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By Columnist Ron Byland – USATF, RRCA and Lydiard certified Running Coach:


Photo Credit: AtoVan, 2013: Vancouver Sun Run

As the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games finished, the games presented a great opportunity for all of us to learn from the best athletes in the world. There were a large number of fantastic performances in all sports and as a coach I am always intrigued about how I can help my athletes improve their performances. In particular, I look for ways to prepare my athletes in handling the mental stress of training and racing.

As Yogi Berra once said, ‘Baseball is 90% mental. The other half is physical’. In my opinion, it is both 100% mental and physical; you need both aspects to reach your potential.  I’ve worked with athletes who were extremely physically talented, but never achieved their goals, due to their lack of mental strength. Also, I’ve worked with athletes who were so mentally tough they were able to accomplish goals which they had never imagined would be possible.

A great example is Michael Phelps in the 200 fly at the Olympic finals this year. Before the race, there was lots of taunting and Michael told himself, ”No way he was going to lose that race!” The majority of athletes would have cracked under this pressure given the circumstance.

Visualisation and its Importance

When I coach my athletes, one of my tools I like to use includes helping them “see” the race, before and through constant visualisation during the event. The following are some ways to include this in your training:

  • Picture yourself at your best – Take 10-15 minutes a couple of times per day to picture yourself running your goal race in every possible condition, but always with the outcome of success. You can only control your mind, not the weather or other competitors, etc.
  • During the race, stay in the moment – I like to tell myself to focus on the next breath and step, staying relaxed and smooth. The current mile will take care of itself.
  • Focus on the bigger picture – Don’t get caught up in the outcome or distance, focus on the moment. For instance, focusing on running a full marathon in a certain time is mentally draining, but breaking the race up into smaller sections is less stressful.
  • Leave others expectations behind – Don’t get caught up in other people’s expectations of you. In today’s world, social media creates a profile which creates others to expect nothing less than 100%. Trust your training and race to your best ability.
  • Learn from your failures – Every run is not perfect. Look back at your training log leading up to your goal race and review all the great workouts you’ve completed “If you can conceive it…you can achieve it!”
  • Work on Improvement – Find your success in how your abilities have improved. It is the journey and the joy of the run to remember when reaching your goals. Do this and I promise you will exceed your expectations and achieve more than you have ever dreamed.

Have a great month of running, and I’ll see you on the roads! Also, remember that if you want to run faster, then you have to slow down.

Coach Ron

About Our Marathon News and Review Columnist

Ron Byland HeadShotBackground

  • USATF, RRCA & Lydiard Certifications
  • 25+ Years coaching experience
  • 30+ Years of Competitive racing
  • Coached runners of all levels from beginner to Olympic caliber runners
  • Founder & coach of Minneapolis based Mile To Marathon Run Club

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Disclaimer: The information published in this column is the author’s own professional and personal knowledge, and opinion. This information and opinion are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition and consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on InShape News.

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