Could your brain be the key to reaching your next running goal? According to neuropsychologist Donald Hebb’s cell assembly theory, a thought that is regularly repeated creates pathways in our brain which allows it to grow stronger with continued thinking, practice and experience.
Since confidence is a belief which can be cultivated through the right kinds of thoughts and actions, it provides athletes with repeated opportunities during training to enhance performance.
“If you have low confidence, you can't help but focus on all of the negative things rather than on things that will enable you to perform your best.” says Jim Taylor Ph.D, a professor at the University of San Francisco and a sports pyschology expert.
Whether you’re looking for new ways to increase speed, need help overcoming a bad taste left behind from a failed race, or just need a good old confidence boost, try incorporating one (or a few) of the following five workouts into your regular running routine.
Instead of hitting the track or doing repeats, try implementing speed play—a structured Fartlek type workout—instead. Start with one repeat of the circuit below, increasing to three rounds as the week’s progress. The lack of defined paces allows you to tap into how your body feels each day and ensures that completion of the workout is a success regardless of pace.
- 3 minutes fast, equal recovery
- 2 minutes faster, equal recovery
- 1 minute fastest, equal recovery
If you’ve been struggling to increase your pace in training, it’s easy to begin questioning your goals. Give your mind and legs a break by embracing downhill running, which will increase turnover and potentially carry you forward at a greater speed. Even if you slow down after the segment, you’ll have worked different muscles and given your brain a breather from the “this feels so hard” mentality.
- Set the treadmill to a 2% decline or plot a route with at least a 1 mile gradual downhill.
- Do 1-2 miles in the middle of your run on the downhill.
- Remember this will work different muscles, so don’t overdo the speed.
What could yoga possibly have to do with increasing your running confidence? The right practice will help you quiet mental chatter and give your body a chance to recover. When running starts to feel difficult it’s usually the result of inadequate recovery.
Marathon training plans can feel overwhelming as you begin to spot the continued mileage increases, but to boost confidence, nothing beats taking immediate action. Extend your next run just by five minutes. It might not seem like a lot, but even a short amount of time is enough to start changing pathways in the brain and help you reconsider what is possible. If that five minute extension felt like a breeze, add an additional 1-2 mile run during the week. The small, but consistent increase is a repetition to build belief in your ability to cover 26.2.
Goal Pace Miles
Most training plans include long, easy runs and speed work at paces faster than your goal pace, which prevents you from practicing your desired pace. Including a couple of goal pace miles in your routine each week helps to build trust in your ability to maintain that pace over the full distance.