Answered By Jeff Arbogast
During races, how can I stay focussed and not use mental energy? That was a big problem last xc season, and my only 2 good races were invites where I was able to just run and not think. Last year I would start thinking about everything like my form and my legs. All I was doing was wasting mental energy, which would result in my slowing a considerable amout after the first mile.
You have asked a great question . .and already answered a key element . . You need to run and "not think". The point is . . you are "thinking" about the wrong things. We encourage our runners to use a "body wash" format . . working up and down the body, checking form and relaxation from the top of the head (and head carriage) to the bottom of the feet (and footplant) all the time. THAT won't hurt!! What WILL hurt is random thoughts, fear, paranoia, and irrational worries. By doing the "body wash" you focus on things within your control . . .not random thoughts outside of your control. You are referring to performance pressure issues that arise when the mind gets too much involved (you have agreed in your question), so take the mind out of the equation by giving it simple things to do (the "body wash"). Focus on your breathing during the race. Make it rhythmic and coordinated with your stride. Also focus on your breathing BEFORE the race . . . take deep breaths and exhale out your distractions. All of us have a "good angel" on one shoulder and a "bad angel" on the other. Both try to whisper things into your ears . . . your job is to listen only to the "good angel" who tells you "You can do it!" "You are strong and relaxed!" "You will PR today!" Knock the "bad angel" off your other shoulder . . .when you feel yourself starting to think negative thoughts, just say "STOP" out loud . . or inside . . and start to think good 'affirming' thoughts like those above. You are on the right track . . take the mind out of the equation so your body can do what you trained it to do! Arb