OMY! Sports News

7 questions to test your mental strength and how it works

“Mental strength may in fact be the thing that separates the winners from the rest of us”. Well, not only that, but it is indeed a major component of the success in physical training. Mentality is impacting all the parts of our lives, i.e., how we perceive, assess, and act in every situation. In fact, we live “in our brain”, hence, the quality of our life and very much of reaching our goals depends on how and what we talk to ourselves.

Running context

Running long-distance is as much a mental sport. Training your muscles and improving your stamina will only get you so far in a marathon. More than ½ of the distance we run on mental energy, embracing the physical pain by mental effort.
What goes on in the mind of a long-distance runner?
California university scientists have recently improvised a so-called “mind reading" experiment equipping 10 pro-runners with a microphone for their runs which resulted in18 hours of records to be analysed.

What was indicated is that every runner at one point or another found themselves in mild pain or discomfort, often right at the beginning of the course, and were very vividly using a self talk (sometimes not sparing strong words:), no surprise. To cope with that, among others were used breathing techniques and simply urging themselves on.
Psychology of running performance
High VO2 max and running economy is what every marathoner excels at and physically most of them have a pretty much the same training level. What really changes the game is how well your physical prowess works in an alignment with psychological system. If you are anxious about the start – your muscles get tense – your movement efficiency will decrease, even if you are in top form ever. It is apparent that we must train mental toughness, so it is ready for the start just as well as our body.

And to train well, to perform well, and to be able to surpass yourself you need one thing – Perseverance. It is a product of self-regulation in a wide range of qualities that make you a good runner:
  • the ability to concentrate on the goal and block out surroundings,
  • taking control of your progress and training – seeking out situations where you are forced to confront your own thought (e.x. going to training even after a hard day at work/bad night sleep, stress, etc.),
  • learning to self-regulate, where emotions control is of a particular interest.

Good news – perseverance can be learned and trained, still only to some extent. As with physical abilities – some people just have a natural talent for it or have worked on it from very early.

What actually causes us to stop – Body signals or mind signals?

Sometimes the body truly reaches a point where it cannot transfer the oxygen as fast as it needs anymore. Yet, in the science world, unanimous agreement is given to the fact that it is the brain controlling the physical training. Often right after finishing we are still able to walk home or even go get a coffee, when a minute ago it felt like we were fully depleted. Where is the magic?

Samuele Marcora, Professor of Exercise Physiology at Kent University suggests that “the exhaustion” runners experience has often little to do with physical ability, but rather with an individual decision to give up.

Our perception of effort can be very subjective. Moreover, mental fatigue has a clear negative effect on our performance as it increases “the effort perception” on how hard the training is. Further experiments proved that the shorter the period of physical exertion, the more exhausted the muscles become. And the longer the period, the more tired the brain becomes.

Mental strength training

We are able to train our brain to get used to the feeling of fatigue and be less reactive to the signals. To make your body stronger you work on muscles, tendons, bones, and stamina. To make your mind stronger you have to arrange experiencing some tough mental load – then it will adjust together with your body muscles. Some very not-so-exciting tipps are:
- going for a long run when you do not feel like it,
- going for a training after a (mentally) hard day at work,
- setting your alarm for a very early run with warm up drills and a new running route,
- completing solo long runs in your competition pace.
Trick your mind in by:
  1. using music once you feel close to fatigue so it feels more relaxed,
  2. set clear route directions and milage so it feels familiar and therefore easier,
  3. switch for joint session with verbal encouragement from your running mates to make your mind perceive it as a “fun” activity,
  4. SMILE to yourself - according to the results of experiments carried out by Marcora, when we unconsciously notice a happy face, it reduces our perception of effort,
  5. another good trick is simply to brace yourself and run,

and, of course

6. work on your physics and strength training to be 100% sure - follow OMY! Sports plan persistently and motivate others!

Rate your mental strength

Go through these 7 questions and get our assessment in the OMY! Sports app chat!

Mind games has begun! See your mental progress next season!
OMY! Sports Team