If you’re consistently focused on the outcome of both your races and training runs, you’re bound to be disappointed at least some of the time–so many things outside of your control need to line up on race day to achieve peak performance. Weather, unexpected life stress (who hasn’t been there?), a perfectly operating digestive system: the list of things that can so easily go wrong is endless. We’ve nailed down some non-results-based goals that you can work on while preparing for (and running) your next race.
Setting non-outcome-related running goals can be a huge confidence booster and a much more effective way to learn and grow as an athlete than simply focusing on results. Olympian, researcher and coach Joanna Ziegler writes in her book The Champion Mindset: An Athlete’s Guide to Mental Toughness, that she always had her very best races when she was focused on having fun, and simply doing the best she could that specific day. Here are her favourite things to focus on.
Practising nutrition in training is essential, and training your gut to adjust to taking in calories if you’re participating in a longer event, or simply finessing what works for you before and after running, can be game-changers. What works in training doesn’t always translate to race day, so practising nutrition goals in smaller races and events is a great way to figure out what works best for you.
Finding your joy
Sometimes running should just be fun. If it’s been a while since you ran a race purely for kicks, consider adding one to your schedule, and preparing for it by taking yourself less seriously on some training sessions. Sure, we need harder workouts in the mix, but pausing on your easy run to pet a dog, throw some snowballs (run through a sprinkler in warmer weather), or admire your surroundings isn’t going to seriously impact your fitness. It will, however, give you a brain boost, which leads to feeling motivated and hitting those speed targets when you go after them.
“Running races are excellent substitutes for a regularly scheduled training session,” says Ziegler. A race used as a training session allows you to go harder than you would during training, giving fitness and confidence a boost before you head into a goal race.
Implementing a new mental game
Ziegler says that every time you run you have an opportunity to practise upping your mental game. Using visualization techniques before a run, making a mantra to keep yourself in the flow of things, or working on navigating a setback without losing your cool will pay off when it really counts.