She Runs and Writes: Mental Prep

By: Dawn Garland

Hello fellow runners!  Well, the countdown is on.  This past weekend was t-minus one month until the Chick-Fil-A Half Marathon.  I'm not sure what it is about the one month mark, but it always holds a pretty big significance for me.  Possibly because it always seems like a race is so far off.  I have weeks and weeks to prepare!  Plenty of time!  And then WHAMMO!  Stuff just got real.

There's this great meme I've seen that says if you ever want to know what it's like to be inside a woman's brain, imagine having your internet browser up with 14,000 tabs open at the same time.  I'd say that's fairly accurate.  But when I get to that month mark, I tend to make myself close down at least a few of those.  So let's get into that.  Where should your brain be as you are streaking towards the big race.

First- let's get real basic.  Food and sleep.  The 2 things that every single one of us needs.  I am the very first to admit that my love of sweets essentially trumps all.  You guys have no idea.  I wish cake was a food group.  But guess what?  I'm also honest enough to know that's not going to help me beat my time from last year.  So, my diet will now be consisting of lots of clean protein, veggies, fruits, and (this is important) GOOD carbs.  Brown rice, steel cut oats, quinoa.  Always remember- junk in, junk out.  My job is to fuel my body so that it doesn't betray me at mile 10.  

Sleep.  Ah, glorious sleep.  It's an enigma at times.  A pipe dream at others.  I am an early morning runner.  My alarm goes off at 5:00 for my training.  Which means that I may be missing some of my favorite tv shows for a little while so that my body can properly heal and restore itself.  Want a more smarty pants explanation of the necessity for sleep?  Here you go.  Long story short- schedule your sleep.  Make yourself get rest.  No excuses.  NONE.  

I am a big believer in not changing my strength training up too radically during this last stretch.  (You are strength training, right?  Runners need muscles.  Strong cores.  Just a reminder...)  I like challenging my muscles and I get bored rather easily lifting weights.  But shocking my system with an entirely new leg regime just wouldn't be smart at this point.  I continue to work on form and slowly increasing my weight and/or reps with the routine I've been doing.  I find this also helps me focus on the larger goal.  I'm not worried that I'm doing some crazy version of a split squat wrong.  I'm just honing in on what I've been doing.

Finally (and here comes the touchy feely part), let's talk about visualization.  It's so easy to get frustrated at the endless cycle of run/strength train/stretch/repeat.  I had a 4 mile run this morning that felt like it took about 2 hours to complete.  My body just wasn't cooperating.  So, I went back in my mind to last year's CFA half.  I remembered seeing the faces of all the spectators.  High fiving little kids who were standing along the route with their hand made signs.  Seeing familiar faces at the water stops.  Those beautiful little oases in the desert of 13.1 miles.  The brain has amazing capabilities to overcome just about any kind of duress.  And time and time again, science has proven that visualization has an immense effect on athletics.  So, when you're in the throes of a long training run, or having to lift that weight one more time; think about where you're going to be.  See yourself finishing the race.  Crossing that finish line.  Feeling that overwhelming rush of adrenaline because YOU DID IT.  

Remember- we're all in this to better ourselves. You do this for you. You're an athlete. You're a powerhouse. And no one can take that away from you.

Till next time, run on...

Dawn Garland is a native of Tampa, FL. She reads, she writes, she knits and does not believe that any college football conference can live up to the SEC. Dawn works at the University of Georgia as an analyst/consultant and her biggest accomplishment in life so far is the walking, talking sports almanac that is her eight year old son.