Recognizing Irrational Thoughts in Training
Many runners are Type A personalities who struggle with seeking perfectionism within a sport that is difficult to control. For serious runners, depression and anxiety can play a significant role, especially when factors outside of their control such as bad weather, injury, or a poor race performance. In some instances, these setbacks can lead to a downward mental and emotional spiral, marred by irrational thinking. Recognizing these irrational thoughts and replacing them with rational ones is crucial for the mental well being of the athlete.
The mental aspect of training is just as important as the physical side, but is often overlooked. However, the way that training is approached from an irrational and rational perspective can have many implications on how a runner performs. A common occurrence is to experience a bad workout and allow the incident to spiral into thoughts of being slow, out of shape, overweight, or washed up. When a runner lets these thoughts consume him or her, decreased confidence and even self-fulfilling prophecies of poor race performance is the result. Instead of immediately resorting to these irrational thoughts, a runner should approach workouts as rationally as possible, realizing that they simply provide the runner with data. For instance, instead of assuming a bad workout is a sign of impending doom, factors such as diet, sleep, stress, and training fatigue should be analyzed before jumping to conclusions.
Runners can succumb to irrational thoughts as a result of races, such as in the days leading up to a big race. Often, runners convince themselves they no longer want to compete, despite months or even years of training. Worrying about performance, comparing themselves to others, feeling pressure to succeed, and being concerned about embarrassment or letting others down are all common irrationalities. Instead, runners should remind themselves why they enjoy racing, and look at the big picture—including the fact that running performance is not equivalent to personal worth. A second important factor is to only worry about controlling the controllables, meaning to ignore uncontrollable aspects, such as race weather, opponents, or external pressure.
Runners are notoriously bad at recovery because they are not good at taking time off. Instead of irrationally believing that fitness will be lost when taking time to heal, runners should realize that recovery is one of the most important components of training and that fitness gains cannot be made if the body is not given time to properly rest.