Run Ahead

Triathlete taking a break from a run interval
January 30, 2017

Mike Ricci


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The secret to getting the best out of your fitness is locked inside your head and here’s how to unleash the running powers of the mind.

Every physical running experience we have is a second creation. The 1st creation takes place in our minds prior to the run. This is both a powerful & frustrating realization. By acknowledging the truth in this statement we have to take full responsibility for the level of satisfaction that each run provides. We need to also happily see that our thinking can and most often does predetermine the value of each training session or race. The great wizard Merlin, from Arthurian legend said, ‘I know the future, for it is my past.’ By this he meant that by predetermining what the outcome of an endeavor might be, we strongly influence the actual course of events. Merlin simply listened to what people feared or thought might happen, and then told them that it would. These characters then of course ensured that their fears or desires transpired by placing their attention fully on what it would take to ensure that outcome!

Bruce Fordyce, the great Comrades winner told me that he is a firm believer in visualizing his races prior to competition. One year in Comrades the actual details of the race so closely mirrored what he had repeatedly 'seen' and created in his mind's eye in the weeks preceding the race, that he felt gooseflesh on his arms despite the 30+ degree temperatures. He went on to win the race, just as he had so often imagined he would. He said it was an eerie feeling.

Running is a reflex action and thus during runs the mind is free to wander. There is one problem though: the brain needs a certain amount of blood, oxygen and glucose to operate at full capacity. During hard running the body will always ensure that the oxygen and blood is available, but the glucose content is often depleted from the long and hard nature of running. The mind becomes foggy and sluggish and we make mistakes. We forget to drink, or eat, we try to run at a pace beyond our current ability, we run when we should be walking, we try to ignore the heat, we fail to heed the warning signals issued by our body, we lose concentration and coordination. To prevent ALL this we need to predetermine the contents of our thoughts and drill them into ourselves until they become second nature. "I drink at every watering station. I pump my arms up the hills. I pay attention to my body signals when it?s very hot. I run at a pace indicated by my training. I am fit and ready for this race. I am an experienced runner who makes good decisions. My pace judgment is superb."

Research has proven that every thought creates a molecule. By thinking through each race before we run it we alter our very physiology.

There are two key steps in the process of achieving your running dreams:

BE – In order to train like a runner who achieves what you desire from your running, you need to be that kind of runner. In other words you need to display the traits of such a runner. If it requires discipline, dedication, commitment and passion, then you had better be disciplined, dedicated, committed and passionate.

DO – Once you are such a runner, then and only then will you be able to do what such runners with these traits do to achieve what they want.

By 1st "being' and then "doing" what it takes, we assure success. I have been to many an elite race where it is painfully obvious who definitely will not win the race by the obvious body language each runner is displaying they are not being winners.

Become aware of your internal dialogue. Replace self-sabotaging thoughts with words and images that alter who you are. Create mental images of realistically successful outcomes. Act out the feelings you associate with success. These simple processes done repeatedly will bring out whatever gazelle lurks within you guaranteed!

Currently Bobby teaches and consults for USA Triathlon and the US Olympic Committee. His business, Bobby McGee Endurance Sports, has a hand in the performance programs of numerous endurance sport organizations.

Coach Mike Ricci is the Founder and Head Coach for D3 Multisport.  His coaching style is ‘process-focused’ vs. ‘results-focused.’ When working with an athlete, their understanding of how and why they are improving is always going to take precedence over any race result. Yes, there is an end goal, but in over 2 decades of coaching, experience has shown him that if you do the right work, and for the right reasons, the results will follow.

Coach Mike is a USAT Level III Elite Certified Coach, Ironman University Certified Coach, and Training Peaks Level II Certified Coach. He was honored as the USAT Coach of the Year.

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