When I was a senior in college, I was looking for an easy class to take that would also be fun. So, I signed up for “Sports Psychology” because hell, I loved sports, was a psych minor, and it seemed like a really interesting pairing. And it was really easy. But I did come away with a lot of cool information and even got to sit next to D.C. United‘s Ben Olsen (he missed a few classes when he was off winning the MLS Cup that year). A few things that I took away were the power of pre-game and pre-sport rituals.
One of the most important things you can do is visualize. It prepares your mind and body for the upcoming activity. The more vivid and realistic the imagery, the better it will help you prepare. For example, before a soccer game I’ll visualize scoring goals, making good passes, and making solid defensive tackles. I’ll also remember moments from past games as vividly as possible. If I’m going running, I’ll visualize myself charging up hills or getting into a really good stride. Again, I’ll look back on moments from the past to serve as the visual cues. These really help get me motivated and get into the mindset of having a good performance.
Another thing that comes up a lot is the idea of listening to motivating music. Obviously, you can’t do this while playing soccer, but I listen to a lot of music before games and it really helps get me excited and it tells my mind/body that I’m about to do something intense that I need to get my adrenaline pumping for. Running, is a different story. When I run indoors on the treadmill, I need music. I listen to a lot of loud rock, with fast time signatures, that seem to be in cadence with my running stride. But when I run outside, and when I run races, I have no music at all. Part of it is that I don’t use an Ipod shuffle, so I’m sort of uncomfortable with the large/bulky armbands that can hold your regular Ipod. Another reason is that I like the sensory stimulation of running outside, and I find that when I’m racing, the adrenaline of the race, the sights and sounds around me, and my internal goals of catching up to and passing people are enough to make me run well I’m not advocating either way really, but that’s what works for me.
What inspired this post was an article that I read on Runner’s World about the power of motivational music post-workout. The Runner’s World article basically sums it up by saying, “Listening to music during recovery was associated with greater decreases in blood lactate and a reduction in perceived exertion.”
While this is true, if you click on the link to the abstract that they provide, you can easily come to a simpler conclusion that doesn’t have much to do with music. The researchers measured outcome variables like heart race, perceived exertion, lactic acid build up, and the number of steps they took while recovering. And yes, those who listened to music had significantly less lactic acid build up and less perceived exertion than those who did not. Easy conclusion to jump to: listening to music somehow decreases lactic acid buildup and speeds recovery. But the key to all of this is the fact that those who listened to music had an increased number of steps during the recovery process than those who didn’t. Basically, if you listened to motivational music, you walked around more, which helped you recover by easing the lactic acid in your blood. So, conclusion, listen to motivational music or don’t during recovery, it doesn’t matter. Just make sure you increase your amount of voluntary activity by walking around A LOT (those who listened to music took around 499 steps on average).
*Or rather, an upcoming post is going to talk about my new running shoes, so this is a post about my history of running, to set the stage for that future post. Thus, a brief history of the time that I’ve been loving/hating running.
I started “running” when I was in high school, preparing for junior varsity soccer tryouts. A friend of mine who had been there and done that, told me that the first week was running intensive, so I knew I had to get into running shape. We lived near a cemetery back in Syracuse and my dad mapped out a 1 mile route to train on. I absolutely hated it. I was really self conscious of looking stupid while running, even though the only people who would see me were other people running in the cemetery or people there visiting their deceased loved ones (who probably wouldn’t even be looking at me anyway). Regardless, this didn’t last long as I quit every run short and would be so angry after/during that my head was spinning. Weird right?
For years, I didn’t get back into any recreational running. The only running I did was during soccer, which was almost all sprinting and interval style work, which suits my style more than endurance running. I’m pretty stocky and my frame isn’t build for long strides but rather quickness and agility. I think I ran on a treadmill about 5 times during my college career.
Fast forward to post college and my three best friends start seriously training for half marathons and marathons. I resist and the extent of my running is 5 miles of the Buffalo Half Marathon and then walking the rest with my friend who had an injured knee. Then somewhere along the line I decided I actually wanted to run the Pittsburgh half marathon while my friends did the full. So I decided to invest in some real running shoes and bought a pair of ASICS after having a friend look at my stride while she worked at Pacers.
The Marathon was in May of 2009. My training for the half consisted of 6-7 mile runs every other day of the week with a final long run of 10 miles a few weeks before. I finished in around 2:07, which wasn’t bad for someone who “hates running.” That was the extent of my racing for a long time.
Flash forward to July 2010 when I ran the Saratoga Firecracker 4 and the Utica Boilermaker.
I did a 10k that August and realize I don’t really like running, but I enjoy the rush of racing, if that makes any sense. But I ended up running a few 10ks, a few 15ks, and then got the idea that I wanted to run the Pittsburgh Marathon in 2011. I got really psyched up for it and then got a brutal ankle injury in the spring that basically ended my marathon training. So I settled for the half instead and finished two minutes slower than my first time.
After the half I hit a rut and didn’t plan for any more races. I ran a half during the summer in Lake George and that was basically it.
Most of my athletics still focused on soccer, but I started getting into biking more. I ran a few more times in the summer/fall, but didn’t feel right and started to get a pain/numbness in my left foot. This foot had been giving me other problems earlier in the year, when my little toe started to scrape against the toebox and I got larger shoes so I wouldn’t lose the nail. This pain caused me to basically cease running. It was okay with it at first because I was enjoying biking. But then it got too cold to bike outside and I started heading to the gym. There are a limited number of bikes at the gym and almost unlimited treadmills, so sometimes I stood there waiting for a bike and wishing I was running. But something was holding me back. As lame as it sounds, it was the shoes. Sound too easy? Too good to be true perhaps? I wish it was, or rather, I don’t. I started running again on 1/10/2012 and am feeling better than ever. How is this possible? Stay tuned for my shoe review.