One of the most powerful tools a runner can use to improve his or her mental game and subsequent running is the reframing technique. Effective use of the technique requires the athlete to “reframe” a negative thought or situation into something positive, which has important implications for performance. Listed below are common reframes and why they are effective.
Negative Thought: “I can’t hit my splits; I’m never going to perform well on race day.”
Reframe: “I’m learning about my limits and am being provided with great data to figure out what I can change in order to improve my workout for next time.”
Why it works: All too often, athletes approach their workouts from an emotional perspective instead of a rational one. By reframing that workouts purely provide runners with data that they can learn from, athletes are able to approach the factors that affect their performance more rationally. For instance, a “bad” workout may help the runner realize that his or her nutrition, sleep patterns, or recovery are inadequate and that improving those areas will lead to performance gains.
Negative Thought: “My workout is going to go poorly because I did not get enough sleep last night.”
Reframe: “Working hard when I am disadvantaged will help me perform my best when I am well-rested in the days leading up to the race.”
Why it works: Focusing on the factors that we are unable to control (such as too little sleep due to external factors) wastes mental and physical energy. By acknowledging that these are uncontrollable instances that will not affect us on race day helps us to focus on taking our training one step at a time while realizing the big picture, which is working hard every day towards improvement.
Negative Thought: “My arch-rival showed up; what if he/she beats me?”
Reframe: “Competition brings out my best.”
Why it works: Sometimes athletes get so caught up in what they feel “should” happen during competition (ex. that they must win, must PR, must place in their age group, etc.) that they forget why they enjoy racing in the first place. This reframe helps athletes remind themselves that racing is not always about the end result, but also about the process. While winning is nice, a personal record performance is better in the long run, and focusing on the big picture can relieve the pressure to perform in a certain way.