Monday, November 21, 2011

Magic Words

"Magic words distract you from the discomfort, while they connect directly to the extra spirit that all of us have hidden inside." - Jeff Galloway

Jeff Galloway suggests using magic words to pull yourself out of the downturn of motivation and physical energy that usually happens towards the end of a race when thing get really challenging. As I was reading this chapter, I realized I already do this. I talk to myself all the time during those last few challenging miles when it takes more than just physical strength to meet my goal. I guess mine are more phrases than words, but they seem to work. Here's what I remember telling myself during my last race:
  • "dig deep" -- I use this one a LOT towards the end of a race when I am tired and the going gets tougher but I know that I have more to give
  • "come on, push!" -- this is similar to dig deep, but somehow works better for me. I think it's because it's easier to say and I can visualize it better than digging deep which is such an abstract concept.
  • "only 2 minutes!; I can push for 2 minutes" -- this is the beauty of walk breaks; I only have to push myself for 1-3 minutes at a time and mentally that's easy to do but somethings I have to remind myself that's all I need to do. 
  • "walk faster!" -- I do this at the end of a race when my body just wants to go out for a stroll.
  • "I can do this!" -- this is me talking to my left brain who is telling me that I can't push any harder or won't make my goal, so I have to set it straight :) 
  • "I've already done this!" -- this one is so powerful, and very helpful towards the end of the race, say the last 5K, when you've already covered that distance a zillion times
  • "short quick steps" -- this was a new one at my last race because I was afraid of over striding to run faster and thus injuring my hamstring. So I remembered Jeff's cadence drills and that I didn't need a longer stride to run faster, just to move my feet quicker. It really worked. My final sprint was just under 8 min/mi and I never extended my stride. 
The book suggests the following process (paraphrased below) for coming up with your own magic words:
  • list problem areas (e.g. relaxation, motivation, digging deeper)
  • for each problem, list specific experiences in which you overcame the problem
  • attach a key word or phrase to each experience
I went through this exercise and tried to come up with single magic words that would get me through the toughest challenges I face during a race. It will be a lot easier to keep myself motivated if all I have to do is remember one word and evoke a plethora of successful experiences to get me through it. 
  • "breath" -- when I have a side stitch, or need to engage my core to dig really deep, I remember my yoga and focus on my breathing. I remember how it's easier to hold a tough yoga pose if I just breath through it, and I do the same. I take deep breaths through my nose, expanding my stomach, then let it out slowly through my mouth while I suck in my gut and tighten my core. 
  • "relax" -- I tend to get pain in my shoulders and between my shoulder blades when I'm pushing hard, and it's mainly from bad posture due to tensing up, so I need to tell myself to relax. I roll my shoulders back, stand up straight, engage my core and focus on running relaxed in sync with my breathing.
  • "push" - during the last 3rd or so of a race, it becomes a mental struggle to maintain my pace and not slow down. I need to push myself hard during those run intervals, and the walk breaks too. When I evoke this word this weekend, I'll think about how I pushed through the last mile of my last half marathon against that crazy wind.
  • "focus" - the longer I ran and more fatigue I become, the harder it is to maintain good running form. In order to run fast most efficiently and avoid injury, I'll need to focus on running tall, keeping my feet close to the ground with quick turnover instead of extending my stride. 
  • "easy" - it's easy to start too fast at the beginning of a race, so to hold myself back I focus on running easy. I use this a lot when I am warming up. The first few run segments always feel a little awkward, as my body adjusts to the environment, but they shouldn't. I simply say this to remind myself I should not be struggling this early on and slow down to a comfortable pace until I feel like I'm running smoothly.
What are your magic words?

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