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Category: Sports Psychology

Finding Your Inner Hare – Part II

Posted on October 7th, 2016 by

Getting your performance factors aligned

Beyond the detail of a quality training session, there must be a wider, more holistic view regarding what Is involved in good running performance. In sports, there is a commonly known model for understanding ‘performance’ and what factors contribute to a good performance. You don’t have to be on lottery funding to have a view about your own performance. For ourselves and circumstances vary, we can always improve through reflecting on our own performance. The common factors contributing to performance are physical, psychological, tactical, technical and lifestyle. You may think of age, speed, strength, etc. these are all relevant, though these are all examples of physical factors. There is no specific factor more important than the other. For example, you could be (physically) well trained, but perform (tactically) poor in races. Hence, it’s the sum of the parts which maximises your overall performance. While I will not be able to influence on lifestyle choices, we can always develop all other 4 performance factors. During training, we touch on physical, tactical and technical, but often neglect psychological aspects. For example, when we had a busy day at work and start to train in a tired state we cannot be our best. On the other hand, we could feel fatigued, but feel positive about running. Once we develop a bit of awareness of the performance factors, then we can find something we can improve and get a bit extra.

The 4Cs

Looking at performance from a psychological point of view, we can think of the 4 Cs of Sports Psychology – Concentration, Confidence, Control, and Commitment. All very important, and again the sum of the parts gets the most out of you.

For example concentration. This is best achieved by focusing on the task ahead. When we perform a set of running form drills we need to fully concentrate so that we can execute the movement and can ensure the nerves fire at the right time and our muscles are working. For the running part of the session, rather than thinking about the whole session and getting overwhelmed, look forward to just completing the interval and start to worry about the next one once you finished the previous one. Alternatively, you want to maintain concentration by thinking through how many straights and bends do I need to over, when should I concentrate on my form? Often we give a lot of effort and ignore running form. When it gets tough going give yourself a mental cue (‘hips!’,’knees!’) to what to watch out for. As a last resort, some positive re-affirmation helps to bounce back. Mental tricks the best runners apply during their bone breaking workouts. Try running with a smile on your face next time, you may surprise yourself.

Your Inner Game

In sports psychology, one of the earliest writing came from Timothy Gallwey. Gallwey wrote a book called The Inner Game of Golf, which was followed up by The Inner Game of Tennis. He studied many golf players and worked out the things they do to perfect their game. His findings were that to maximise performance and grow potential, what most folks aspire towards, one has to cut out interference. For example, assumptions and believes can get in the way how we perform. As mentioned earlier, my parkrun buddy Ed, who believes he has to start fast, doubts about his pacing and lack of finishing kick. Unless he has developed the awareness and the required concentration of what he is doing, he will not be able to apply possible instructions to minimise interference and improve on his potential.

Different perspective

There are certain thought processes to go through beyond just looking at the track session details. Next time you train to give it a try, reflect on your performance factors, revisit the 4Cs, minimise any interference and you may discover that there is an inner hare lurking in you.

To find your inner hare, there is a lot you can do, which is in your control. When I observe and watch you running, I don’t give a lot of attention to the stop watch, rather I am looking at the whole how you progress through the session, how you apply yourself, how your performance factors develop over time, how well you apply the 4Cs and how well have you executed the session?

Back to my nemesis Ed, who I mentioned at the beginning  of the week. We recently took a break and decided to do the Great Gorilla Run (5m). Same story again, during the 6th km I was closing fast, Ed was 20 meters ahead, and I was on auto pilot for the last 400m etc. Unfortunately, my game plan didn’t work out! The race was 600m short, Ed finished a few seconds ahead of me. Lesson learnt, do your research, know the course and don’t always rely on your GPS watch.

Urban Bettag coaches for the Mornington Chasers and leads the development of their track training and mentors their junior coaches. He blogs and shares his wisdom about running on the Hare Brain Blog every Friday.


Finding Your Inner Hare

Posted on September 30th, 2016 by

Making the most of a track session requires more than preparation and focus. This week, I will explain how to get moving like a Hare and whiz through a session with ease.

Like many of you, I like taking part in my local parkrun. It’s the Ally Pally parkrun. It’s a good one, whenever you have a chance do it. Week in week out, my arch nemesis Ed takes part too. Ed is one of those, who always sets off like all guns blazing and then struggles a bit towards the end. I am the total opposite. Like an old locomotive, it takes me a while to get going. Once I am operating on full steam, my pacing feels metronomic. As it happens, I managed to pass Ed in the final 400 meters. Like sportsman do, we shake hands and exchange compliments. I enquired about what his thoughts on his pacing were. He couldn’t fully articulate what he was doing to pace himself. Other than saying he had not much left at the end. He believes he needs to start fast to make up for his slowing down at a later stage and he also believes that he does not have a finishing kick. Well, I thought this is something we experience when training on the track, what is required to set ourselves up for success, which is worth elaborating here in our new hair-brained blog.

Interpretation of Training Sessions

Our running coaches send out every week the Thursday session details. At first glance, it looks cryptic and complicated. We feel sore from just reading and don’t want to look at it again! For example, one of those ‘bread & butter’ sessions like 6-8x 800m ( 5k Pace ) [ 200m Recovery Jog ]. In case you wondered, the formula for describing track sessions follows the IAAF notation. The IAAF is our global governing body for athletics and thought hard about introducing a standard notation for running sessions. The IAAF notation uses round brackets for stating the pace (or running intensity), while the square brackets represent the recoveries between the repetitions. Sometimes the bracket style is used the other way around. Once we understood the session details, we focus on the intervals and number of repetitions. Thinking about the sheer volume gives us a bit of anxiety and sends shivers down the spine. We often don’t go that far to work out what 5k pace means for us. If it feels tough, breathing hard, gets us grunting, then it is good enough we might think.

Race pace or date pace?

The pace recommendation for us slow twitched runners refers to the most recent, current or date pace, not your goal, targeted 5k pace or your PB pace. If we aim for an unrealistic target, we end up running a gear higher, at 3k or 1.5k pace and build up levels of fatigue which makes us walk silly for days. With a recent performance, you can work out the recommended splits for your repetitions using the pace calculator from the Mornington Chasers website.

Determine your baseline

However, in case you haven’t run a race for a while, simply start recording your training times and review your training paces. Simply get started and use the first session to establish your baseline. Try to aim for even splits throughout the sets. If can maintain the paces, without slowing down you will have certainly achieved the objective of the training session. Once your run is down, review and adapt the baseline every week, progress from there and set yourself a new target for next week.

Urban Bettag coaches for the Mornington Chasers and leads the development of their track training and mentors their junior coaches. He blogs and shares his wisdom about running on the Hare Brain Blog every Friday.