Your mind is powerful. Often, more powerful than you think. As runners, we tend to focus on our physical performance, but in fact, your mental game is as critical as your physical preparation. To prepare for success, we need to work on our mental strength, and using visualization as a tool to get there, is the best running mental exercise we can do.
But what is visualization in running?
Simply put, visualization is a process in our mind where we create images or moments we aim to happen. It works as we create a virtual environment that helps us to walk through different scenarios that can possibly happen and prepare us how to handle them the best way possible.
It is about setting the right mindset to overcome various challenges and accomplish your goals.
Reasons to practice visualization
Different runners deal with different issues when it comes to running. Some of them are related to stress, anxiety, confidence, lack of motivation, healthy behaviors, mental barriers.
Visualization can help you to overcome any hurdle along the way. Visualizing your fears and how to react to them, or just visualizing how well you will do is a key to be prepared and successful.
Common problems in running that visualization can solve
It is so common to feel fear or anxiety when you have a hard workout, time trial, or a race. The reason is that we don’t want to fail short of our goals. However, those hard workouts or races will test our limits and increase the pressure of performing well in order to avoid disappointment. Visualization here is a great tool to normalize these days and make you feel comfortable. Visualize how your workout/ race will go. Try to imagine a good scenario but be realistic. Hard running days will likely hurt more than others so visualize that it’s okay to feel the pain in your legs but your mind and body can absolutely handle it. In fact, you have been hurting so many times during training that you are perfectly adapted to endure it. Remind yourself how strong you are and that you deal with the running pain and soreness since day one. You are ready. Then, think about how great your workout will go. It’s a good idea to work yourself through every detail so when the day comes, you feel so ready for it.
However, it is necessary also to prepare your mind what to do if things don’t go as planned. Let’s say your race is delayed or the weather is bad. Think about how you would stay calm and how those conditions are equal for every runner, and like them, you too would feel equally nervous and that’s okay. You should remind yourself that not every day is a great day in the running world and even if you feel tired and your workout or race is slower than planned, this doesn’t mean your hard work will not pay off.
I used to get very stressed before races because I was afraid I would fail the people who believe in me and those who helped me to get to the level I was. I lacked confidence and allowed the fear and anxiety to take over. Visualization changed the course of my thoughts and once I started to practice it, I resolved all of these problems.
What will happen if you fail? It’s a thing that you don’t want to really think about but it may actually help you. Visualizing the worse can happen helped me to realize that is nothing to be really too stressed about.
Let’s be real, even if we have the worst race of our life, this does not change who we are, what we have accomplished, and what other people think about us. In real life, you can have the worst race ever today, and the best one next week. Is it worth it to spend days, weeks, or even months fearing an event or workout that does not determine anything about us? No. It took me a lot of thinking and visualization, even failures to realize that. Now I am really calm because I know that even if I have the worst day, I will still have good days and what matters the most is how well we do overall, not on a single day.
To be confident also needs some practice. Setting yourself for success is perhaps the first and most important step to achieve it.
To be successful, however, you need to be confident in yourself. When it comes to races or hard workouts, I like to visualize all the hard work I have been putting in recently. I remind myself how well my body adapted and how prepared my mind is for what’s to come ahead. In fact, I visualize how strong I am becoming even during the hard training days. Visualization helps me go through the rough patches during and after training. Confidence builds up in your mind, thus using visualization as an instrument is critical. Think about your running days as saving money in your bank account each day. On race days, you will have enough savings to withdraw from and do well. Visualize this path anytime you can.
The same exercise is great if want to develop some healthy habits or improve your motivation. Think about the success you will achieve if you do what is required of you. See yourself as someone who can do it and enjoys the end result. Believe that what you imagine will come true and the chances will do are huge. Visualizing the success will also keep your motivation high and consistent.
Any mental barrier that prevents you from becoming great is something you can work on using the great power of visualization. Ask yourself WHY this barrier is there, IDENTIFY your fears, WEIGHT the risks and the benefits, EXPLORE what will happen if you put yourself out of your comfort zone.
Visualization is just about meeting your greatest fears and dreams at the same time. But visualizing them helps you gain control in advance and puts you in a position to succeed in your future.
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