By Jen, still the fastest woman alive (at Foot Tools)
I have completed my first semester of my Master’s at Ottawa U in applied sport psychology. I’m thrilled to be in this field as I round out my last year of eligibility in the CIS as a middle distance runner. I have learned so much from my professors, who collaboratively have worked with countless Olympic level athletes and published innovative work in the field. This fall, we studied fairly complex theories, but for me it is the simple lessons I have found to be most valuable.
As runners it is in our nature to dissect our worst races/practices/runs and break down every last detail of what went wrong. This is great and so much can be learned from this. However, it doesn’t seem to be in our nature to break down what went well in our best races/practices/runs. Sometimes it is ineffable, as if all the stars had perfectly aligned and you truly believe your lucky socks helped get you your PB. (I have to admit I do still strap on my lucky socks every race). Once I am accredited as a sport psychology consultant, one of my tasks will be to pull that PB experience out of athletes. To help athletes re-create the magic and come to realize that PBs aren’t mystical experiences, they are the result of effective preparation. The other day in class one of my professors said very casually, something along the lines of: “I’m not sure how you’re going to accomplish your task if you have no idea what you should be thinking about during your task”. This is a simple statement that is quite loaded. I believe that debriefs after all your great races and workouts are so important to help re-create that moment in the future. Every time you give yourself a little pat on the back, whether it be because you got yourself out the door in -20 temperatures, you made it a little further in your 30 minute run than you usually do, you had the practice of your life or you had the race of your life, don’t let this moment go unanalyzed!!!
Look back at what worked: when did you last eat, were you relaxed all day or “in the zone”, what was going on in this zone, did you psych yourself up or calm yourself down, were you thinking about your discomfort or were you above it? In my ideal world, every athlete at every level would have a sport psychology consultant at their finger tips. Unfortunately this is not the case. Be sure to use the resources you do have at hand: your training log, your goal setting sheets, your running partner. Few athletes at any level ever talk about their best sporting performances in an attempt to re-create them. When you meet with your group next or stop by at Foot Tools after you have finished a run, have a little chat with your fellow runners. John Lawson will talk running all day if you’re open to it (I know because we have). Explore what happens when you’re at your best and re-create it!!!