When you tell people what sport you do and what’s involved with it, their first question usually “Are you an idiot!?” but then followed by “How does your body do that??”. My response; ultra running is more of a mental challenge than a physical one…any day, and I think a lot of other ultra runners would agree with that. A great quote by ultra-runner Ray Zahab is “it’s 90-per-cent mental, the other 10% is all in your head.” The thoughts you generate from your brain control your legs; your legs shouldn’t be controlling your mind. So to me it makes sense in order to try and master the physical body, one my first master their mind. This was something I knew since the get go of getting into ultra running but never really dove into this concept and thought how to work with it until I did Yoga Teacher Training. Through YTT I learned how to take a meditative sort of approach into training and use that as an aid to keep my body happy and moving.
1) Detox any current negative thoughts before your workout.
Running is an awesome de-stresser, but only when you’re ready to let your stressors go. It all depends on your mindset. There are runs where it’s great to head out and reflect on something that’s stressing you out and by the time you walk back in the door you feel 100% better. But if there’s an accumulation of stressful thoughts, that can negatively impact a run. So by getting rid of them before your run, they’re less likely to leak out during training when your nervous system can be a bit more susceptible to opening up and presenting them.
2) Crap…they leaked out. Now what?
No matter how much we try purifying our negative thoughts before, sometimes they’re unavoidable. So, if a stressful thought does come out while running there’s two ways of going about dealing with it.
- A. Block it out right away and don’t let it accumulate. This is best for those stressful thoughts that have nothing to do with the present. Whether it was you got a speeding ticket earlier that day or have a ton of work to do later when you get home….leave them. They’re not going to serve you right now and after your run you can deal with them, they’ll still be there.
- B. Work through it: accept, process, and release. Accept it: even welcome it. This seems counterintuitive but it will kill less energy than trying to constantly fight it. Process it: really listen to what comes up and analyze it. Is there something you can take from it to learn or benefit from? Why is it stressing you out so much? Now, release it: don’t hang onto it. No dwelling, just let it go
3) Flood that mind with positive thoughts!!
Pump happy thoughts into the mind so there’s no room for Negative Nancy to pop in. Instead of “These muddy trails are stupid hard to run on…I’m going to face plant any minute now.” swap it for “These muddy trails are going to work on my technical footing…and if I face plant, I’ll have a wicked Facebook pic!” Keeping this positive mindset can change not only your whole mental outlook but also physical feeling too. I literally feel lighter when I have no more “heavy” thoughts weighing me down on a run. Lighter = faster more effortless of a run = a better run = and back to a better mental outlook. It’s a continuous circle between mental positivity and positive physical performance.
4) Last but not least, practice yoga.
One thing so great about going to a studio is you get to be lead through your practice. Many yoga’s instructors will remind you throughout your practice will remind you to come back to the present if your mind has wondered off and you slowly learn how to start doing this on your own. If you’re a runner that doesn’t feel comfortable going to a studio, check out our posts on Key Yoga Postures for Runners and Yoga Poses for Runners – Part 2
So if you haven’t yet tried any of these approaches before, give it a shot. See if you can incorporate any into your training and note how they work for you. And hopefully before long, you’ll start seeing some of the benefits we have experienced. Happy running!
Check out some classes here! – Prana Yoga Studio (Edmonton) – Class Schedule