the mental aspect of sports and a training update

Skating has once again become exciting. I found a new favorite skater to watch since Tara Lipinski and Sasha Cohen are both gone from the amateur ranks. I actually found her 2010 competitions on YouTube a while back and thought she had amazing potential and have been following when her competitions have been posted to YouTube, but she was relatively obscure because she was not a Senior yet. This weekend she made sure people knew who she was.

Her first season as a senior this year started inconsistently. After the Rostelecom Cup she said, “I think the biggest competition is myself. I am a perfectionist at heart. That makes me a great skater, but it also can be my worst enemy at times.” Disaster struck again during the short program at the US Figure Skating Championships last Thursday with all the hype and pressure on her. She skated an awful short program falling once and popping another jump leaving her in 9th place. Interestingly enough she found herself in a place free of any pressure and on Saturday night she went out and skated one of the most amazing programs resulting in the second highest score EVER since the new judging system was put into place eight years ago. How was she able to do this? In her words, “I didn’t get over my head with thoughts or expectations. I just went out there and skated like I know how to skate.” Unfortunately, the score was not high enough to hold onto 1st place but she ended up in 2nd and I think she ended up the true winner of the event. Also going from 9th place to 2nd is amazing.

graciegoldAnd because my picture doesn’t do the program justice you should watch the video.

Mental barriers are nothing new in sports, especially to me. Learning to deal with thoughts and expectations has been one of the hardest things for me in running. I think I find running to be even more of a mental sport than figure skating was for me (although I am sure I might think differently if I had been the favorite for an upcoming Olympics! My pressure is rather self-imposed…). The one time I actually feel like I lived up to my potential at the time was during the San Francisco Marathon when despite tired legs I was able to run a marathon PR on a difficult course and feel great doing it because there was no pressure. I was supposed to use the race as a long run and stop at mile 20 so I was able to go out there and run like I know how to run. Recognizing it is one thing but being able to overcome the problem is necessary to really excel. There is a reason there are sports psychologists and millions of books on the topic.

Improving my mental game and learning to embrace pain are my two largest goals.

painHopefully that won’t happen to me.

On the topic of races I did do the Manhattan Half this weekend. I did not race it though. I have found that I have been doing way too many races in the past to really perform at my peak for when it matters both physically and even more mentally. I had signed up for it after the Hamilton Marathon when I was eager to get retribution. However, now I have more important future goals coming up in the next few months and almost decided to skip it, but then decided that it would be a good chance for a quality long run with water stations and because the cold weather has made me feel like not exerting myself that much (hence also why I did not race). I finished in 1:43:17 and was happy with the effort although I always feel like a little piece of me dies inside when I don’t race a race.

manhattanhalf2013Sunday brought an end to the mesocycle where I focus on speed. This doesn’t mean I won’t be doing anymore speedwork, but the emphasis will be on endurance and really being able to hit marathon paced miles with ease. I am excited because this plays more to my strengths as a runner. 76 days!!!

How do you prevent yourself from being your own worst enemy? Do you ever use races as training runs?

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4 Responses to the mental aspect of sports and a training update

  1. the best races are the ones i don’t care about (or where i have no expectations). this happened constantly in 2012. i had no idea where i was speed-wise after my ultra and i played that to my advantage. sometimes being in the dark works well!

  2. ahhh. When I was a gymnast I was my own worst enemy too – perfectionist to a fault, it really did me in way more times than it helped me. I think for running it’s different though, because I know I’ll never win anything, so that kind of takes the pressure off. But I know what you mean, I still have goals and want to PR and do well. I’m not really how to take the pressure off – it’s so hard when you can only really do one goal marathon a season!

    I’m a fan of using races as training runs or workout-like efforts. it helps mix it up! you look happy and serene out there :)

  3. 50by25laura says:

    If you ever want a buddy to watch figure skating, let me know. I grew up watching every televised competition with my mom, and still love it!

  4. lizzyj1305 says:

    wow she is amazing!! I LOVE watching skating in the olympics (both figure & speed) but I never think to watch it outside of the olympic year.
    mentally i’m able to push through and reach for pain. my biggest challenge in running has been turning it off on the easy days, and ON during the speed work/tempo days. I never knew what I was doing during run workouts, I finally do now :)
    YES I loveee races as training-runs. You can get a quality long run day out of a half!
    I am so excited for Boston! :)

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