Category Archives: Mind

How To Push Harder | 6 keys to run hard

Want to know how to push harder?

How Hard Can You Push When No One Is Watching?

6 Keys To Pushing Harder

  1. Fear & Inexperience
  2. Go Out Too Hard
  3. Prepare Your Body
  4. Train The Mind
  5. Remove Decisions
  6. Have A Big Reason

1. Fear And Inexperience

Do you remember your first big event?

I remember my first marathon.

I was so scared of the distance I trained so hard. Pushing my training beyond what I thought I could do. Hoping it would get me through race day.

We might go faster in future races. Often that first race is the one we push ourselves further than our fitness level dictates

2. Go Out Too Hard


Go out  too hard and hold it.

You may crash and burn, or you may surprise yourself and hold on.

Even if you can’t hold on, you might still be faster.

“Athletes may often perform at perceived workloads which may be below their physiological capabilities” – more on this soon in point 4

3. Prepare Your Body


When your body is able to handle more you can push it further.

You are always in the mix and an exceptional performance will be so much higher.

Raising the floor on your fitness brings you closer to those high level, exceptional performances.

Knowing your body is prepared gives you the confidence to keep pushing.

4. Train The Mind


Fatigue is rarely true muscle failure. It is strongly controlled by the mind,

Train the mind by practicing pushing yourself a bit out of your comfort zone. Repeat this and keep progressing.

Practice, repetition and progression.

This will release the restrictions your mind puts on you as learn you can do more.

5. Remove Decisions


Take away decision points.

Brain power uses a lot of energy.

“Fatigue increases the perception of future effort during decision making”

Have a support team or system set up that reduces your decision points. Don’t give yourself choices. Have the gear at checkpoints sorted before you get there.

6. Have A Big Reason


A big motivator can take you so much further.

What are you pushing for?

Letting a team down is bigger than just yourself.

Raise money for a charity. Doing it to mark an occasion, an accomplishment such as turning around your fitness. Even just proving to yourself you can do more.


I chase a feeling.

Pushing Your Limits

I chase a feeling.

This is not for every day. Both your mind and body need recovery to absorb the stress and rebuild stronger.

Training should be designed to build you up.

When you really want to push your limits there are ways to get better.

The next step is to create a goal to see how hard we can push ourselves

Keep on running

Best Way To Start A Running Program

Welcome to a new year. New goals. New running program. Over the last couple of decades I’ve tried different approaches to kick starting my next training. In this post I share what I find to be my best way to start a running program.

The approach isn’t about exact mileage, paces or mix of training of sessions. Those all vary depending on upcoming goals and current fitness and health. Instead I look for an approach that sets me up hit my training consistently and hard. To get me beyond the initial burst of motivation.

Two principles make up this approach:

  1. Refresh the mind
  2. Prepare the body
Welcome to a new year. New goals. New running program. Over the last couple of decades I’ve tried different approaches to kick starting my next training. In this post I share what I find to be my best way to start a running program.

Refresh The Mind

This is not taking a break. Instead I am chasing the enjoyment. Looking to lose myself in the process of running rather than focussing on times. It is a form of moving meditation.

There are 2 aspects to refreshing my mind.

All runs are based on feel. Some structure still exists in the form of intervals or repeats. On those runs I don’t worry about any exact times. Instead I run based on feel, looking to achieve the feeling rather than any number. The times are only a by product. If they turn out faster or slower than expected then it’s irrelevant.

If I feel like changing the planned run then I will. It really doesn’t matter as long as I’m still training and enjoying it. Every so often this approach results in some runs much faster than they feel.

Supporting the more relaxed approach I aim to run in places I enjoy. This is almost always on the best trails around me. This year I did this by making the most of the spectacular trails and beach around Anglesea.

Prepare The Body

This is mixture between hard training and allowing recovery. A wide variety of running paces, terrain and intensity is important.

I will train hard and fast in between different versions of easy. I’ll state again I don’t care about exact paces, but am looking to have the running feel great.

One aspect of training I avoid during this process are hard, long runs that grind me down and require a few days to recover from. Those types of runs tend to be counterproductive. They rob me of the snap and spring I look for. Any over load usually comes from pushing the speed up.

I’ll expect to be a bit sore from some training for a day or 2, but shouldn’t require anything beyond that. There is room to throw in a race, but nothing beyond 12km.

Most mornings I woke just before the sun. Running through the amazing backdrop of the sunrise across the sea and beach. The loose training structure went like this:

How I Started My Year Running

Camping with family and friends put me amongst some of the best landscapes along the coast. A mixture of hills, single track, bush and beaches made for the perfect playground.

Living in a tent without setting an alarm allowed my body to follow it’s natural circadian rhythm. This is a luxury to me. Life as a shift worker makes this a rare opportunity.

Most mornings I woke just before the sun. Running through the amazing backdrop of the sunrise across the sea and beach. The loose training structure went like this:

  • VO2 Intervals 4x3min with 3min easy jog
  • Easy 10km
  • Easy 7km
  • Race: Tim Gates Classic 10km
  • Regeneration 4km
  • Easy 6km
  • Easy 10km
  • Hill Repeats 4x3min with jog back down
  • Easy 10km
  • Easy 6km

In writing it looks like a typical running program. The distances, paces and even the structure of each run isn’t very important. It is the approach that makes the difference.

I find the best way to start a running program is to take a bit of time to refresh the mind and prepare the body. How do you like to start a new running program?

Improve Your Patience: Improve Your Running

Patience is the ability to wait calmly in the face of adversity and frustration. Running rewards consistent and progressive training over extended time. If you improve your patience, you will improve your running.

 

Lately I’ve found myself thinking, “if everything would just hurry up, I’d have better patience.”

 

I love working towards goals, but lately I haven’t been so good at it. I want my running to be at a higher level. Stuff around the house I want finished. I wish our next holiday was now. So many things I want now. Just chasing the end product has gotten in the way of doing the work needed to achieve the goals. Instead I’ve managed to develop  habits in procrastination.

 

Chasing small tasks may give a quick outcome but don’t add much to my bigger goals.

 

This needed to change.

 

It is time to develop positive habits. Getting in the way of this lately has been a lack of patience. Which led me to look at how to improve my patience. There is some good science on this. In this post I summarise what I have found and what I aim to put into place. Continue on to improve your patience. It will likely improve your running too.

 

 

Why Improve Patience?

 

Improving patience has been shown to improve sense of well-being, positive coping virtues and thriving. In simpler language this is:

  1. Feel better
  2. Cope better
  3. Achieve more

 

 

Is Patience Trainable?

 

Yes.

 

Like your body, you can also train your mind.

 

 

How To Improve Patience

 

Turns out it comes back to some regular practice. Just like in training the physical aspects of any skills. Research is suggesting 2 key ways:

  1. Willpower
  2. Framing

 

1. Willpower

 

You can increase your willpower with practice.

 

By repeatedly putting yourself in situations where you are required to have patience you can extend out your threshold of frustration. Those who are used to waiting are better at it.

 

Start small. Take multiple opportunities to practice patience. Put yourself in situations where you have to wait a little longer. Choose the longer queue at the shops. Wait for someone to catch up to you. Arrive early for an appointment. Use a slow internet connection. While waiting make a concerted effort to relax. Breath slowly. Keep a good posture.

 

Repeating these small moment of calmly exerting some willpower can become a habit. You become accustomed to remaining calm and controlling your impulses. You can improve your willpower.

 

 

2. Framing

 

Reduce your reliance on willpower. Reframe your thinking with your imagination. Make it easier to have patience. Imagination can change the impulse to take on the immediate reward by changing how we view the reward. As a result won’t need to rely as much on willpower.

 

Vividly imagining the end outcome makes it easier to maintain patience. The clearer and more realistic you can picture the end result the better. Add in detail. The more the better. Picture why it is worth waiting for the end result. Why is it better than taking on the immediate. Create a positive feeling around the ultimate result you want. Imagination the negative feeling and negative result of not maintaining your patience. The stronger the difference between a positive and clear view of what you want versus an giving in to an easier alternative, the more likely you are to stick with it.

 

The further away your goal the harder this is to clearly visualise. Longer time frames limit your imagination and reduce the strength of your vision.

 

There is a way around this.

 

Don’t limit your imagination to the end result. Bring it forward and visualise positive steps along the way. Create a sequence leading to your end goal. Take the same approach as above. Add detail. Work on creating a positive feeling around each step. This will make your vision more powerful and more likely to alter your impulses. Making it easier to choose patience and reducing your reliance on willpower alone.

 

 

Good Things

 

Good things come to those who work for it and have patience. So hurry up and improve your patience.

 

Hard Core 100: Race Week Doubts

What goes through your head in the week before a big race? Doubts are normal. Here I share my strategies for overcoming race week doubts.

 

Only a couple days out from my first 100 mile race. I’m nervous.

Despite having raced many different ultra distance races, this will be my furthest. Usually before a big race I get doubts. This time they are bigger than usual.

A big influence on that is I never did hit the bigger runs and mileage I was hoping to in training. The rest of life threw extra at me. Over the last three months I had a lot of choices to make.

Those choices included cutting the planned training down to something more achievable. I don’t regret those decisions. Many aspects of my world are better for it. In terms of running, it means I never got to run those sessions that would give me the confidence I was looking for.

Does this mean I’m not ready?

No it doesn’t.

 

 

3 Steps to overcoming race week doubts

  1. Let the thoughts happen
  2. Plan the race
  3. Meditate

 

1. Let the thoughts happen

 

Having doubts and negative thoughts before a big event is normal. It takes a lot of energy to fight. Forcefully trying to stop those thoughts leads to spending more time focussing on those doubts. It seems to lead to more doubts.

 

Take the mindset you will have those thoughts. Accept them when they happen, but don’t dwell on them. Move on.

 

 

2. Plan the race

 

Plan for the worst.

Plan for the best.

Plan for the in between.

 

I put some serious thought into what steps to take to handle different race situations as I can think of. These include what to do if my pace is slower than expected, if I run faster than expected, have gut issues, drop my nutrition, it rains and even if I hit my splits exactly.

 

Lots of this thought happens when running or driving. I will support it by writing it down. I’ll ask myself the question of “What if…” and will answer out load to myself.

 

The above takes care of the slow thinking. It covers the time and energy consuming analysis that is difficult to do in a race. Doing this before the race makes it easier to use fast thinking to make solid tactical decision during the race. It always gives confidence I have things together.

 

3. Meditate

 

Racing 100 miles is dependant on your mind. It is no doubt a massive physical endeavour, but it is your mind that will usually break first.

 

The mind is very trainable. Just like your body.

 

There are many different ways to meditate and train mindfulness. I take 15-20 minutes that is a combination of breathing exercises followed by stillness. Practiced often this carries over well into settling my mind during running.

 

 

 

What do you do to over come your race week doubts?

 

 

Chasing Flow In Running And Life

Are you chasing flow? When it feels easy to do something hard. When you are completely one with yourself and the task. These are the moments you feel truly alive.

 

Further along I’ll provide 5 steps I follow in chasing flow.

 

Is It Real?

 

There is a good amount of science coming recently looking at flow. There is now a good amount of evidence suggesting it is measurable with distinct physiology. High levels of neurochemicals related to pleasure, reward and the ability to perform superhuman feats all appear to released at the same time. These include, noradrenaline, dopamine, endorphin, serotonin, anandamide and oxytocin.

It’s not just the neurochemicals. There are measurable structural differences in the brain in those who train to develop long term skills. That is, some parts of the brain are larger and more developed. Check out the study Brain Structures Differ Between Musicians And Non-Musicians.

 

 

Does It Last?

 

Without the right situation externally and internally flow can be fleeting. When you get it right, it can last for hours.

In 2013 at the Surf Coast Century I ran my fastest 100km race in 11:46:07. The majority of this time I was in flow state. This race hurt, it certainly wasn’t easy. Yet it felt right to keep pushing. I raced above what I had physically trained to.

View this post on Instagram

Throwback to Surf Coast Century 2013⠀ ⠀ Grand plans and big goals initiated my training. Having covered the 100km in 12:26:01 last year, I was thinking I could slash that down under 11 hours. The training did not go as expected. Not much over 30km, plus a few gaps. I was worried about my ability to finish let alone be happy with my time.⠀ ⠀ 😫 ⠀ ⠀ This was my best race ever. I dug deeper and got more out of myself than I thought possible.⠀ ⠀ The incentive of a beer stein 🍺 was enough to pull me under 12 hours. 11:46:07 for the #100km⠀ ⠀ ⠀ 🏃🏼⠀ ___________________⠀ #throwbacktuesday #runhistory #nostalgia #reminiscing ⠀ #ultramarathon #scc #surfcoastcentury #surfcoast #anglesea #torquay #beachrun #trailrace #movingmeditation #bestrace #tbt #throwback #rapidascent #checkpoint #oakley #jawbone #hydraquiver #doublebarrel #2xu

A post shared by Jason Montfort Running Alive (@jason_monty) on

 

5 Steps To Chasing Flow:

 

  1. Find The Sweet Spot
  2. Do It With Clear Purpose
  3. Limit Distraction
  4. One Task At A Time
  5. Develop Mindfulness Skills

 

 

1. Find The Sweet Spot

 

Without challenge we have no flow.

The task we are to perform should be difficult. Near the edge of our abilities. The area in which we question if we are able to do it.

It helps to have developed your skills in the desired task. The higher your mastery of a task, the more likely you are able to achieve flow in it. If you can perform the majority of the task automatically due to hours of practice, it will be easier to reach your peak state.

In running when the fatigue and challenges of a race hit the edge of your abilities you need well practiced running form. Having the ability to rely on your rehearsed stride frees you up to focus on what is necessary. This brings you closer to achieving flow.

 

2. Do It With Clear Purpose

 

Know without doubt what success is. What are you aiming for?

All other steps are about process. To get the most out of the process you need to be clear on what you are aiming for. The work has to mean something to you. The goal can usually be stated in a simple sentence. However, you need to have an authentic connection to the goal.

In running ultra marathons I always have a time goal for the course. The goal is always at the edge of my abilities. I can state the goal as, “complete the race in under 12 hours.” This is clear and simple. The connection I feel is deep and genuine with pushing my body to it’s limits in running. This connection to the goal is so important I only focus on races that I feel it.

It always just sport. My work as a paramedic provides many opportunities. When attending someone in cardiac arrest the goals is simple, “save this person’s life.” It is easy to connect with this purpose.

 

3. Limit Distractions

 

Do what it takes to allow you to focus on what is important. Distraction is the killer of flow.

Create an environment that helps you focus.

Distractions can be your own thoughts. Having a negative mindset pulls you away from flow. Beware your self talk. Create your own internal environment to help you focus.

Distractions can be external. Your smartphone is the perfect example. Notifications popping up pull you away from your main task. Every time they do you take a step away from flow. Remove your phone if you need to.

For races I start with the external environment and move towards improving my internal environment.

My external environment is controlled by leaving early for a race. Allowing myself plenty of time not to feel rushed. Before my warm up I will listen to my “Race Ready” playlist. This eliminates distractions and makes it easier to clear my mind to create the internal environment I want.

I aim for a feeling of relaxed readiness for my internal environment. A non-judging alertness of my body and how it moves. Thoughts are minimal. Just a feeling of focus and movement as I make my way through my warm up and toe the start line.

 

4. One Task At A Time

 

There is no such thing as multi tasking. Only task switching.

The more you try to do, the less efficient you become at each task.

When racing do you race your best when you are thinking about work deadlines or chores not finished at home? Do you race better when your attention is on what you need to now to run?

Set up what can control in life to assist this. Get those chores done early. Complete those items that get in the way of running so they don’t interrupt you. Stop trying to do two or more things at the same time.

Practice staying on one task until it is complete. Then you can move to the next. Over time see if it improves your efficiency.

5. Develop Mindfulness Skills

 

There are so many different ways to develop mindfulness. There are different definitions. Here I will keep it simple. I treat mindfulness as the ability to be focussed on the now.

The skills required take time and practice. I try to develop them in this order:

  1. Single point focus (one thought or object) in a relaxed and quiet environment
  2. Ability to return quickly to focus when distracted
  3. Skill focus in a relaxed and quiet environment
  4. Single point focus under pressure or distraction
  5. Single skill focus under pressure or distraction

I use many different tools to develop these. They include meditation, run training itself, breath training, aspects of the Wim Hof Method, Insight Timer application and guided mediations (see Further Reading below for links). Personally I find taking a concentrated focus of breath training and meditation over a week or two helps me incorporate these skills within the physical training of running.

 

Further Reading

 

If you are interested in expanding your knowledge on chasing flow I recommend the following:

 

Chasing Flow In Running

Habits Beat Motivation

Motivation is over rated. You will do better putting effort into creating habits.

 

Motivation Is Limited

 

I’m not saying motivation isn’t any good. It is in fact quite powerful. Unfortunately it is finite. We all have so many times we don’t feel motivated. How do we keep working towards our goals when motivation has left us?

 

Motivation gets us started.

Habit keeps us going.

 

Inundating yourself with motivational memes can only do so much. Giving 110% each and every day just has me thinking exaggeration is the greatest thing in the whole universe since before forever.

 

Make running a habit

 

How Habits Work

 

Habits are actions which are triggered automatically in response to cues. An example would be putting on your seatbelt when you get into a car. Of note we use something to trigger an action. The trigger can initiate the action independent of conscious thought or even motivation.

 

There is evidence it takes only 4 days of repetition to begin to create this trigger. Further repetition solidifies the habit and improves the speed or efficiency of this association. Daily repetition has been shown to keep strengthening the automaticity of the habit for about 66 days. That’s right, keep working at it for over 2 months.

 

The take away is to use motivation to create a trigger and keep repeating it at the beginning. Then the process of habit formation takes over when motivation wears off.

 

Breaking Bad Habits

 

But I have other habits. Lazy habits that take over. What about those?

 

Those lazy habits may be strong. My personal approach is to identify what my triggers are for these habits. My own example is if I lay in bed when my alarm goes off I find my mind goes through a list of reasons about why it is okay to skip today’s training. It happens almost without fail. If I lie back for a few minutes then it becomes easy to justify not training. My solution is to insert an earlier trigger for a positive action. In this case, when my alarm goes off I immediately get up out of bed. That triggers the process of getting ready for training. It tends to eliminate the lazy thoughts that would otherwise go through my head.

 

Create New Habits

 

  1. Decide on the action (stretch)
  2. Select the trigger (turn on the tv in the evening)
  3. Use motivation to repeat it daily for beyond 4 days
  4. Keep repeating for 66 days to strengthen the habit (2-3 months)

 

References / Further Reading

 


Habits Beat Motivation

Fear Of Failure: Make It Your Advantage

The fear of failure of can be debilitating. It can also be used to bring out your best.

 

Sport is an amazing platform you can use to develop the traits that make you a better person. Endurance sports have an amazing ability to reveal a lot about yourself. To paraphrase founder of the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon, Commander John Collins it is where “you can find out what your soul is made of in a non-lethal environment.” I find running can do exactly that.

 

You can take what you learn in running and apply it to other areas of your life. Running can be more clear cut. You can define success or failure as a definite time in a race, the ability to cover a certain distance, or to achieve a personal best. Training to reach your goal takes time, commitment, discipline and plenty of other attributes. It isn’t easy, but we can get a lot out of it.

 

Good goals give us a real chance of failure. Pushing your boundaries means you have to go further than you have before. You never truly know you can do something until you have done it.

Fear of Failure

Destructive Fear of Failure

 

We can react to potential failure is different ways. We can simply not try, self sabotage or create excuses. Most will be familiar with the multitude of excuses heard before a race:

  • I haven’t done any speed work
  • This isn’t an ‘A’ race
  • I’m just training through this one

It’s  better to turn the fear of failure into something constructive.

 

Productive Fear of Failure

 

First recognise the fear of failure as positive.

 

It let’s you know your goal is a challenge. You will grow more from chasing big goals. If it doesn’t scare you, it might not extend you.

 

Identify what you fear.

 

Get specific. Write it down. Is it something you can control? Is it something you can prepare for?

 

Use this to plan your training or approach.

  • If you don’t have time to do the training, use it as a catalyst to look at how you spend your time each week. Be detailed. You might be able to find that extra time. It might take some creativity.
  • If you are afraid of the distance. Focus on your long runs. Make them a priority over your other training. Use the fear of the distance to motivate you to put the most into your longer runs.
  • What if this or that happens during a race? Think about what would be the best approach to deal with it. Plan ahead. If you don’t know what to do, ask others.

 

 

Use the fear of failure to tell you your goal is big enough. Use it to plan to take on that goal.

 

 

 

 

 

Distraction: Mental Skills For Racing

Understanding of the human mind in sport has improved significantly in the last two decades. We have moved beyond the inverted ‘U’ of the optimal state of arousal model. There are many mental tactics a runner can use to improve race performance. These can be enhanced through training, practice and understanding. This post will focus on using distraction. It is the main mental skill I used during my recent 50km at the Surf Coast Century.

 

The concept of distraction is simple. Focus on something other than the difficulty or pain of what you are experiencing. Used the right way it can be helpful. There are risks in employing this tactic.

The Risk

You don’t want to be distracted at key moments in a race. Race starts, technical sections or the closing stages are when you want to be focussed. Being distracted in these moments can prevent you making the most of the race.

Short and fast is another situation you wouldn’t use distraction. You want to be fired up and focussed.

Can you maintain race pace automatically? If not, being distracted might have you fall off the pace.

When To Use Distraction

The main benefit of distraction is it gives you space. It can reduce the mental load. Potentially saving the mind for the time you need to have intense focus.

  • When you have a lot of negative thoughts
  • When you have a long section to get through
  • When you have the ability to automatically run at the required pace
  • When you want to save some mental energy for later

How To Use Distraction

There are three distinct forms of distraction to use:

  1. Use numbers
  2. Get off topic
  3. What’s around you?

1. Use Numbers

If the negative thoughts are hitting hard, use this. Turn the focus onto numbers. It is an interrupting technique that stops the subjective part of the brain for a moment. It takes away from emotion. Using numbers gives you the chance to reset the brain so you have a better chance to direct it where you want it go. You don’t have to be good at maths. You just have to do something with numbers. Here’s some ideas:

  • Count your breaths per minute
  • Count your steps
  • Do some simple sums
  • Convert your pace to miles if you think in metric

It is that simple. Your calculations don’t even have to be correct for it to work.

 

2. Get Off Topic

It helps having some company, but you can do this by yourself as well. If lucky to be running with someone just have a conversation. Talk about anything that isn’t the race. The conversation doesn’t even have to be good. It just has to be distracting.

 

If by yourself at the time, ask yourself a question. Again, not about the race:

  • Why is the sky blue?
  • What song lyrics do I always mix up?
  • What makes me smile?

 

Try listening to music, if the race rules allow. Getting absorbed in the tunes coming through your earphones can be a good way to pass the time a little faster.

3. What’s Around You?

This is a more subtle shift in focus. Move it away from how your legs feel or how much further you have to run. Look at what’s around you with curiosity. Look at the trees near you. Trace the line of their leaves. Look at the colour of the dirt. Is it dark? Light? What colour is it? Savour any views you are treated to along the course. It might remind you why you keep heading out for runs.

 

Distraction: Mental Skills For Racing