Doubt. We all face it and it can derail a run, a race or a whole training season. I was chatting with a friend recently about how the mental side of running can sometimes be so much harder than the physical side. I think we all struggle with doubt and learning to manage it can be a process. I’ve always felt like getting my mind ready to race and run can sometimes be much harder than the actual runs themselves. I’ve come up with a few strategies for dealing with doubt and thought I’d share them in case they helped anyone else.
Before the Race
- Put in the work. You can only be truly confident in yourself if you’ve taken the time to put in the work. Once you know that you’ve put in the work on the backend you can focus on letting your mind reflect that knowledge.
- Commit to your goal. This goes along with putting in the work, but once you’ve set your goal, help yourself be successful at reaching it by really committing to doing what is necessary to reach that goal.
- Be realistic. I recently wrote about this in Women’s Running, but be honest about your training. If you need to make adjustments, do so. Be smart and that will help set you up for success and that can help eliminate doubt.
- Visualize the finish you want. I find when I start to get anxious about a race, I will visualize myself crossing the finish line and see the time on the clock that I want. It sounds silly, but I find it does help me.
- Check in with a trusted running friend. I find that another thing that helps me deal with doubt is reaching out to my running buddies who know what my training has been like and can remind me to believe in myself. The nice thing about these friends is that they won’t just say “oh yeah, you will totally kill it” without really knowing my training. They give measured, helpful advice that I know I can trust and they always encourage me to believe in myself and my abilities.
During the Race
- When you are in the moment, use your mantras and motivations. When I am racing and it gets hard, I think about how hard I have trained. But more than that, I use phrases that help motivate me to keep going.
- Break the race into chunks. If you’ve ever run a long run with me, you know that I do this ALL the time. I’m quick to think to myself (or out loud to friends) – “okay, only 2 miles to the turn around and then it’s just a 10k” or whatever the case may be. Breaking down the race into chunks that are manageable in my head helps me immensely. I suggest figuring out what mental games work for you and then exploiting the heck of out of them in the race.
- Acknowledge that the fact that it hurts doesn’t mean you aren’t strong. One thing I’ve learned is that racing to my full capabilities will hurt at some point during the race. It will not feel “good” or “easy” the whole way through. There will be a point (or points) in the race where it will be hard and it will hurt. This fact doesn’t mean I should doubt my myself – it means that I should embrace the pain and keep pushing (obviously there is a difference between the pain of a PR and injury – be smart!).
This strategy has worked for me previously and I hope that some of these tips on dealing with doubt are helpful for you.
How do you handle self doubt while racing?