Hindsight is 20/20, right? After running every race, no matter how well the day went, I can recount things that did not go as planned. Where did things go off track and start going down hill? Our mind will play tricks on us and lead us down the wrong path. It’s finding a solution to recognize those mind games and correct the path that can help us achieve greater goals.

“The mind messes up more shots than the body.” – Tommy Bolt

Mind Games Off Course

Have you ever witnessed a car wreck, or the aftermath, where the vehicle seemed to swerve toward a collision with a stationary object (light pole, culvert, or a building)? Have you ever been in a meeting where things seemed to keep going in a downward spiral? What went wrong? Where was there an opportunity for a course correction?

What are you thinking about in a race when you encounter a big hill? Many times, I’ve thought to myself, “Don’t walk! This is going to kill me! Don’t walk!” And what do I end up doing on that climb? Walking…

We tend to be self-conscious when it comes to encountering challenges. We allow our brain to sabotage performance. When we tell our brain what to do, instead of focusing on what we don’t want it to do, we can find that path to success.

Mind Games - Mark McGwire quote
The mind is a powerful thing and most people don’t use it properly. — Mark McGwire

Correcting Course

By changing your thinking, and you can choose how you think, you can change your performance. Our actions follow our thoughts.

As I’ve begun running longer distances more often, I often encounter the wall multiple times during a run. It’s that mental point where you find doubt and fatigue. But I’ve found that it can be avoided and broken through with the right mindset.

Pace yourself, deep breaths, mind your form. With those keys to success, I can find a way to push through.

Mind Games in Action

This came to play this past weekend as I was running a 50-mile race on minimal training. While as unwise as that may have been, I wanted to see how far I could push myself on a brief training build-up.

The course was familiar (home to my current 50k PR) with a 12.5-mile loop I would complete 4 times. Everything was going well for the day as I was pacing steady and feeling strong. Then around mile 31, my legs gave out and I was more than ready to be done. I sulked and stopped at aid stations and verbally said I was finished.

Then at the end of loop 3, I’m sitting at the aid station waiting for someone to give me a window of opportunity to drop. I’m ready to do it when I think about a video I’d watched the night before from a California friend who was celebrating a major accomplishment toward her goals. And right at that time, the runner sitting next to me said, “It’s less than a half marathon to go. You can walk that.”

And he was right. I had less than 13 miles to go. I could walk it, according to my quick runner math, and still finish in under 11 hours.

Don’t let the mind games win

So, that’s what I did. I downed some pickle juice, a few pretzels, and refilled my Tailwind. I set out and walked everything but the downhills and finished that dang fourth lap without a thought of “I can’t do this” crossing my mind.

It sounds really stupid, but you can’t let those mind games play tricks on you. Yeah, my muscles are sore today from working way beyond what my training prepared them for. But failure was all in my mind. It decided to quit at mile 31, because that’s the artificial milestone for a 50k, not because I was done running.

I had to get back on track in my mind and find my keys for success to reach my goals for the day. You can make yourself bailout of anything if that’s what you’re telling yourself you’re going to do. It’s all in your head.

Learn to use your mind or your mind will use you. Actions follow our thoughts and images. Don’t look where you don’t want to go. — Mind Gym.

This continues a series of posts working my way through Mind Gym by Gary Mack. I read the book and it inspired quite a bit of motivation. I’m sharing a few thoughts as I work through the book once more.

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