Anxiety and Running Solutions: Part II

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.


About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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6 Responses to Anxiety and Running Solutions: Part II

  1. Christina says:

    Does the counting method work to improve focus even if not having an anxiety attack? Is it better to count telephone poles than to let the mind wander aimlessly?

  2. Dean Hebert says:

    Yes yes yes… this is a focus technique that will work for many focusing and refocusing issues. However, sometimes on that long leisure run.. it’s ok to let your mind wander… ok?

  3. Pingback: Hypnosis and Running: Part I « The Running World According to Dean

  4. Pingback: Hypnosis and Running: Part II « The Running World According to Dean

  5. Pingback: Hypnosis and Running: Part I « Everything Mental Toughness

  6. Pingback: Hypnosis and Running: Part II « Everything Mental Toughness

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