On the other side, equally important but often underestimated, mental training should be a vital part of your marathon preparation from the very first day as well.
As doing the same route, in the same surroundings, can put a strain on your brain and lead to mental exhaustion and boredom, adding some variety and changing your everyday routine can be beneficial. That’s why many runners chose to train in wild surroundings during their preparations, enjoying the new kind of challenge during their runs, as well as taking part in all the other enjoyable activities, such as hiking, cycling, or rock-climbing. Those runners have research backing up their choice, claiming that running in nature significantly improves runners’ mood and makes them feel more refreshed.
Here are a few tips on how to best mentally prepare for a marathon out in the wild.
Find Your Mantra
According to the latest Copenhagen marathon results, the average overall finish time is 4:08:50. For an untrained brain that equals more than 250 minutes of doomsday thinking and internal conflicts, increasing the odds of quitting before the finish line.
To get through those difficult moments, you’ll need to find your mantra, a phrase that will help you keep your chin up despite all the rough patches along the route. Even the simplest phrases, such as “one step at a time” or “just keep going,” can work perfectly, if you feel them effective for building up your motivation.
Learn How to Overcome Challenges
Training in the wild will definitely brings some new challenges along your route, just like you can expect some unpredicted obstacles to pop up during your marathon race. You can use this opportunity to let your brain learn how to deal with challenges most efficiently and effectively, without getting stuck in self-doubt or considering giving up.
One of the most important lessons to train your brain is how to stay away from the negative thoughts and bring the focus back to the positive ones when a challenge emerges. Runners use different techniques to achieve this – some count to 100 to distract them from drifting away, others focus on their breath or their physical motion, while some find it best to focus on surroundings. Use challenges in the wild to determine what hacks your brain best, and practice this technique so that you can make the most out of it on the day of the marathon.
Training in the wild is the right place to ditch your headphones and your watch and do some mindfulness exercises instead. Mindfulness meditation is believed to be the best way for athletes to get into the zone, as it relieves them from the anxiety and stress and brings them back to the activity they are performing, helping them focus on the things they can control.
Still, don’t expect your mindfulness to come spontaneously, as it never will. This is a technique which needs to be practiced on a daily basis, beginning with your breathing exercises. You’ll have to master this skill in order to see your results.
Visualizing your own success will bring you closer to a positive outcome as it boosts your motivation and willpower. But, visualizing the way you are going to fight the obstacles along the way can be even more effective, as when you really run into them during the marathon, your brain will be prepared and know exactly what to do.
Use your training in the wild to practice your visualization techniques, and to make a habit out of counting to 100 or focusing on your movements whenever it gets tough or during your worst-case scenario, such as falling or having to walk because you’re too tired.
If you want to give your best shot at the marathon, make mental training a regular part of your preparations. Training in the wild will make your practice sessions more challenging and diverse, at the same time allowing you to recharge yourself with positive energy and stimulating both your body and your mind.