Warming up your mind before a sporting challenge is as essential as warming up muscles. With the Marathon just round the corner, consider adopting a mental ‘warm up’ aspect to your preparations.
Preparation is the key to avoid any big event leading to anxiety, stress and even injury. Alongside physical training, a range of mental training techniques have been validated including mental imagery techniques, pre-performance routines and self-talk, so it’s about finding the best combination that works for you.
Clinical psychologist, Richard Sherry explains;
“Whilst we can ensure we are physically fit for an event and even look the part by buying the best gear, making sure we are in the right mind-frame to succeed is often forgotten, despite studies showing that mental practice not only enhances performance but can also be even more effective than physical practice. In fact, as much as 50 – 90% of athletic performance is entirely down to state of mind.”
Naturally, mental warm-ups are only part of training, albeit a crucial aspect of it. Both brain and muscles need warming up for the best performance.
Physiotherapist William Kenton adds;
“Alongside warming up your mind, it’s important to warm up your muscles prior to exercising to get the most of your training and prevent injury. A five minute warm up is sufficient, incorporating a range of dynamic stretches which help improve muscle flexibility and prepare the body for exercise. This is also a good time to practice self-talk to get you in the zone for the task ahead – which benefits body and mind”.
A range of mental ‘workouts’ includes;
Ensure you are in a positive headspace by thinking about your goal and imagine yourself achieving it. Then focus on preparing your body with a dynamic warm up incorporating a product like Deep Heat Muscle Massage Roll-on Lotion to help prepare tight, tense muscles. Once you return, take time to rehabilitate your muscles with a cool down and debrief (with your running partner or by yourself) about what you could have done better. Then put steps in place to achieve this next time to optimise your performance.
Visualising each step of the way can improve performance. Put as much detail into your visualisation as possible – thinking about what you will see, hear and smell. It’s also important to visualise the parts you will find hard, and what steps you will take to overcome them. Think about how you will prepare and what you will do when you begin to feel tired.
Create powerful marathon mantras you can say to yourself during training, before, during and after the race. Make sure they are positive and concise so you won’t forget them.
Ex Team-GB rower turned runner and PT Toby Garbett ensures he has both a physical and mental strategy in place during training. He says:
“I used to get beaten by myself mentally in the lead-up to the big day. My mind would start creating ‘what if’s’, thinking of the worst case scenarios which would impact my performance. I now practice a positive mind-set by visualising positive training or race outcome before the start. A combination of physical and mental strategies has really helped my performance.”
“I always start by doing active, dynamic stretches which replicate the movement of the activity I will be doing to help prevent injuries. If I’m running, I rub Deep Heat Muscle Massage Roll-on Lotion in to tight muscles as this helps to warm them up and increases blood supply, getting them ready for action. I then do five minutes of leg swings, lunges and squats before I start my run… I’m always prepared if an injury does strike, using Deep Freeze Pain Relief Glide-on Gel, as a substitute for ice, to help minimise damage, reduce recovery time and provide fast pain relief.”
Tennis star Rafael Nadal is well known for his meticulous pre-performance and psychological routines, especially with his water bottles for example, which he places in a strategic formation before a match.
“Some call it superstition, but it’s not. If it were superstition, why would I keep doing the same thing over and over whether I win or lose? It’s a way of placing myself [mentally] in a match, ordering my surroundings to match the order I seek in my head.” 
Give your muscles a boost by incorporating Deep Heat Muscle Massage Roll-on Lotion into your pre-performance routine to help loosen and soften tight, tense muscles. Heat improves blood flow which can improve muscle flexibility and performance.
If you do become injured, follow the PRICE method, (Protect, Rest Ice, Compress, and Elevate). Supplement this process by using a cooling product such as Deep Freeze Pain Relief Glide on Gel for up to 72 hours. This will help to reduce pain, swelling and aid the recovery process. Then switch back to heat to help rehab muscles.