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Geoff Beattie is Professor of Psychology at Edge Hill University and the author of 21 books, including ‘Get the Edge: How Simple Changes Will Transform Your Life’ (Headline) and ‘Rethinking Body Language. How Hand Movements Reveal Hidden Thoughts’ (Routledge). He was the resident psychologist on Big Brother for 11 series.
So race day approaches, and you’ve spent many months training for the big event. You’ve done the miles in training, in all sorts of weather, and you’re ready to go. Or are you?
There’s the other side of any athletic event – the psychological side. We’ve all heard that sports psychologists are making huge differences to performance in a wide range of sports, but for the ordinary runner this tends to be the neglected area. Running clubs can, of course, help in the psychological preparation, they provide support, friendly competition, advice, the feeling that you’re not alone, but is there anything else that you can do to stay positive and focused in the few days leading up to an event?
Here are a few last minute top tips:
1. Our everyday, mundane thoughts affect our emotional state. We can work on our everyday thoughts to make ourselves happier and more positive. We ourselves can do something.
2. Keep yourself happy by imagining yourself in the future when everything has gone really well for you.
3. Remember to express gratitude for all the good things in your life. This will improve your mood state.
4. We’re often far too critical of ourselves, this makes us feel down. You can change this. If training doesn’t go well, don’t internalise it (eg: I’m no good at running’), put it to one side. Challenge that internal critic in your head (imagine that somebody you don’t like has just said this to you, you wouldn’t accept it then!). There’s always the next training session. Prove your internal critic wrong.
5. Help others challenge their everyday explanations for these sorts of negative events. This will make you feel better as you support them.
6. Consolidate positive memories. After you brush your teeth last thing at night think about all the good things that have happened to you that day. Don’t focus, last thing at night on all the bad things that have happened. That way you are making your positive memories more ‘accessible’ and you will wake up in the morning feeling happier.
7. Enjoy the moment more, the morning of the race, the race itself, after the race.
8. We all get a ‘buzz’ after a race (trust me!), look forward to it. That is your reward. Use this as an incentive. Focus on this when things get tougher in the race.
9. Learn to find the positives in any situation. If a competitor passes you in the race, look on the positive side, get into their slipstream, let them do the hard work for you.
10. If you’re nervous or feeling negative on the day of the race, listen to some music. Music and exercise are the two best methods for improving mood state. The race will take care of the exercise part!
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