The most important barrier to running fast in workouts and races is often a runner’s mind. It will be very hard to achieve your running goals if you have overwhelming anxiety that you can not complete a difficult workout or run a fast race.
Sports psychologists have come up with a number of ways to help runners overcome anxiety, including visualization (repeatedly imagining yourself running fast and achieving your goals), and positive self-talk (consistently saying positive things about your running). One aspect of positive self-talk is to talk yourself through a difficult workout or race by breaking it down into manageable segments.
Pondering a long workout, such as a 6 X 1 mile, or a long race, such as a half-marathon, can be overwhelming. The anxiety caused when thinking about a lengthy race or workout can cause negative thoughts that could have disastrous consequences for your running. Instead of thinking of a long workout or race as one long endurance test, try to break it down into manageable parts.
For example, tell yourself that a 6 X 1 mile is actually a 2 x 1 mile. Once you complete the two repeats, convince yourself that you just started and only have to run a 4 x 1 mile. After two more repeats, think how easy a 2 x 1 mile workout is, and realize that that is all you have to do.
This technique also works for races. Tell yourself that a half marathon is only a 5 mile race. Once you reach 5 miles, convince yourself that you only have another 5 mile race to run. After 10 miles, you now only have a 5k left and 5k’s are much easier than 5 milers!
If you find long workouts and races to be a little daunting, consider breaking down the distances into management segments. Hopefully this decreases your anxiety and increases your running focus.