it means to you to complete, and maybe also what it would mean to fail the event. This list will make you stronger when you stand on the start lines and also when you are struggling at night and you still have a long way to go.

– Card with well wishes
In many of the races I have done I have had a small card with me with well wishes from friends and family. At times when it has been tough I have taken out the card and the thoughts (and sometimes threats!) have given me energy to push through and continue the run.

– Read books to understand what running an Ultra means (especially ahead of your first ultra)
Before running an ultra there are many ways to figure out what might lie ahead of you. Plenty of books has been written that in detail go through experiences from different races and different peoples view. The range goes form inspirational (Born to Run, an extremely well-written account of a journalist’s dream to do an ultra race with a Mexican tribe of indians) through to scientific (Lore of running – a true brick of a book / and “Survival of the fittest” by Mike Stroud, which is an extraordinary account of mixing experience with scientific facts).

– Research what others have gone through
If you can speak to people that have done the race before you, take the opportunity and learn from them (their mistakes *smile*). Get on the forum for the event and read what people have said the previous years, and maybe get a private showing of the DVD from events in the past. Small tips on how the surface is, what types of shoes to use, etc can be very helpful. If not for anything else, for calming the nerves.

– Work on scenarios and know your mantra
Think ahead about how you are going to manage situations that are likely to occur. How will you manage pain? Do you have a mantra or a certain mind game to play when you are in pain or when issues arise. The more senses you can involve the better. I use my childhood home and when things are tough and I want to take my mind away from the pain I go to the house in Sweden where I grew up. Think about how it smells, looks and feels; what sounds are there etc. For me this is a great way to take your mind of the misery.

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