goal setting, self talk, imagery

Add brain training to your training plan

I am currently doing an online course with The University of Kent on The Science of Endurance Training and Performance.
Last week was all about the psychological determinants of endurance performance and it got me thinking. Do you think about what your brain is doing whist you are training and racing?. Some of you might only think about your inner voice or you thoughts when you are finding a race tough or only in a big race such as a marathon.
Yet there is a big interaction between thoughts, feelings and behavior. For instance if you are at the bottom of a hill and you are thinking that this is going to be tough or my legs hurt then you are not going to have a good run up that hill. The negative thoughts have already affected your behavior in that you have already decided that the hill will hurt.
So this week I thought I would share 3 ideas, goal setting, self talk and imagery.

Goal Setting

Most of us set goals, be it a getting a PB at a certain distance, completing a half marathon, running your first 5 km or over coming injury.
These are great to set as it keeps us focused but…….

  • Do you think about setting goals for training runs? Doing this helps to keep you motivated, to push you out of the door when you are tired and these small goals help you to achieve your bigger goal.
  • Do you only set 1 big goal? What happens when you do not reach this goal? You could think about setting 3 goals within that 1 goal, a dream goal, a happy goal and a still satisfied goal. For example for dream goal could be a sub 30 minute 5 km, the happy goal is 30 mins and your satisfied goal is sub 31. All of these are still PB’s for you.
  • Can you adjust your goals whilst you are in a race? If you are able to then it will help stop the negative thoughts creeping in. Maybe your legs are tired, or you are off pace and you are starting to doubt yourself. Then adjusting the goal posts will enable you to keep going. Maybe it is as simple as running up this hill or overtaking that person in yellow.

Self talk

A lot of the time we are not aware of the self talking that goes on inside our head. However if we can become more aware of it we can use it for positive benefits.
Self talk can come in 2 forms, positive and negative and quite often the negative talk that starts very easily when things are not going to plan.
We can use positive self talk very effectively, we can use it as a motivational tool. We can tell ourselves to keep going, you are doing really well, one more mile to go etc. It can also be used to deal with pain, such as we felt this pain in training or 1 more step is 1 less step to go.
There is also instructional self talk which we can use as a way to remind us about technique such as drop shoulders, breathe better. These small words can be used as a way to re focus ourselves on the task.
Lastly we can use distraction self talk as a way to side track us away from any pain or negative thoughts. Maybe by singing or counting the red cars.


Using your imagination has always been used by elite sportsmen and women. If you can imagine yourself completing your goal then you are more likely to be successful.
The bigger and more vivid the image the better and consider many different aspects to your image.
For example if you are imaging you finishing a half marathon in under 2 hours then you would picture the finish line, picture the clock saying 1.59.45, think about how you will be feeling?, who are you with?, what will they be saying?, the sights and smells around you.  What will you do afterwards? Think about wearing the race t shirt or medal, how do they feel?
You can practice and use imagery on your training runs, for instance are you running a new distance for the first time? You can picture yourself running those miles, picture what your watch will say. How will you feel? Does the end of your run finish at home or at a cafe? Or maybe you struggle with a certain hill, well think about you running strongly up it and looking at the view from the top.


Hopefully this has given you food for thought and maybe try implementing these in to your training. Write your goals down and have big goals as well as small goals, short term and long term goals. Start practicing your imagery skills, think of yourself on top of the hill or the end of a long straight road.