Webinar: How runners can use this opportunity to enhance their mental fortitude with Dr. Stephen Walker

Dr. Walker's key points:

5:25: The importance of mental conditioning & dispelling misconceptions about mental conditioning

  • An athlete needs to be in control from the start to finish of a race or training session.
  • An athlete who is in control knows exactly what they are doing and is able to push the envelope is an athlete who is unstoppable.
  • The problem is that most athletes have wandering minds which makes their performances unpredictable.
  • One triathlete who Dr. Walker works with took one year of mental conditioning to set him up to control his race from start to finish.
  • Self-talk is a major weapon for an athlete. Self-talk can result in any number of possibilities such as random, productive, or even destructive thoughts. It is important to control your self-talk to be productive, minimize distractions, and eliminate destructive thoughts.
  • Dr. Walker worked with an athlete who ran the Olympic Marathon Trials with important mantras on her wrist that corresponded to certain mile markers of the race. The messages were personalized for her and the race course.

12:00: Effectively running in solitude for days and weeks on end

  • It is important to establish a rhythm in your warmup and routine. You must be comfortable with a starting routine.
  • Dr. Walker relates this to Cross Country running: you will not win a race in the first 50 yards, but you can lose a race in the first 50 yards. You must have a plan for the start of your run.
  • Music can be an incredible tool for running alone. Power words can be useful too. You must find something you resonate with. If you can find something you can resonate with, that will improve your running performance.
  • Mid-run surges can be useful as well when running alone. These mid-run surges force the athlete to focus on the run due to the extra challenge of running hard and necessitate that the athlete seizes control of the run.

21:40: The centering breath exercise & future think

  • You can find more details on the centering breath exercise here: https://www.podiumsportsjournal.com/2007/04/15/controlling-arousal-the-centering-breath/
  • The mind and body can get out of sync because the mind moves faster than the body moves. The centering breath exercise is a crucial stress control exercise because it brings the mind to the body so they are in sync.
  • It is important to control your “future think.” If you are focused on things that may go wrong in the future, this anxiety can manifest itself in the body and bring a lot of extra tension to the body, which will inhibit performance.
  • Rehearsal is a crucial skill if you want to turn negative thoughts into positive thoughts. You must have rehearsed the process of doing this if you want to do it mid-race.

31:47: Creating a routine to consistently get out the door

  • A physical routine such as stretching and/or drills can be useful to consistently begin a run
  • Every time you have a good run, you should visualize that experience from start to finish. You can recall that experience as a reminder of what things feel like when they are going well. This can bring you into a meditative state and help you have more good runs in the future.

37:10: Some book recommendations on sports psychology and mental training

  • Beyond Grit by Cindra Kamphoff
  • Strong by Kara Goucher

39:45: A deeper discussion on the centering breath

  • It is important to relax the jaw and the base of the tongue when doing the centering breath.
  • Dr. Walker likes athletes to train with music because music helps establish a rhythmic breathing pattern.

53:55: How can you time trial effectively?

  • You need to stay focused from start to finish in a time trial effort. If you mentall fall off track in terms of your focus, you will have difficulty getting back on track because negatives can take over.
  • You should race to your strength. If you are good at running hills, you should time trial a hilly course. If you are good on the track, you should time trial on the track.

58:40: Managing new found time or new found stress

  • Routines are key. (i.e. It is important to wake up at a consistent time. It is important to train at a consistent time.)
  • You should stay in close contact with your friends and running partners even if you cannot physically run with them.

1:03:00: Meditation

Thank you to Dr. Walker for joining us!

You can find Dr. Stephen Walker’s website here: https://drstephenwalker.com/
You can find the Podium Sports Journal here: https://www.podiumsportsjournal.com/
You can find the Podium Performance Academy here: https://podiumperformanceacademy.com/

Who: Dr. Stephen Walker is an award-winning sport & performance consultant whose clients, in their chosen endeavors, have reached the Podium in world championships, the Olympics, and performed in the Kennedy Center Philharmonic.

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