I previously responded to an inquiry regarding having an anxiety attack at certain points in training or racing. Here are some more mental game approaches to help cope with and conquer this vexing problem.
The problem lies in our mind and what it is preoccupied with. In my first post I mention that recognition of the problem is number one. I also stated that when we have a pattern developed (i.e. a certain time or distance or point on a course) it is in fact the mind’s recognition of that pattern that triggers a response. In this case – anxiety – panic – and stopping the workout.
So, a simple solution is to use counting games to focus and calm your mind.
If you are on a track workout running 400s; count strides for the lap – every lap one after the other.
Count strides between certain markers (i.e. 100, 200, 300) on the track.
If you are doing longer runs or reps on a track count strides each lap and see if you can match that number in subsequent laps. It’s a test – really focus on the stride length. Test your rhythm.
If you fade on the last lap of an 800; count strides on the last lap while sticking with the competitor just in front of you while staring at her back.
If you run roads; count telephone poles. You might do it start to finish or just get “in the counting mindset” in the last half of the run where you tend to encounter problems.
Count cars that pass by.
Count runners, cyclist, walkers throughout your run. You can even challenge yourself to run until you have counted at least “x” amount.
Count telephone poles or light poles or intersections.
Keep track of how many different car state license plates you see on the run.
Get tired of counting one thing then change to another.
This approach is simple and effective IF you put 100% focus into the exercise. This is an active mind exercise not passive! There are three things that will happen:
1. You are actually training yourself to focus better. You are training yourself how to develop a selective focus.
2. You are training your mind to be able to not only focus but to REfocus! That takes practice. Your mind will want to wander. Get it back to your counting.
3. You will occupy your mind productively! Your mind will have a difficult time “panicking” if it is completely focused on “stride #63 to that last telephone pole – let’s match it to the next one”. That just happens to be how our minds work.