Running Psychology - improve your run performance with Sports Psychology
Sports Psychologists have become more and more popular in running over the last few years - helping runners and teams to perform better, more consistently.
Running is a physical sport, there is no doubt about this. When you run, your physiology is challenged, especially when you run hard (intensely) and/or far. Just because your body carries this load, doesn't mean that your mind doesn't have a lot to contend with.
Before a race, your mind goes into overdrive thinking about how you will do, how others will do... You will likely experience an increase in stress, anxiety and agitation. In the race you have plenty of time to think. To think constructive thoughts. To focus on what is helpful. Or, to wind yourself up more. Distract yourself onto what is not going to help... When you run, you are always thinking.
Having raced triathlons - and a fair few run races - for 20 years, including races at European and World level, I have plenty personal experience of managing run performances (and training sessions).
As a Sports Psychologist, I have helped many runners over the years to better manage their mind, their events and their performances. I have written for Runners World, answered questions posed by their readers and been interviewed on the RW Podcast on the psychology of running.
The best runners have excellent physiology, which is well trained, but they also have developed effective psychological skills to manage their life as a runner, so they can execute their peak performance when it counts.
On this page, you will learn:
Read on, or get in touch with me to book your Sports Psychology for running assessment appointment - remotely by video call (Skype, WhatsApp), telephone, or in London UK. It would be great to hear from you.
Ten ways Sports Psychology can help your running
Manage pre-race tension and worry so you arrive at your event fresh, ready and keen to race
Focus on the elements that are key for your optimum performance, without getting distracted by irrelevant factors or what others are up to
Develop routines for before the race and any down time, so you gain more control and consistency over your performances
Better manage your emotions (stress, frustration, anger...) associated with competition
Develop bullet-proof confidence in your ability, performance and bounce-back-ability following any setbacks
Set effective goals for the year, month and next training session to shape your behaviour and focus, leading you to faster improvement
Become clearer about why you race, what motivates you, setting-up training and racing to foster maximum motivation
Develop images and visualise your performance, to better manage performances and increase confidence
Process injuries so they do not hold you back
Manage periods of poor form so you get back to your best
There are many other ways that sports psychology can help your run performances. I list these 10 ways to give you some ideas. Maybe within this list you are seeing some ways that I as a sports psychologist can help you. Get in touch, to find out how I can help.
Performance problems and psychological solutions for your running
To give you a further idea of what sports psychology can do for runners, I’ve listed some common problems below; along with some of the ways (but by no means all the ways) I solve them. Perhaps you will spot your difficulties in some of the descriptions.
Problem: You get yourself worked up into such a state before even minor events that you feel extremely nervous, you want to leave, and sometimes even vomit.
Solution: After a full assessment of the difficult situation and your response we can apply a tailored stress management programme to reduce your physical tension and psychological stress.
Problem: In your last race you performed so badly that your confidence has taken a big hit.
Solution: We can look at that race in detail to understand what sense you’ve made of why it happened (including the lead-up), and at the impact it has had on you. We then produce a stepped plan for you to get back on track, increase your confidence to its previous level (or above) and move on from the setback stronger than before.
Problem: Your performance has been inconsistent over a series of competitions. You don’t know what you should be doing and thinking about before races.
Solution: There are sports psychology techniques that we can apply to help you identify your effective pre-race routine – this will lead to consistently higher performance.
Problem: Your performance has reached a plateau and hasn’t improved for a while. You set goals but don’t reach them.
Solution: Effective goal setting isn’t simple nor a once a year activity. But with help you can learn to set appropriate and achievable goals, set up training sessions so you are likely to reach them and to conduct appropriate reviews of progress so goals can be lowered or raised over time. You will then be much more likely to achieve them.
Problem: You get distracted at key times of your race weekend - in the lead-up or during your race.
Solution: We can work on techniques to improve concentration skills, identify the types of factors that distract you, and work on the key areas that will keep you focused when you need to. We will also identify the times when you don't need to be thinking about your event, to switch-off, to save your energy for the time to perform.
Problem: You’ve been racing for a number of years and it has become less exciting and more dull than you remember. Your motivation has gone. You wonder if there is any point of doing this for another year.
Solution: We can review why you race, why you got into running in the first place, and plan the year so it is more focused, fun (yes, it can be) and interesting. These and other techniques can help you to boost motivation and enjoy your racing again.
Get in touch, to find out how I can help.
Free Running Psychology tips
Here are some quick sports psychology tips to help improve your running performance and to illustrate some of practical help I offer.
You will find tips for helping you to:
Develop powerful imagery and visualisation skills
Develop better concentration
1. Boost motivation for your running
A. List the factors which motivate you to run - to train to race.
It may also be useful to think about:
What do you gain from training/racing? (e.g., personal challenge, competitive outlet, etc.)
What do you want to achieve?
If you didn't train/race what would you miss/lose?
Why did you take up running in the first place?
Why are you still involved in competing?
B. During training and racing, think about and observe what you like and do not like about what you are doing. Write these down.
2. Increase confidence
In the situations where you are lacking confidence, allow yourself to become more aware of the thoughts (i.e., self-talk) that goes through your mind.
Am I thinking accurately?
Is this thought helping me?
Can I see things in a more helpful and accurate way?
What would a more helpful thought be?
Can I express my thought in a way that includes what I want, not what I don’t want (e.g., “I can..” or “I will…” rather than “I won’t…” “Don’t…”)?
3. Manage competition nerves
When you notice physical tension in the lead-up to an event, try the following:
Take a series of short inhalations, about one per second, until your chest is filled.
Hold for 5 seconds.
Then exhale slowly for 10 seconds while thinking to yourself the word relax (or calm or easy).
Notice your body becoming more and more relaxed, as all the tension leaves your body.
Repeat this process at least 5 times, each time striving to deepen the state of relaxation you are experiencing.
If this is a problem area for you, make sure that you get hold of my comprehensive Stress Management programme, available as an audio download. You can order straight-away. It is backed by a money-back guarantee.
4. Develop powerful imagery and visualisation skills
The following can help increase your ability to create and store powerful images to improve performance:
Part A: Imagine you are home in your living room. Look around and take in all the details. What do you see? How are the shapes and textures of any furniture and other objects in the room? What colour are the walls? Are there any pictures or paintings? If so, where are they and how do they look? If you are sitting, what does the chair feel like? What sounds do you hear? What is the temperature like? Is there any movement in the air? What do you smell? Use all your senses and take it all in.
Part B: Later when you are at home in your living room go to the place you had imagined in the exercise above. What do you see, smell, hear and feel? Do you notice details that you didn't call up when your imagined the scene?
Repeat A (and B again if you like) and see how your ability to generate detailed and vivid images improves.
5. Develop better concentration
Here's one of many tips for improving your focus: Develop cue words that trigger the correct focus when you need it.
List the key aspects of your running performance that you want to maintain. Next, write down the individual words or short phrases that capture the essence of such a perfect movement, level of relaxation or arousal, or perhaps what you want to be thinking or feeling. Here are some examples: "fast feet," "quiet feet," "smooth," "let's go," "relax" or "do it."
Test-out a word or phrase at each training session or race, to see which one(s) evoke the best focus and help set up the movement and performance you want. Find a couple of these.
Next, identify something that will act as trigger for these words. For instance, you might place a mark on your running shoe, watch or kit bag. Then, when you see your trigger, this will trigger you to think the words that you know can help. Not only does this help your focus, it will boost your confidence too which will have a beneficial impact on your performance.
If you want more tailored help for any of these areas, in London, or wherever you are by a remote consultation, then get in touch. We can then organise Sports Psychology assessment of your running and address your performance limiters.
Manage your running nerves and stress
Usually, pre-race tension builds in the hours and days before an important (to you) event. Your mind, diet and sleep are all affected by your rising levels of stress.
Your frame of mind has a large bearing on how you perform and the outcome of your race (your position and your enjoyment, or misery).
Your performance can be affected to a large extent by how stressed you are during the event (e.g., your race weekend). By stressed, I mean:
How much tension you hold in your muscles. Tension will impair your movements and biomechanics – causing you run less efficiently.
How much adrenaline is coursing through your veins: some is good, too much and this can put you out of your comfort zone, distracting you from your race strategy, as you wonder what the hell is going on with your body.
How positive you are: are you expecting things to go badly, to start poorly, to go behind, let yourself or others down, make a fool of yourself…? Lining yourself up for a self-fulfilling prophecy!
If you wait for race day to start managing your stress, you will almost certainly be too late to do anything significant about it - particularly if you have not developed robust stress management strategies to draw on.
I have developed a Sport Stress Management Program it is available to download straight-away, to tackle your stress, anxiety, panic, tension… for your running. The program is available to download straight-away. It addresses the three important areas:
Physical tension (with not just one, but three proven physical relaxation techniques)
Unhelpful stress-related behaviour (what you do or don’t do)
This program is based on the stress management courses that I researched, developed and taught within the NHS. It is based on what works. You can get this all for less than £20. It comes with a no quibble, 100% money-back guarantee. That is because I am confident that it will help you. Go ahead and order your stress solution today.
Alternatively, if you want more tailored help for any of these areas, in London, or wherever you are by a remote consultation, then get in touch.