Mindset Matters

Mindset Matters
by Timothy Lyman, Director of Training Programs at Fleet Feet Pittsburgh

As a runner, I’m sure you’re intimately aware of the brain-body connection and how it can affect performance in a workout and a race. The most recent developments in the exercise science world are pointing directly at the symbiotic nature of these two systems, and we are just beginning to understand how powerful this connection can actually be. Your mindset matters, not just in everyday life, but in athletic performance as well.

We all hear the little voices in our heads, especially during a long training run. How often do you take the time to listen to what it is saying? This incessant chatter is a biological marvel. I think, therefore I am. Most athletes have unfortunately been conditioned to silence their inner oracle, when it is actually in their best interest to give it a microphone and let it speak up. In our society we are hounded by mantras like “shut up and run” and “pain is weakness leaving the body.” This is bogus, and is how people end up hurt. I’m not saying that every mile you run will be Strawberry Fields forever. What I am implying is that your human organism is much more intelligent than your rational mind, and it will do you some good to be aware of what it is telling you.

We are adapted to be chronic students; we are constantly learning on a subconscious level. Everything you see, every sensation you feel and every experience you have is an opportunity for you to know and understand something new. In running, every step we take literally creates new neurological pathways in our brain. Our workouts are not just miles for the sake of mileage, but are an opportunity to engage both our mental and physical components. They become an opportunity to enhance communication between these two seemingly separate parts of ourselves, and allow us to begin to understand the amazingly complex symbiosis that truly exists.

I always like to ask my runners how they feel after a training run. Being more aware of how we feel helps tune us in to the signals we are receiving. Ask yourself what you are learning, and how you should respond based on that knowledge. I know it’s tempting to sync your Garmin and post a sweaty selfie immediately after your workout, but try keeping a running journal instead. I know it’s easy to stretch for two seconds then chug some water before hustling on to the next part of your day. Rather, remain still, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Your body wants to teach you something every second of every day, and it is asking you for a response.

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