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Applying Sports Psychology to Cross Country Running

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Brooke Heflin

on 10 November 2014

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Transcript of Applying Sports Psychology to Cross Country Running

Focus, Concentration, and Attention
The most necessary physiological factor for optimal performance: absolute concentration
The remedy to being a “practice athlete”
Applying Sports Psychology to Cross Country Running
How to Cultivate Mental Toughness
Motivation and Goals
Your self worth is not measured by the outcome of your running.
Arousal Control
Some runners perform better when their arousal level is higher, some when it is lowered
Visualization and Imagery
Anticipation and Problem Solving
Improve athletic performance = realizing downfall + implementing control techniques
Decision Making
Choices in running
when an athlete looks ahead in practice or competition and tries to prepare for potential problems that may arise
When to start kicking



conditioning to images/words/phrases
descriptive language and images created during visualization
: learned skill of being alert to the task while simultaneously excluding unimportant environmental factors
= self-consciousness and divided attention
Exponentially more challenging to perform up to our ability
-Runners should learn to maintain the same focus in races as they do in practice.
-Focus on the process of the performance instead of the outcome
Where should it be?
Feelings/general thoughts about the race > things you can easily change: breathing, form, etc. > distractions (things unrelated to the race)
Diverted Attention: How to Recapture It
1. Give credence to the distraction

2. Strengthen your attraction to an object you choose to focus on

3. Counter internal distractions with external focus, and vice versa.

4. Change interpretation of the distraction using visualization techniques
Positive self-talk is crucial for optimal performance in running.
An important factor in this involves choosing realistic, attainable goals.
Performance mirrors self-image

Allows you to release and utilize what talents and abilities you already possess
self-talk can be detrimental to performance
Respond using refocusing techniques previously mentioned
-Self-talk directly impacts performance in relation to oxygen consumption

-Negative self-talk activates self-regulatory processes

-The goal is to achieve maximum motor efficiency.
Pre-Race Routine
the conscious use of the imagination to form mental visual images that can be used to enhance performance
2 Weeks Before Race
2 Days Before Race
2 Hours Before Race
2 Weeks Objective: build confidence about the race
Remember past successes and current goals

Anticipate unexpected events and favorable reactions

Visualize one hour before race until post-race plans

Incorporate knowledge of course
2 Days Objective: increase and broaden mental training
Put yourself in a relaxed and in control state

Visualize race and potential issues and ideal responses more often

Visualize yourself as the ideal athlete and your best past performances

Take care of physical checklist

Consistency is key
2 Hours Objective: regulate arousal
Replace visualization exercises with relaxation exercises

Know appropriate arousal level for self

Ideal state = controlled energy

Use arousal control techniques

Focus on race and remember both physical and mental preparation
Mentally practice racing
improve workouts
cope with fatigue
overcome race obstacles
decrease fear of failure and anxiety
simulate unknown in race
create ideal running image
increase concentration
regulate arousal
Visualization: the Dress Rehearsal
The brain can't tell the difference
Performing Visualization
Imagine entire run


Relaxed environment

Think in the positive

Focus on process

Results take time and effort
5 minutes every day

Progress from quiet to distracting environment

Picture the actual course

Visualize how to race each part while running the course
Eliminates worry and gives control over anxiety
Ensures the body feels the right emotions before race time
Running2win training logs
Individual daily practice
Discussion during goal meetings
The mental side
In race processing applied
Decision Training
What are we deciding

Cue drills

Contexts for decisions
Techniques to lower arousal levels:
Concept of “defensive pessimism”
Take pressure off yourself before the race
Sometimes saying you will have a bad race can take the pressure off to have a good race and can lead to better performance
Additional Techniques
Visualization can work to raise arousal levels: baseball player example

Listening to music before a run can raise or lower arousal levels
Purpose and direction justify commitment
internal motivation
external motivation
Further your purpose and direct your training
short term & long term
knowing that problems are inevitable, and there are ways to deal with them
Situations requiring problem solving and mental control
Getting off track from goal pace/place or getting passed

Illness and physiological problems

Bad weather
Situations that are more difficult to prepare for:

Rude spectators/commentators
The Inverted-U Hypothesis and the Zone
goals should be:
It's a process
Avoid taking goals and expectations into the race
“I think every athlete has those moments of doubt,” says 10,000m American record-holder Shalane Flanagan, who worked with sports psychologist Greg Dale while running cross country and track at University of North Carolina. “My doubts are usually along the lines of, ‘Maybe I’m not fit enough or strong enough to do this.’”
“Your biggest challenge isn’t someone else. It’s the ache in your lungs and the burning in your legs, and the voice inside you that yells ‘CAN’T”, but you don’t listen. You just push harder. And then you hear the voice whisper ‘can’. And you discover that the person you thought you were is no match for the one you really are.”
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