Ultrarunners learn, almost as a first lesson, that their ability to finish has a lot to do with the mental side of running. There are many strategies to overcoming the mental challenges of completing an ultramarathon. In this post I want to talk about power words and imagery.
Power words are individual to each runner. They are words with deep meaning and when repeated to oneself during a race can bring back your focus and pull you out of a Pain Cave.
What makes them powerful is your pre-race work with these words. Before you even take your power words out on the trail or road with you, you’ll need to sit with them. What I mean by sit with them is you need to create mental images and physical sensations to fuse with these words.
For example, if you choose the word STRONG as one of your power words, you’re going to repeat this word to yourself during a quiet time, such as the five minute before you climb out of bed or the five minutes before you go to sleep. As you say this word to yourself, conjure or create mental images of you looking strong as you run. Delve into this image until you can feel it in every other sensory avenue you have, not just a mental image, but smell it, feel it, and hear it.
Perhaps STRONG smells like your deodorant or your sweat as you charge up a hill or hit a particular speed. Perhaps its the dust on the trail, the pine trees, or the river flowing near by.
Work on each one of your words. Identify three words that have deep meaning to you as a runner. That way you have a couple back up options if you are in a mental space where one word is more of a trigger than a motivator. Really grounding yourself in the words prior to using it during a race is critical. Practice is your best friend here. Establish your imagery before using it in a training run, but then try to use it during easier parts of your runs and then incorporate it in hard efforts.
What are your words of power?