Brain Training

There are two large components to training, the physical aspect & the mental. They are obviously connected to each other, but at times they should be trained independently. At some point during most workouts, you’d rather just be done. There is a voice that most of us hear that helps us list all the reasons why it’s OK to stop early or do less. Sometimes, the voice is right; you’re injured, your gassed, or you overdid it. Often however, the voice is wrong. You’re not injured; your just in pain. You’re not gassed; you just need to relax. You’re not overdoing it; you’re just in the wrong gear. There is a fine line when it comes to your inner voice. It’s very easy to talk yourself out of a workout when you’re not in the mood, or go the other way and push forward when you really should stop. The key to decoding this voice is to understand how your body it responding as you move through your training plan, and then to make adjustments.

Here are some ways you can train your brain to stay focused on your goal and not just the workout.

1. Blocks & Rocks. Think about the entire week as a workout instead of each individual day (blocks). This will help you pace yourself and build up for the major workouts (rocks). Your ‘rock’ workouts are the things you have to do in a particular week. They are the workouts that will help move you forward in the next week. Thinking of your training in bigger blocks also gives you flexibility for ups and downs, similar to interval training. It gives your brain a lot of time to tell your body what it’s going to need to do in a particular time frame. Having the bigger picture in mind forces your brain to send that message over and over and prepares your body to do it. Consider a spur of the moment 20 miler versus having 3 days to think about it.

2. Spam Filter. Know that your brain will quit way before your body. Neurons are firing and red alert signals are going back and forth. Messages are flying in, telling you that your in pain, you’re tired, you have a cramp. You need a spam filter. When you are in tune with your body, you learn which signals are real, and which are junk. You can even go one step further and learn the causes of the real signals. Maybe you heard this voice the last time you didn’t recover or eat correctly, or maybe you really do need a rest day. Over time you will get less junk mail and the voice will quiet down or only speak when it’s important.

3. Headphones. I was anti-iPod for a long time, and still don’t always like to listen to music when I’m running. Since I never expect to use it during a race, I didn’t want to train with it and earn myself a crutch. The reality is, training is a long process, and sometimes you just want to zone out. I almost always use headphones on road runs now, and have even started bringing them on longer trail runs. The benefits have far outweighed the negatives. My favorite 1st song for a run is Sweet Emotion.

Do you Brain Train?