Running is a mental sport! Before you win your race, you must beat your toughest opponent – your mind.

When the fall leaves start to drop, it’s time for the very brief and exciting season of Cross-Country Running. Some years we’ve been diligent to train through the summer, but not so much this year. That made this Sunday’s training run so much more difficult.

After 2 very soggy days where we received 30-100 mm of rain (1-4 inches) the wet ground made for a little bit of adventure. We settled on doing intervals on a course about 1000 meters long.

Feeling the stretch after a good training

Interval #1 – like dragging your teenager off to the dentist for a filling. There was lots of looking around, some pacing issues, taking it cautiously downhill and wanting to cut short the route. The job of coach dad was encouragement and observation.
Interval #2 – This time I started to observe some running and not just jogging. We were still feeling the pain and I was still pulling the pace a little, but I made an adjustment and started to run at the back. This seemed to help a bit as the complaining dropped.
Interval #3 – This lap made me want to do more. Finally we got to a race pace, pushed through the uphills and coasted downhill. As we came to the finishing straight I couldn’t stay with the sprint. Finally!

What I learned (relearned, remembered…) from this training time was how much running (and life in general) is won and lost in the mind.  From the decision to wake up at 6:30 am on a Sunday morning, to pushing through a tough interval, to dealing with soggy socks – if we hadn’t won the small battles, we never would have experienced the victory of interval #3.

As a coach, I’ve got to be a student of my athletes. I’ve got to find the motivational drivers for each one and figure out where to push, where to pull and (most importantly) when to back off. A high performance athlete is going to have good internal drive and as a coach, my job is to help them to achieve their goals.

What I practiced to make this a successful training was:

  • Made decisions when we were feeling strong and motivated (the night before, the week before)
  • Assessed my athlete’s mental state and adjusted my coaching
  • Pushed through the difficult to get to success
  • Celebrated our success

How can we build on this success?

  • We can begin to build habits that win. One training will not win the hard races, but daily steps forward, weekly discipline and simple, repeatable plans.

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