Professor Andy Lane

Marathon runners

The Professor of Sport and Exercise Psychology reveals his top tips for marathon success.

Motivation through music

Music is great for teaching you how to pace yourself when running. By emulating and synchronising your running movements with the music, you may find your performance increases and seems easier too.

Did you know?

Professor Andy Lane joined forces with the sports performance music experts, AudioFuel, to provide monthly motivational tips for the Virgin London Marathon 2010.

Music can also enhance your mood and can help divert your attention away from feelings of tiredness and boredom which can arise through the repetitive action of running.

  • A good starting point for selecting songs is to ask yourself what you want the music to do. Are you using the music to relax before a race or during a warm up? Do you want the music to energize you so that you can build up a fast pace?
  • Pick songs that have a solid beat to them. It doesn't need to be too fast, but make sure there's some sort of rhythm to synchronise your exercise to the beat.
  • For longer runs choose songs that have steady and similar tempos to build up a consistent and comfortable pace.
  • Select songs that have some personal meaning as this will enable you to enjoy the process of exercising and lyrics can be a great source of inspiration.

Make fatigue your friend

At some point during your run you're going to feel tired and this is normal. This is what we call 'hitting the wall.' The best way to combat fatigue is to accept that it's going to happen. Once you anticipate that you'll get to that state you can welcome it as part of the challenge.

  • A good strategy is to interpret tiredness as a marker of success. It's evidence of how much hard work you've put in.
  • Think about how you can overcome these feelings so that when it happens you will have the solution.
  • Slow your pace down even if it's to a walking pace. This will keep you moving and you can slowly build your energy levels back up to carry on.
  • Training can be a very positive way of building self-esteem and mental toughness. Throughout your training, practice reaching that point when you hit the wall and keep it there. See how long you can sustain it. Each time you go that little bit longer you'll able to see that you can be successful.
  • The feeling that you want to stop can be very overwhelming. Think back to your training and how you've pushed through. Don't give in to the mental challenge!
  • Concentrate on the great sense of euphoria that you'll feel once you've finished. The ability to transfer this into other aspects of your life is really important in overcoming challenges.

Dealing with anxiety

Nerves can be motivating for some people but they can also ruin the experience for you. Don't spend those hours worrying about your performance because that in itself is tiring and can use up vital energy.

  • Ask yourself what you're worried about. Do you feel that you're not going to get to the end? Have you set yourself a certain time to complete the run? What would happen if you didn't achieve it? You could be adding extra pressure when there's no reason to do so.
  • Gain support from those closest to you and get reinforcement that the goal is worth pursuing. If you don't achieve the target that you've set yourself, you'll still have all your friends and family around to support you.
  • Be flexible in your expectations. If you set unrealistic goals you run the risk of turning your challenge into a negative experience.
  • You could be feeling anxious about running in a public event, especially if you are used to exercising on your own and not being the focus of attention. If you feel that this might put you off, you might want to run with headphones on.
  • Visualisation is a great method for overcoming anxiety. Imagine yourself performing well and running smoothly. This will help your body relax and set a pace that feels comfortable.
Professor Andy Lane

Using If/then planning

'If/then planning' is a really effective way of overcoming barriers by placing the solution next to the problem. You can use this simple technique in everything you do.

  • Identify the thoughts that are entering your mind during certain parts of your run and recognise these thoughts. For example, "I feel tired," or "I feel like stopping."
  • Develop desirable thoughts to counter these negative moments. For example, "I will focus on running to the beat," or "I will focus on friendly faces in the crowd."
  • Put the 'if' and the 'then' parts together. For example, "If I feel tired, then I will focus on running to the beat."
  • Use this technique several times before the run so that when the problem presents itself, the solution will kick in immediately.

Planning for marathon success

  • Time on the feet is crucial. Build up the miles so that you have covered a long run. Keep yourself hydrated and incorporate lots of walks.
  • Build up as many potential ways to enjoy running as possible. You could get someone to cycle with you while you're running or you could take some money out with you to stop somewhere for lunch. You could recruit other runners to do the marathon with you and you could even create a new playlist that fits your run and enhances your mood.
  • Train sensibly in the weeks before the race. Don't do a hard, intense week's training in a last minute panic because you could end up injuring yourself.
  • See running as a vehicle for enjoyment rather than a means to an end. Run at a pace you can cope with and build up your fitness gradually. Once you feel you're progressing and moving forward, you'll have the motivation to achieve your goal!

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