The Mind Remains The Leader

Today’s tip: Desire to increase strength? Open your eyes and get inside your head!

There are situations in life that not even wild horses could take us away from. Whether it’s the best coffee in a freezing coffee shop on a winter’s day in New York or a painful but so desired race, a feeling of pleasure and duty emerges and screws deep inside of us. The best part is that we don’t even desire to get out of it; it may be just the thing we were looking for in such a long time.

Nevertheless, surprises occur. Colds appear, races are lost (I didn’t say they were pleasant surprises).


Even so, what is the best way to deal with unforeseen events? More exactly, what do you do when the race you have been training for the whole year is won, but not by you? Do you internalize the failure and work harder for the next race or do you start kicking around whoever gets near you? No, this is not an article on bipolar disorder; but it does aim to have a closer look on what determines running related behaviors, whether the topic is aggressiveness, performance or victory.

As the European Federation stated in 1996, sports psychology approaches (without establishing rigid boundaries) the arguments why people take up sports, whether the leading force is an irreversible competitive instinct, a recreational need or a recovery method and also the means used to keep focused.

Moreover, why do runners enter competitions? For the kicks, you might say. But the kicks may be translated into two groups of argument: to offer self-value for personal competences or to offer social confirmation on personal abilities. Still, whether for personal reasons or social ones, the runner must undertake efficient means of staying focused. Focus is not a very difficult achievement, but it does require attention, both physical and psychical. Basically the training must closely mimic behavior during the race. In order to avoid disrupting, be specific: be specific about training steps, be specific about your diet and most of all be specific about your thoughts. Daily, the mind is our biggest asset. Everything that happens is psychological.

The mind is a factor that must be carefully treated and also exploited, as it is the one that manages running performance. Whether an associative or dissociative approach, psychologists concur that these are two main efficient strategies that make runners become aware of their thoughts, this way evolving to able to control them.


The notions sight out the ability of focusing on personal performance and body reactions while training or competing (the associative approach) or the need to keep focused by introducing different tricks that develop a continuous, consistent process. The later is named dissociation and how it goes is by introducing different games that require continuous leisure attention, such as color related games, letter games and counting games that determine the runner to gradually count or analyze or notice, this way keeping attention away from fatigue or dull pain. Music is also an efficient trick, but it must be used carefully as it may determine tripping on hidden tree roots or little stones under the fallen leaves.

By contrast, association deals with permanent attention on body efficiency and reactions. By staying focused on the internal changes that occur during practice, the runner succeeds in ignoring fatigue and soreness and consequently ending training sessions successfully.

Which one is best? -The one that fits you. Scientists can’t conclude on the supreme effectiveness of one of these two strategies, but what they do is draw several conclusions on who is more likely to approach one or another. Apparently, association is more connected to faster running times. Therefore elite runners are most prone to adopt the associative method. Also, dissociation appears to be preferred during training and association during competition. Choosing one of the two is a matter of personal reactions to exterior stimulations. If you succeed in adopting both methods, good for you! You are off to a great start as scientists consider that elite runners may use both and switch when necessary.

Being able to control thoughts, athletes also become able to control negative reactions like aggressiveness or violence, especially after losing a race that the runner has made draconian efforts for. A scientific assertion is that the characteristic that is most associated with aggressiveness is rivalry, which is thought to have a genetic source, justified by the appearance of rival behavior amongst very young children when they discover play partners. Some people are genetically implanted with a sense of violence. Still, psychology is a successful realm of knowledge that has the ability to refine negative behaviors, and also positive ones.

The human psychic remains a wonder, regardless of specialists’ continuous discoveries. Science is an extraordinary continuous process of discovering and increasing human knowledge. Still, exhaustive knowledge upon human psyche is quite improbable since it remains the most mysterious aspect of scientific life.

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