Training your mind

Training your mind

Training for a marathon - or any race - isn't just about the physical preparation. The mental aspect is arguably just as important, as Andy Barton explains.

Training on cold, dark winter nights requires a lot of motivation and here are some key ways to boost your performance...

1. Do it for charity.
This gives you an added purpose and f you’ve got a purpose behind any goal, it tends to give you much better momentum. Choose your charity carefully and try and make it something you’re passionate about. That increases your motivation to put in the training - it’s something which is bigger than yourself and that really helps in terms of focus, drive and a feeling of well-being too. As an added boost, thinking about how much money you’ll potentially be raising is a real motivator to go out training.

2. Be realistic.
So you've signed up for an event and are planning your training but if you say ‘right I’m going to go running every day’ but you haven’t run for 10 years then that's not realistic. You may do it for the first week but what usually happens then is you start breaking that trend because things crop up - whether it's sorting out the kids or a heavy workload. And once you break the pattern it can all or nothing - and you start feeling bad about it. It’s really important to aim to do what you realistically can do. If it’s only twice a week then fine, but commit to doing it twice a week.

3. Get a training buddy or join a club.
What you ideally want is someone who’s a similar standard but don't despair if that's not possible, though you don't want a massive difference in ability as that can risk a loss of motivation on both sides. But you could just connect socially if that's the case and don't have to train together - have mini competitions like seeing who can knock the biggest percentage off their personal best. Joining a running club, cycling club or walking group is fantastic too. That way you also get the camaraderie and you're part of a community.

4. Break down your target.
If you are going to be running a marathon and you’ve hardly run before then you don’t want to have 26 and a bit miles in your mind in September. Work backwards and decide where you need to be in March, February, January and so on. Give yourself targets for each stage. So in the first month it might be completing a mile run without stopping. You are breaking it down into small pieces and achievable chunks. You work out the journey as a whole and then just concentrate on whatever the target is for that month. That’s your only focus at that moment in time.
5. Reward yourself.
And when you achieve that mini goal each month, you can give yourself a big pat on the back or reward yourself in some way before you focus on the next section. I worked with an amateur golfer recently who couldn't envisage how he'd get his handicap down from six to zero. But once we started to plan the time required getting it from six to five, and then five to four and so on it suddenly became achievable. It's the same with running. It’s always about the stepping stones in the middle, they are the most important bits if you are going to achieve your goal. That way you feel you’re getting somewhere. And when you do that, you feel good about it.

Fine-tuning your mental approach is just as crucial on the big day itself - click here to read Andy Barton's top tips for your race-day mindset

Click here to sign up for one of our charity runs.

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