by Kathryn Macleod
Often times in marathons there are signs that are put along the course by supporters, usually for inspiration. One sign that I often remember was a two part series… the first sign said something like this “running is a mental game,” followed by a second sign stating “and we think you’re all crazy.”
As we are coming into the thick of race season and as our long runs are increasing, I wanted to address a topic that is applicable to all. I am reminded of a marathon I ran a few years back when I was trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon. This was before Boston had lowered their qualifying times and the time for my age group was 3:10:00. At first this was more of just a dream or an idea, but as my training continued the dream became more of a goal and more of a reality.
My training runs during the week and my long runs on the weekends all started to lineup and land within the pace range I needed to keep in order to qualify. Still, however, I did not really think I was going to be able to make it. The race day came. I rode the bus to the starting line. As I got off the bus rain started to trickle. By the time the race started we were covered with water. I did have a garbage bag that covered my top, but I started the race with my shoes a little squishy. This was not going to stop me.
At the beginning of the race it was going well and at the midpoint I had met my goal of an hour and a half. As the race continued on, I started to get tired and my mind began to wander as is common during the later stages of a marathon. Read More….
My passion for running has been over 10 years in the making, and I owe a great deal of my running passion to my Dad. He may not know this or take credit for this, but he is a big reason I ran my first marathon. I was once at a family gathering at my aunt’s house and happened to be looking at their family pictures. One of the pictures was a photo of my uncle running a marathon. I talked a little bit to my uncle about his running, and it started to spark my interest. I later was speaking to my dad and jokingly mentioned that we should run a marathon, like my uncle. You have to understand at the time I did not do much running for fun, if I did run it usually involved a ball. I never had run a 5k, let alone a marathon.
The intensity in the room was so thick; one could cut it with a knife. A group of women sitting focused on the screen, watching the live camera view from the lead vehicle; the 100 men competing for 3 slots to make the US Marathon Olympic team. This vivid memory from Charlotte North Carolina in 1996 continues to impact my clinical decision making as a physical therapist. I will never forget the commentator’s announcement that given the same VO2 max, stride length, etc…, “the one with the most stable pelvis wins”!
I decided to write this article from my >20 year experience working with runners. I’ve had amazing hands on opportunities from working with people who like (and don’t like) to run from the beginner to professional, from biomechanical wrecks to those finely tuned machines. This given article only serves as a possible opportunity for those aspired to integrate 4 core stabilization exercises into their training. I have seen many injuries over the years, and feel strongly that prevention is the key. Cross training in all planes is imperative.
In Taber’s medical dictionary, dynamic stabilization is defined as “an integrated function of neuromuscular systems requiring muscles to contract and fixate the body against fluctuating outside forces, providing postural support with fine adjustments in muscle tension. The term usually pertains to a function of the trunk, shoulder, and hip muscles and includes the lower extremity muscles when they are functioning in a closed chain.” In short, the term is used for the development of postural stability and skilled movement control. Principals in stabilization may include: isolation before integration; slow before fast; and correct breathing.
The following, in my clinic experience, are the “4 for the core” that if preformed correctly can prevent many common running injuries. Neutral pelvis is required to perform the exercises correctly. Body alignment is essential with the ear, shoulder and hip being in a line. The pelvis position can be viewed like a bowl; the bowl is level, not dumping water out the front (sway back) or the back (flat back).
Advanced plank on elbows: lifting one leg; more difficult- lifting leg with opposite arm.
Last Saturday morning I laced up my shoes again for another 5K. It was the Draper Days 5K and as I toed the line, and saw the many talented runners around me, I was struck with the realization that I was going to have to work hard to place well in this one. This would be no “walk in the park”. The race turned out to be one of those rare occasions where I felt like I was mentally tough and pushed through the pain to get to a new level.
Here are a few mental toughness strategies which may help you get to that next level in a workout or a race:
Running really is a sport where being mentally tough makes a HUGE difference in your performance.
What do you do to be mentally tough in your workouts and/or races?
by Janae Richardson – Runner | USATF Certified Coach